I'm already starting to hoard clothes for the upcoming winter. You too? I came across this article with a great explanation of the layers kids need to be outdoors for an extended period of time. Take a look!
If you're an outdoor school teacher or administrator interested in how to help parents understand outdoor schooling, this video will be well worth your time. The audio & slides are from a presentation I gave in August 2017 at the Nature-based Preschool National Conference in Seattle.
If you hear your voice in this video and would prefer to opt-out or want your name included in the credits, please contact me! I wasn't able to give everyone credit for their comments as I didn't have video of the event.
- Dr. Kendall Becherer
I have pale, sensitive skin and so does my 3-year-old, so we definitely need good sun protection for our faces and necks. Since applying sunscreen every time we go outside isn't an option, I was very excited to find this Sunday Afternoons Play Hat last summer!
It's ADJUSTABLE so we should be able to get use out of it for 3 or 4 summers (we're already on year 2 and it's holding up nicely), and the chin strap works well to keep it from blowing off in the wind (especially while on the beach). It dries quickly and squishes down to a small size for portability. We highly recommend it!
Click here for more info.
This giveaway is over. Congratulations to Candace who won a set of thermals for her grandchildren!
Enter your email to win a FREE thermal shirt & leggings from NUI's merino wool collection. If you win, you'll get to choose the best size (0-10 years old) and color for your child. I'll also email everyone who enters a 10% off coupon for NUI merchandise on their website.
Watch the video below for more information about NUI thermals and Kinder.Earth.
I tried everything, but my 2-year-old’s feet were STILL COLD after 3 hours of outdoor school. I tried thick wool socks with loose boots. I tried 2 thick pairs of socks with an even bigger size of boots, but the bend of the Bogs wouldn’t let his thick foot inside. I tried thin, polyester liner socks under thick wool socks. The boots we have are supposed to be “comfort rated to 5 degrees fahrenheit,” but my son’s feet were cold at only 30 degrees fahrenheit and I was getting FRUSTRATED!
After 2.5 years of getting my son ready for outdoor preschool, we have some pretty refined routines for getting ready. While I am able watch what other parents do with their kids when they arrive at school, we rarely get a chance to discuss what they're doing at home to get ready. I've never even THOUGHT about asking what they do the night BEFORE school, but the other day a parent posted a photo of her 3 kids wearing their base layers to bed. We also wear our base layer shirt to bed (because my son tends to get too hot at night for both top and bottom), so it was fun to see them doing something similar. Then I realized, what if other parents hadn't thought of this time-saving trick yet?
Here are a few tips about how to prepare for outdoor preschool the Night Before School:
I also wrote recommendations for what to do in the morning and once you get to school (whether you're walking, biking, or driving to school) on cold and wet days. These are available as a free download through the Kinder.Earth Newsletter.
Click here if you'd like me to email you this free PDF! It describes what we do the night before school, the morning of school, and when we get to school.
- Teacher Kendall
Lately I've noticed kids coming to nature school with backpacks stuffed with additional insulating layers. The fact is, during the school day teachers don't have time to take kids' outer layers, mittens, and boots off to put another insulating layer on (especially not pants). Occasionally, if a kid is really cold, we'll take their rain jacket off and put another fleece or puffy jacket underneath, but usually we only add outer layers like neck warmers, hats, and mittens. And believe me, mittens going on and off (and on and off) already take up half of our time on cold days.
Teachers need to be able to assume that students have the appropriate amount of base and insulating layers on when they arrive at school. This needs to be done at home, where it's warm.
Think about layers this way: the goal is to keep a child's core so warm they don't have to wear bulky mittens. So when in doubt, put another layer on!
- Teacher Kendall
I love teaching with other preschool teachers because I always learn (and am reminded of) so many tools and tricks for working with young children. Early in the day, I watched while Teacher M redirected a child from throwing a hard object to throwing a soft one. It seemed like such a natural and effortless approach, but I realized in that moment that the easiest thing to do would have been to tell the child “NO” (“don’t throw that hard rock”). In fact, I’ve been telling my almost-3-year-old “no” a lot lately—that’s probably why her (more gracious) choice to redirect stood out to me!
Later that morning, my son started pushing another boy. Even though the boy was clearly saying “no” and crying, my son just kept right on pushing (sound familiar?). My first strategy was to appeal to my son’s empathy and point out the other boy’s suffering.
Does he like being pushed? I can tell he doesn’t want you to push him because he’s saying no and crying.
This argument was getting me nowhere and the pushing continued. Suddenly, I remembered I had more conflict resolution tricks in my tool box and tried the redirect I had been reminded of earlier that morning.
I can see that you need to push right now, but let’s push something that doesn’t get hurt. How about the tree or the picnic table?
Ding ding ding! He moved away and started pushing the tree. A few seconds later he said: “I don’t want to push the tree.” So I replied, “push on the picnic table. See if you can move it!” After a few moments of that he got distracted by some students swinging and moved on. The other boy stopped crying and moved on as well.
Since I’m not in the classroom every day, these small interactions stand out to me as HUGE ACHIEVEMENTS. I can clearly see how skilled preschool teachers need to be at using language and tools that are age-appropriate for their students. Instead of a day filled with resistance, “no” and “don’t,” the kids were given the building blocks for learning to redirect their own behavior toward activities that don’t harm others.
- Teacher Kendall
You know what they DON'T teach you when you're earning a graduate degree in education? How to potty train a kid. My highly verbal, almost three-year-old is still in a diaper—and it's mostly my fault. I don't want to deal with the accidents. Cleaning floors, washing clothes, wiping down screaming children—not my favorite things.
That said, being a preschool teacher means dealing with these issues. And being a preschool teacher outdoors, especially in cold weather, adds yet another layer of complexity. Not only do kids have the same hesitations to stop playing and go to the bathroom, but now they have LAYERS of clothing to pull off before they can actually go. Needless to say, there are a lot of potty accidents at outdoor school.
I’m reminded of this because: remember the crying girl from my previous post, the one whose feet were cold? Turns out she’d peed. So not only did she have only a single layer of socks on in 40 degree weather, but they were wet… with pee. SIGH.
The thing is, she’s five year old. We had asked after snack if anyone needed to pee and she didn’t say anything. When J checked her leg to see if it was cold, he didn’t notice any wetness. Did she pee after she started crying, after he checked her leg? We’ll never know.
But it’s a good reminder nonetheless. We assumed a five year old would communicate her bathroom needs. She’s done it before, she had over ten nature school classes under her belt. Maybe it was because I was a substitute teacher and she wasn’t comfortable talking with me (although she talked with me about tons of other topics, including asking for help with mittens and snack)? Maybe she didn’t feel like taking all of her layers off to pee?
The thing is, the consequences of wetting yourself are different in outdoor school than they are at home. Having wet base layers and socks make you COLD!
In retrospect, we should’ve checked SPECIFICALLY for pee, and we’ve definitely learned our lesson. I hope this experience can be a reminder to you as well.
If you’re a teacher and you have a crying child, ask if they need to go to the bathroom and check for pee (even if they’re five!).
If you’re a parent, talk to your kids about using the bathroom at nature school. Talk about how it’s so important not to have wet clothes against your body when it’s cold outside. Practice what phrases they’ll use to tell the teachers they need to use the bathroom.
Good luck to you, and I’ll report back on this topic when we start to do more potty training at our house!
- Teacher Kendall
Dr. Kendall Becherer
Kendall is an author, photographer, teacher, and learning scientist who loves helping parents & teachers find new ways of connecting with their children.