How to keep children warm and dry outdoors in cold winter weather
There is nothing more wonderful for children than playing in the snow. But there are challenges to keeping children warm and dry whilst playing outdoors in cold snowy weather; wet, cold children soon become unhappy children.
So here are a few things I have learnt to help things go smoothly in challenging weather conditions. Some of them are captured beautifully in this poem to use with younger children:
" Lets put on our mittens
And button up our coats
Wrap a scarf snugly around our throat,
Pull on our boots,
Fasten the straps,
And tie on tightly
Our warm winter caps.
Then open the door....
And out we go.....
Into the soft and feathery snow"
Having the right clothes is the key:
Children need to be wearing layers of clothing to keep them warm. They need a top layer of waterproof trousers and jacket (or all in one suites for younger children) to help keep them dry, and also to act as a barrier to cold icy wind.
I always have a bag of spare waterproofs and fleece jackets to hand when I do Forest school. The bag also contains neck warmers, gloves, socks and hats.
Hats are essential for keeping heads warm, ideally ones that covers the ears. Gloves are also essential. Mittens are especially good for younger children. For snow play these need to be waterproof; woollen gloves soon get wet and cold. Today I got the children to put on work gloves over there woollen gloves as these were waterproof.
Cold feet is a common complaint in cold conditions. The ideal footwear are snow boots but many children don't own these. The commonest waterproof option is wellies, but these are notoriously cold. I find that children need at least 2 layers of socks in wellies; wellie warmers are helpful.
Other ideas for keeping warm during cold days at Forest school:
The obvious choice if it works on your site, is to have a fire on these days so that children can keep coming back to get warm.
It isn't always possible to have a fire, so I have devised a way to create a warm space using my parachute. I hang this from one point in the middle from a tree, and then get the children to go underneath. They sit in a circle facing inwards and then tuck the edge of the parachute around their backs and under their bottoms. It is surprising how much warmer it is out of the wind and warmed by the combined body heat of the children. It is also a magical space - a silk house to rest a while, have a story, a song and a hot drink before venturing back outside. It also acted as shelter from a snow storm.
Hot drinks also help, warming hands and tummies and boosting moral. Children often need to eat more in cold weather, so ensuring they have extra snacks is also important.
There are chemical hand warmers that you can buy, but I am not a fan of them. I prefer to take plenty of hot water and a few hot water bottles for where a child has gone beyond the threshold of managing the cold.
Including activities that keep them moving is essential too.
The reward is that your children will get to have magical experiences that they will remember for the rest of their life.
So get outdoors and enjoy the snow while it lasts!