Tips for Keeping Children Warm When Outdoors in the Winter
Next month officially marks my 4th anniversary as a practitioner at Woodland Outdoor Kindergartens! I started on the 8th of December and vividly remember checking the weather on my phone on the morning of my first day (-2 degrees as I recall!). I was excited but also a little nervous…I did not have prior reputation of coping well with the cold and had previously been known to come to secondary school wearing my pyjamas under my uniform to keep cosy!
However I shouldn’t have worried. Despite experiencing wind, rain and even a sprinkling of snow in my first week, I LOVED every second of it. This was due to a combination of good clothing, helpful and knowledgable colleagues, energetic play and most importantly resilient children - who in the last four years have never failed to make me laugh and smile every single day I spend in the woods!
This blog entry is my guide on how to best prepare for (and enjoy!) wintertime at WOK.
No Such Thing as Bad Weather......Just Bad Clothing!
This is probably the most practical piece of advice I can give and it is very, very worthwhile listening to. Warm and dry children are happy children! In my experience, the most effective way to keep children cosy during the winter months is to ensure that they wear lots and lots of layers, as opposed to a single down jacket (although these can also come in handy too!). Base layers are a must - this is the layer that really keeps them warm. There are lots of styles available and you can find some very reasonably priced sets in the middle aisles of certain supermarkets! However, we find that those made with merino wool tend to be the most effective.
Our WOKers can wear up to four layers of clothing on top of their base layer (depending on the season and weather conditions). For these layers it is helpful to consider light but effective layers like micro fleeces and soft shell jackets. Jeans are a no-go! When jeans get wet, they take a long time to dry out and therefore cool the body down quickly.
The final layer must be fully waterproof - not only to keep their clothes dry, but also to keep the cold wind at bay.....essential when in the Scottish outdoors!!
A warm hat with side flaps is useful to keep ears warm. We provide neoprene lined wellies to improve insulation and the children wear fleece welly socks to add extra warmth.
That all said, we must ensure that the children do not get too hot with too many layers. Too many layers can lead to sweating (which in turn can make them feel cold and uncomfortable). That’s the beauty of a good base layer with additional layering on top...you can just add and remove a layer as necessary!
We like to encourage curiosity here at WOK, which means children often touch and explore things with their hands (including ice!) which from time to time can cause wet, and subsequently cold, hands. I myself have a condition called Raynaud's, which limits the blood circulation to my hands and feet, so I VERY much empathise with any child experiencing cold hands.
It is therefore crucial to ensure the children wear the correct gloves during the colder weather. In general, mitts are much warmer than gloves (as the fingers can warm each other) so ski mitts work well for cold and dry days. However on wet or snowy days, waterproof mitts are a must and cosy fleece gloves can be worn under these if an additional layer is required. My advice would be to pack more than one pair of gloves.....so they can change into a dry set if necessary. Disposable hand warmers can also come in very handy (pardon the pun!) and can be bulk bought online.
This piece of advice is simple but effective. Sometimes parents can be surprised when I send them pictures of their children running around without a hat on in mid-December; but if you tried running about and climbing trees for four hours, I bet you’d want to take your hat (and probably your coat) off too!
It’s important to keep children’s energy stores filled when it is cold, as they will need more calories in order to keep them warm. So regular, healthy snacks are important. We also find food flasks to be invaluable - a warm cup of soup, hot chocolate or bowl of hot pasta really helps to warm the children up.
Keep Smiling :)
It sounds silly but, in my opinion, a sunny attitude is definitely more effective than a sunny day! Luckily at WOK smiles tend to be in abundance!
Thanks for reading my blog. Emma :)