"I hate rainy days when we get stuck inside and the children go wild."
I have lost count of the number of times over my almost two decades in early childhood, that I have heard some version of this sentiment. For the first couple of years, I said it myself - many times. You would hear the weather forecast and dread the next week, knowing that days upon days of rain would equal hours upon hours of being "stuck" inside, of trying to keep children engaged, of staring longingly at the outdoor environment and fielding the inevitable "but why can't we go outside?" questions.
Until one day when we just said "let's go outside."
Playing outdoors in all weather (with the exception of dangerous heat, lightning, and a possible cyclone) brings about new opportunities for children to discover and explore their world in a completely different way.
Rain brings about puddles - perfect for splashing in.
The wind feels funny against the body as you run - and kites are far more fun when it's windy!
Snow (if you are lucky to have it) - provides a unique sensory experience
Here in Australia, we are quickly headed into winter. On the east coast where I am, winter isn't actually that cold. We complain that it is "freezing" and too cold to go outside, when in reality we can rug up in a jacket and beanie and be quite comfortable out in the elements. I have worked with many educators over the years who said "it's too cold to go out." Too cold for who? Not the children! Most of the children will quite happily throw on a jacket and run around to warm up. It is the adults who find it cold. In parts of Europe, children and educators take time putting on their snow gear so that they can spend hours in the freezing cold forest - playing, exploring, and discovering.
Claire Warden presented at an event for us a few years ago and someone made a comment about not going outside when it was raining. I smile every time I think about Claire's response "in Scotland - if we don't go outside when it's raining, we would never go out!"
When I started taking children outside in the rain, it was a challenge - there is no doubt about that.
It meant asking families to come prepared with gumboots and rain jackets.
It meant having spare clothes on hand so that children could change into something dry and warm.
It meant educators bringing jackets and gumboots.
It meant talking to parents about the benefits of playing outside in all weather and reassuring them that children become sick from germs - not being in the rain.
But, the benefits were made any preparation totally worth it!
It meant children shrieking with delight as they splashed and played.
It meant exploration and wonder in the elements
It meant calm, connectedness replaced the crazy days we had been having before (the days spent cooped up indoors)
So where do you start?
If you are thinking "I want to get outside in all weather with children" - do it! But first, do a little groundwork:
Talk to your team about it - get everyone else as excited as you are, challenge them to come prepared in their waterproof gear, and have a little fun.
Talk to families about it - share the benefits, listen to their questions or concerns.
Talk to children about it - what do we need to do to make our play fun...even when it's raining, or windy, or snowing?
When we put in the groundwork, when we are prepared and motivated and ready to embrace the wonder and joy of being outside even when our shoes get wet or our hair becomes a home for stray leaves blown about by the wind, we open ourselves to the amazing learning opportunities that outdoor play can bring.
Do you spend time outdoors in all weather with children? We would love to hear about it! Share in the comments below.
PS - We are running this live online workshop in a few weeks' time all about this topic! For just $24AUD, you can join us from anywhere in the world to unpack the benefits and gain useful tips and strategies for all-weather play.
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