A soft breeze blows through the leafless trees while a gentle mist softens the air surrounding a small group of children. The sounds of laughter and playful shrieks echoes through the winter hillside as a small creek babbles by. At first, the children toss rocks into the shallow stream. Then, one jumps as high as he can and lands with a splash in the middle of the stream, splashing his mates. Instead of anger or irritation, the other children join in. They are laughing, climbing out onto nearby rocks and doing it again and again. In fact, they continue to splash and play in the creek for nearly an hour, happily enjoying the sensations of sight and sound as the water muddies and flows downstream.
There are two adults supervising all of this with quiet amusement. No, they are not irritated that the children are getting wet and they will have to go back inside soon. They understand that children are participating in important work: playing in nature. They also know that the children are dressed properly for the chilly, damp weather. They have on insulated, water-proof boots and one piece rain suits over warm layers that keep them dry and warm.
There are fewer and fewer opportunities for children to engage in outdoor play, especially in weather deemed “inappropriate”. Most public schools have policies that keep children inside on chilly or damp days. This is often in response to parents’ concerns over health and safety. The truth is, there is no bad weather, just bad clothes.
“No Bad Weather, Just Bad Clothes”
This is a well known phrase amongst outdoor educators. When learning takes place, it is important to remember that basic needs like physical well-being must be met. This is the basic principal behind Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Children learn best when they are safe, clothed and fed. That is why it is so crucial for outdoor educators to ensure their students are dressed appropriately for the outdoors.
In a group of 7 or 8 children, if there is one child who is not outfitted properly, this is the child who is crying and ready to go home while the rest of the children are blissfully playing. Being able to play outdoors is a skill that children learn. Having positive experiences means being dressed appropriately so that they associate outdoor play with fun!
At Little Schoolhouse in the Woods, we have a favorite rain suit: Tuffo. That isn’t to say that there aren’t others, but our experiences with Tuffo have been awesome! And, no, we are not being compensated for this endorsement. For the children, a one piece suit like Tuffo’s Muddy Buddy work best. The children tend to fall and slide and play in ways that adults don’t, and the one piece design keeps them thoroughly dry. Plus, when sized right, there is room for coats and layers underneath. I don’t recommend tucking their pant legs into the boots, but, instead, keeping them on the outside of the boot. A dry kid is a happy kid!