A funny thing happened when I moved south. Schools closed at the very threat of snow. Recess was cancelled when the weather got below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. And moms around the Chattanooga valley started murmuring that it was simply too cold, too wet, too windy (insert your choice of extreme weather here) to let their kids play outside.
How did I respond to this bizarre-to-me phenomenon? Sit tight folks, because maybe this is revolutionary thinking: I bought my child clothes he could wear outside, in cold, windy, wet weather, dressed him in them, and then told him to go outside.
Now, before you blow me off like the wind chill, I totally get the reasons schools close here because of a snow warning. Even as a Northerner, I understand. There isn’t the same amount of resources to deal with snow and ice in this part of the country, compared to colder areas. Yea though I walked uphill both ways to the school bus stop in three feet of snow, I still get it. It’s one of the many differences between the North and the South.
What I do NOT get, is how people don’t allow their children to play outside if the weather is bad.
I grew up in a place where snowstorms occurred regularly throughout the winter and we still went outside. Granted, we didn’t have central heat growing up, so sometimes being outside didn’t feel much colder than staying indoors. I was also born in the 70s, and much of my childhood was questionable by today’s standards. Nevertheless, my mom somehow bundled my brother and me up enough to get outside where we had snow fights so vicious that I once I lost a tooth. (It was a baby tooth, but still.) I remember coming inside with numb extremities and blue lips, peeling off wet layers and getting warm by the wood stove. And I loved it!
Years later, while living in England (a place where it often seems to rain daily) a colleague and I interviewed a lady who was 102-years-old at the time. We grumbled somewhat about the cold, wet weather we experienced on the way to her place. When we arrived, we eagerly anticipated the stories this lady might give us — she survived both world wars after all.
However, whether it was from lack of memory or simply because she was still living a life in her later years, she instead gushed on about her newest hobby: cruising. I think she’d been on 10 cruise ships in as many years. And then she left us with this tidbit as we gathered our coats and umbrellas for our departure: she said she never minded the weather, as long as she was dressed for it.
Her enthusiasm for the weather has always stayed with me. War stories or not, this 102-year-lady obviously had grit.
It’s something that I have tried to instill in my child. He is living at a comfort level that neither the Sailor nor I experienced growing up. And while we won’t voluntarily switch the heat off in the house to give him an indication of the hardship we both had growing up, I also don’t want him automatically jacking up a thermostat later in life because he’s a little chilly. I want him to put a sweater and slippers on, first.
It is barely November and yet I’ve seen multiple posts on Facebook already asking for things to do indoors because it’s apparently too cold outside. This completely baffles me. Children in Siberia literally walk to school in sub-zero temperatures. Babies in Scandinavia take naps outside in the winter.
We live in a land of comfort and maybe we just haven’t yet acclimatized to going from our heated house to our heated car (and the heated seat!), right into a heated Target. Earlier this week, Elizabeth wrote about winter activities to keep your kids healthy. Her last point is to actually get outside.
The best way to get kids outside? Go outside yourself. Chances are, your kids will follow you! Here are my top tips:
1. If your child can tolerate it, actually dress him appropriately for the weather. Layers are key. Chattanooga’s weather is extreme. You can start off freezing in the morning and by the afternoon you’re in shorts. Layers allow you the chance to peel off an item or two and still stay warm. Thin layers are even better than a bunch of thick layers. These base layer tops and pants are great for kids. Even in true winter weather, if you’re not planning to be in the snow all day skiing, layers with a waterproof suit or separates on the outside work in a pinch. This packable jacket and these pants are fantastic for keeping other layers dry.
2. Invest in proper footwear. Yes, I know kids grow fast, and so do their feet. I birthed Bigfoot. Rain boots are fairly inexpensive and perfect for puddles. There are so many fun designs nowadays too, so there’s a good chance your child may want to wear them even when it’s not raining. Most children love splashing in puddles. Keep their feet dry with rain boots.
3. Actually spend time outside with your child. Sometimes our child’s reluctance to be in cold, wet weather comes from our own aversion to it. Even having a snack on your porch when it’s a bit chilly can be a thrill for a kid.
4. Take your child on a hike, even if it’s just a stroll along the Riverwalk or go on a family friendly hike.
5. Go camping, even in less than favorable conditions. Of course camping is generally more fun when the sun is out and the weather is spectacular. But some of my favorite trips as both a child and adult were when the weather was cold, wet and somewhat unpredictable.
7. Travel and visit new places. Whether you’re driving to the next town over, or flying across an ocean, weather almost always factors into your destination. If you’ve never even seen snow in your life, consider a trip somewhere that your kids will actually experience it. Don’t let the weather put a damper on your holiday plans, either. One of the best holiday memories I have with my mom was the year we absolutely froze wandering around a massive and impressive outdoor Christmas light display.