I feel so fortunate to be living in the Pacific Northwest, especially during our dry season. It’s hard to find fault with day after day of clear blue skies and temperatures hovering around 75° F/ 24° C. Plus, it’s easy to get the kids outside when the weather is good.
Of course, things get more complicated during rainy season. When October rolls around, it can be intimidating to even think about venturing outside for days upon days of chilly drizzle. Still, you’ve got to get them outside, right? With health benefits ranging from improved mood, better eye development, and reduction of ADHD symptoms, it’s worth it just for the money you’ll save on medical bills!
So, when the weather gets bad, what can we, as parents, do to allow our kids to experience the extended, unstructured, outdoor playtime they need in order to grow?
This year, I took inspiration from German-style Waldkindergartens – at these “forest kindergartens,” 3-6 year olds spend the day in the woods…all day long, on each school day, regardless of the weather. Of course, the key to this endeavor is having the proper clothing. So what do the students at a forest kindergarten wear?
- Warm undergarments – Go ahead and invest in a set of thermal underwear for your kids (and for yourself if you hope to be outside with them!). A good set will be breatheable, wick moisture away from the skin, and be thin enough to be comfortable under multiple layers of clothing. For kids, it’s also a good idea to think about whether there are any uncomfortable seams.
- Layers – this allows for the maximum flexibility in adjusting your clothing as the weather shifts over the course of the day, as well as providing the most insulation on very cold days. Once again, breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics are your best bet.
- Waterproof outer layers – I think most parents know to get their kids a raincoat, but it wasn’t until recently that I started to appreciate how much better things get when you add rain pants. If nothing else, it means you don’t have to bring a towel to the playground! Rain suits can be insulated or non-insulated. You’ll want to buy big enough that the suit will fit over the aforementioned layers. For extended outdoor play, look for details like adjustable cuffs at wrists and ankles to make sure kids don’t end up with water in their gloves or boots. Sounds expensive, right? But the Frogg Toggs brand Poly Wogg suit generally runs about $20 on Amazon. Speaking of which…
- Gloves, boots, hats, etc. – Okay, so, you’re going to want to keep the extremities warm, dry, and reasonably mobile. It’s really hard to do all of those things at once! In the gloves department, you can get a few pairs of cheap knit gloves with the expectation that they will get wet and need to be changed periodically throughout the day, or you can invest in a pair of waterproof gloves – more pricey, but less likely to need to be changed. Boots should be waterproof, of course, and, ideally, lightweight. Crocs-style boots are a good option in this regard, and the off-brand versions aren’t too expensive. You’ll probably want a knit hat and maybe a scarf to layer underneath the waterproof outer layer on chilly days. Be choosy about fabrics here – cotton absorbs moisture and can make kids chilly when it does. Wool stays warm, but might be itchy against the skin. Some kids are sensitive to synthetics – you know your kids best, so choose appropriately!
Seems like a lot, I know, but the good news is that if you buy a little big, you can get a few seasons out of almost all of this gear – more, even, if you’ve got younger siblings. Better yet, you can send the kids outside in literally any weather – and I don’t know about your kids, but for my money, that sanity saver would be worth the investment at twice the price!