“There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” — old Scandinavian saying
Unless you live somewhere like, say, Miami, January might seem like an odd time to write a blog post about being outside.
I grew up in Southern California and didn’t own a pair of gloves until I moved to Virginia when I was 21 years old. That was when I experienced a “real” winter for the first time. Now I live in Indiana, where the winters are more extended and a little more extreme. It seems like winter should be the time to hunker down and stay indoors by the fire. But lately I’ve been thinking there’s a better way.
Much has been said about the Nordic way of life—“hygge” and all that—and how happy they all are, embracing the best about winter. Instead of gritting their teeth and seeking to merely survive long, dark winters, they get outside and enjoy winter sports, wearing warm clothing. I have a friend from Canada who has said the same thing to me. Winter is a time to ski and skate and be outside. The cold weather simply means there are different outdoor activities that you can participate in. This makes being outside even more fun!
My own kids actually enjoy being outside and they don’t usually complain about the weather. When it rains, they put on rain boots. When it’s really hot, they turn on the sprinklers. And when it snows, they are the most excited of all.
In fact, my 10-year-old recently said to me, in anticipation of the winter ahead and all the fun she wants to have in the snow: “I have a feeling that this winter is going to fly by!”
I have never met an adult who shares this winter-loving attitude! In her mind, the worst thing of all would be for there to not be enough fun, snowy winter days.
With all of these things in mind, I am reminded of Angela Hanscom’s book, Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children. Hanscom has gained worldwide recognition and success for her nature-based forest preschool and her camps for school-aged children, where kids play outside all day. The children have no toys other than what they create themselves using natural products. The kids are outdoors all day, regardless of the weather. And she is from New Hampshire, so that is saying something.
Hanscom cites numerous studies in her book about how being outdoors for extended periods of unstructured time benefits children in many ways. She also has practical information on how to integrate more time outdoors into our schedules. Her book is worth reading because it is full of so much information. What struck me the most was how attention-deficit disorders basically vanished when kids were given chunks of time to be outside and play in nature.
Of course, the idea of kids being out in nature is not a new one and, in fact, is what most children have done in spades throughout history. Many homeschoolers will be familiar with Charlotte Mason and the idea of nature journals, which is described here. We have used nature journals off and on, but not heavily in the colder months. I’d like to change that.
This winter, I plan to be more intentional about getting outside with my kids and also sending them outside for unstructured playtime by themselves—wearing appropriate clothing—regardless of the weather. I hope you and your family can be outside too, regardless of the climate you live in!
Photo Credit: Graphic design by Anna Soltis. Following images courtesy of author.