By Fredrica Syren:
Since my children attend a Waldorf School, I expect them to have lots of time in nature and lots of outdoor play. So, imagine my surprise one drizzly morning when I dropped off my kids and was told that their day would start inside instead of outside because of the weather. Another mom (who is Finnish) and I looked at each other in disbelief. Yes, we realized the morning was greyer than normal for sunny San Diego but — jeez — keeping kids inside because of drizzle?
In the teacher’s defense, I must admit that most students in my kids’ school are not prepared for changes of weather and that most of them do not own rain clothes like jackets or warm hats. I do understand that it comes down to expense, so I guess the argument is why spend money on rain clothes when it so rarely rains in San Diego. However, when it does, these poor kids can’t go outside and THAT makes me angry. I see kids looking outside with longing eyes at my kids and other children in full rain outfits: rain boots, hat, rain pants and jacket. I hear some kids asking to borrow other kids’ rain boots so they can go outside. I wonder if their parents have forgotten the fun of puddle jumping and playing in the mud?
In Sweden, where I come from, nature play for children is super important, no matter what the weather. Snow, cold, rain or shine — kids will play outdoors for a good part of the day in both school and daycare. Babies sleep in strollers outside, even in the winter; and when we lived there, mine did as well. Parents never would dream of not buying appropriate clothes. I guess it comes down to the fact that Sweden, like most Scandinavian countries, gets around on foot, with public transportation or by bike. So, the right clothes matter to them, compared to people in San Diego who use cars.
Rain, snow or sun, let’s dress our kids accordingly and let them be outside. Kids who spend a great amount of time outdoors become very good at using their own imaginations, inventiveness and creativity while playing.
Spending time outdoors is a wonderful memory for many of us. I have so many fond memories oflearning from and playing with my parents and friends in nature — even on cold or rainy winter days. Today, I swear my kids would live outside if I would let them. We’re talking rain, shine, the dead of winter or a painfully hot summer — they just love spending time in nature; and getting them back inside usually ends with a lot of “why” and teeth grinding. My older son loves the beach and especially loves going there during a rain storm to watch the waves. When we do that, ours for sure are the only kids there.
I’m a firm believer that kids need fresh air, time in the sun (with sunblock, of course) and daily physical activity for their well-being.
There are so many studies demonstratingnature’s therapeutic effects on children. One study from the University of Illinois’ found that time outdoors reduces symptoms in children with ADHD, and found a link between exposure to nature and increased self-discipline in girls.
For me, it’s so great to see how all three of my children connect to nature and how almost anything — ants, worms, mushrooms, flowers, funny looking trees, puddles and ice — can catch their attention forever. I have a library of stones, twigs, leaves and other things from nature that were just so specialand had to be saved.
My advice is to spend the extra money on good quality outdoors clothes and shoes, dress kids in layers, and watch them enjoy the great outdoors.
Here is one of my favorite books on this topic. It’s written by a Swedish mom living the U.S. and author of the web site Rain and Shine Mamma