“There’s no such thing as bad weather – only bad clothing”.
Changes in the way we live have contributed to modern families living in a far more sedentary and indoor-led culture, where we are increasingly disconnected from the natural world. But regular time spent in nature has well-known mental and physical health benefits, especially for children.
Abundant time in nature is linked to reduced ADHD, more creativity, better critical thinking, better test scores, and a stronger sense of purpose, as well as better overall health. Over a hundred studies have found that time spent in nature directly leads to a reduction in stress, with children who have a high daily exposure to nature showing less of a stress response to challenging situations than children with a low exposure to nature. And being close to nature helps to boost children’s attention spans, with children who spend more time in nature better able to concentrate. Children who play regularly in nature tend to engage more in imaginative and creative play, which fosters language, abstract reasoning, and problem-solving skills. Time in nature is also crucial for building a love for and connection to the environment.
This isn’t news to some. Scandinavians use the term Friluftsliv, which broadly translates as “open-air living or culture”, to describe a way of life that is spent appreciating and exploring nature, be it cycling to work, playing outdoors, or hiking at the weekend. This is central to the Scandinavian approach to raising children – perhaps it is not surprising that the Scandinavian nations regularly score among the happiest in the world.
Many parents have seen for themselves first-hand the benefits of getting outdoors to the whole family. But when the weather is rainy or cold – or very hot – getting out of the house and enjoying nature can be difficult, no matter how good the intentions. As we head into into cooler weather in the Northern hemisphere (and hotter in the Southern), it’s much easier to get children out of the house if they are wearing the right kind of clothing.
Clothing for all weather
Having appropriate clothing and gear can transform time in nature from a chore to a joy. Here is a basic kit list which should get your child through all weather!
- Good quality waterproofs (either an all in one suit or dungarees over wellies and a waterproof jacket)
- Thin natural layers and/or thermals for layering under regular clothes
- Jumpers for layering, fleece or wool
- Extra thick (wool or vegan alternative) socks for layering in cold weather
- Snow boots for very cold weather
- Padded jacket for very cold weather
- Mittens and / or gloves (wool and/or waterproof, can layer in very cold weather)
- Winter hat (find one which ties on for young children)
- Chapped lip balm
- Insulated drinks bottle for warm drinks
- Long, loose cotton layers
- Sunhat (find one which ties on for young children)
- Bug spray if applicable
- Insulated drinks bottle for cool drinks
It’s not just children who need weather-appropriate clothing though. You will also need all of the above! We often forget about dressing ourselves as well as our children, but ensuring we have the right kit can make a huge difference in our enjoyment levels once we get out. No one wants to be the one telling their children that they have to go home because mummy is cold (I may have been this mother once or twice…) You could swap wellies and snow boots for a pair of good, waterproof walking boots with a couple of layers of socks underneath.
If you’d like to find out more about the the importance of nature to children, the Forest School philosophy and the Scandinavian approach to raising children, A Beautiful Childhood is opening for booking again tomorrow.
This unique and information-rich course will give you a solid understanding of a wide range of educational and parenting approaches for young children, as well as practical and achievable ideas based on these philosophies for you to try out at home. It’s suitable whether you are home educating or not, and you can read what other parents thought of it here.