Posted in Nature, Play Time, Uncategorized

Don’t Hibernate – A Winter Guide to Get Outside!

Winter is my favorite season, Fall being a very close second. There is something really magical and peaceful and beautiful about seeing a snow covered yard sparkling in the sun. There is something really intriguing about seeing tracks in the snow and figuring out who they came from. There is so much fun to be had outside in the snow- hiking, building a snowman or snow fort, sledding, ice skating, making art with the snow, etc.

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But most people don’t think of winter as fun. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard, “It’s too cold? It’s too dark?” Amiright? And just for the record, these sayings mostly come from the parents, not the children. But we are passing these thoughts onto them and it greatly influences their ideas about how to or how not to enjoy the weather.  There is a saying that “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” And I believe that to be true. So I’m reaching out today to help you push those thoughts aside so you can get outside. Your guide to getting outside includes tips on how to dress, what to do, and what to bring.

How To Dress:

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I used to be the person that was always cold. I used to be the person that thought my warmest pair of pants to wear were my jeans. That all changed when I enrolled my children in the Worldmind Nature Immersion School. It was really important to us that our children connect with nature on a deeper level. We always had them outside since they were babies and they naturally loved being outside. We also really wanted a different approach to how our children would be educated. Nature school was the perfect fit for us. This school ran 3-hour classes, five days a week, all outside, year-round. There were no school cancellations when it snowed, and school days were only cancelled when temps were well below freezing, wind was insanely too gusty, or roads were beyond terrible. So our first day of nature school was on a warm fall day. Kids walked barefoot around a wooded area, played in their undergarments in the pond, and had the most glorious day. Not ONE complaint was heard about someone being cold. Soon fall turned to winter and the weather starting changing. One particular day, it was very wet. Wet but not cold. We made the drive to our location and we were the only ones that showed up. So it would be just us and the teacher and her son. The kids right off the bat found a large glorious puddle to jump in. I had just bought my kids boots that would surely be warm. Yeah, warm but not waterproof. My kids were soaked in the first three jumps. I definitely didn’t have the right gear. I rung out their boots, gave them a quick change of dry pants, and we hiked on down the hill. The following hours they slid down mud hills, jumped in more puddles, made mud balls, and had so much fun. Sure they were wet and dirty but the smiles on their faces showed no signs of being cold or uncomfortable. Ok, there might have been one or two times my son reminded me that his feet were soaked. We changed clothes once more and were on way home.

Many people might have said, “Nope, never are we going outside in the rain. It’s too cold, it’s too muddy, there’s too much laundry to do.” But I said, “Hmmm, what do I need to add or change about their clothing so they can stay a bit more dry?” The laundry: yeah I don’t have an answer there. It is what it is. Doing laundry is a small sacrifice to make so that your children can fully enjoy the fun outdoors.

Looking ahead, a few more rainy, wet days had passed, I was getting better at knowing what clothes would be best. I found rain pants online at REI for $13 a pair, tall rain boots from thrift stores, invested in waterproof gloves, etc. Eventually our nature school found and purchased child waders (like the ones fishermen use when they are in the river). Now these weren’t entirely cheap but considering that my children wore them almost every day, and then we would trade sizes when they were too small, the investment was well worth every dollar in the $50 that I paid for them. Yes of course sometimes water would get down the waders and after sliding on a frozen river, the gloves are bound to be wet. BUT the right clothing can provide hours and hours of joy for your children doing what they should be doing- playing outside!

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So….here’s your guide on how to dress for success to enjoy all weather. It is recommended for YOU (yes don’t forget you. It’s important for you to be dressed right so you can be warm and help your child) and your child to dress in layers. This is so you can adjust the clothing for various weather changes and different activity levels.

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Winter: when it’s cold (but remember we don’t say it’s cold)

  • Shirts and Pants: should consist of 3 layers for tops AND bottoms. Many forget to add an extra layer on the legs. The inner layer should be 100% polyester or natural fabrics such as wool or silk. Cotton isn’t a great choice because it doesn’t really wick moisture away from the body. Long underwear is a great choice. The second layer should be a warm fleece or wool. This should be something that will insulate the body’s warm temperature. No jeans. Jeans are excellent retainers of water and will stay wet for a long time. The third layer should be your windproof and waterproof layer. These can be pricey but are well worth the investment. To help, visit outdoor recreation stores to look for sales, find families to trade with, or shop from local thrift stores.
  • Footwear: footwear should be sturdy and waterproof. Wool socks are a must. My favorite brand of boots are Bogs or Kamik. Also make sure boots are not too small as this will cut off circulation to feet and make them colder.
  • Accessories: A warm hat or beanie is always a must (I don’t recommend ear muffs or an ear band. These don’t keep the warm on the head and don’t stay put).  I strongly recommend a warm balaclava. This will actually cover and protect more of the cheeks and nose. We also carry about 3 pairs of gloves every time we venture out for a fun of playing in the snow. Hand and foot warmers are always a great choice to bring. Extra socks! Again we carry a few pairs with us every time. These can also make good mittens if you don’t have an extra pair.
  • Many times we carry all this (yes I always feel like a pack mule) and with all the activity and exercise we do, usually the outer layer comes off because they get too warm. Which is another tip when enjoying the winter weather- stay moving!

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Summer: when it’s hot:

  • Tops: here is when it’s a great idea to wear cotton. Cotton is light and can keep moisture to the body so the body can cool down. T-shirts are fine but it’s also ok to wear a light long sleeve cotton shirt.
  • Pants: again light weight but durable. Shorts are ok too. We often just wear swim suits if we are around water.
  • Footwear: optional!! yes allow them to go barefoot. If wearing shoes, closed-toe sturdy (hiking) sandals are my recommendation.
  • Accessories: I can’t say it enough please please please wear a sun hat! The hat should cover the face AND neck and bonus points for UV protection. My favorite are from Sunday Afternoons. I rarely put sunscreen on the face and neck. Sunscreen is a must though to have in the pack. Sunglasses are also really important!

All weather in between:

  • For those perfect not-too-hot, not-too-cold days, long sleeve tops and long durable pants are perfect for enjoying the outside. Bring the needed accessories and enjoy a glorious day!

What to Bring:

Whether you are enjoying the warm summer months or the cooler winter days, what you bring can sway the enjoyment of your day.

I have a little girl who wants nothing more than to be immersed in all things sensory. I bring buckets, shovels, letter molds, a thermos of water just for her to make mud (if we aren’t playing around water) and plenty of paint, pastels, brushes, scissors (to cut up leaves or flower petals that we save) paper (or she likes to find rocks and sticks to paint) or a journal. This usually keeps her busy for hours.

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Don’t forget, plenty of water (can be fruit-infused as well), healthy high-protein snacks, crunchy vegetables and fruit (in the winter we like to bring dried fruit), lunch, warm tea in the winter is a must. We definitely wouldn’t last if we didn’t bring nearly the whole pantry.

For more on what to bring, check out the Packing and EDventure Backpack post here:

What to Do: Winter isn’t just snowy days. It’s full of sunny days too!

While it is a good idea to have some ideas or activities planned, pretty please make sure there is ample time for open-ended child guided play. Let them loose to do what they please as long as it is safe (but do let them take healthy risks).

There are lots and lots of books and Pinterest ideas on outdoor activities. Some activities might require lots of materials and some that require little or no materials. We are all about balance. I plan to post more specific ideas on what to do for specific weather and seasons but here is a short list of activities that require little or no materials.

  • track! This is one of our favorite things to do. We love to look for tracks (and scat)and see who has been here, what were they doing (determined by the gait pattern in their steps), and where were they going. Make sure to have a field guide to help.
  • bird watch- don’t forget to bring the journal and binoculars
  • search for and gather items for a winter nature table
  • use natural materials to build bridges, boats, houses, mandalas, whatever inspires you and your child
  • paint, draw, create art
  • make up games, play hide and seek
  • cloud watch- make up stories with the objects you see
  • READ- one of our favorite places to read is outside!
  • practice storytelling
  • have a picnic, bring a new and different food each time to try
  • make friends with a tree
  • pretend to be animals
  • make a fort or shelter if playing in a wooded area
  • explore sound- find materials and make music
  • meditate, do yoga
  • of course SAFELY play in the elements: explore the ice, streams and ponds, climb trees and rocks, play in the sand and mud, stomp in the puddles, etc.
  • take a nap- I guarantee if you’re in a quiet, secluded place your sleep will be more quality when sleeping outside. Yes even in the winter!!

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Posted in Nature, Play Time

Packing an EDventure Backpack

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My family and I were hiking on our property the other day, and while I carry a pretty big backpack I quickly came to realize it wasn’t holding everything my little explorers needed. Now I am pretty seasoned when it comes to packing for my wild ones and I for a day outside. You see, for a few years, my kids were enrolled in a nature school program, where I was also one of the facilitators. We learned and played outside for one or two days a week, YEAR ROUND, in Colorado.

Since we now walk out the door for our short walks in the woods, we aren’t bringing all of our exploration gear. But short walks start to turn into long walks, or we see something extra special and I realize it’s important to bring our stuff every. time. Back to my pack mule days!

So I want to share my list with you of all the gear I bring along for one of our EDventures.

The Essentials:

  • a good heavy duty backpack. With lots of pockets. And water bottle holders. And carabineers. I had a normal Eddie Bauer one but quickly outgrew that and got a much larger one as a Christmas present. Mine even has a rain flap that covers my entire pack. You wouldn’t believe how many times that has saved our stuff as we’ve hiked in down-pouring rain. The blue backpack in the pic below is the one I use.

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  • a small backpack for your kids. My kids enjoy bringing their own backpack and packing their own snacks and items, plus it also helps my pack load.
  • Proper seasonal clothing. I’ll post more specifics at another time but I find I always need extra socks, pants, shirts, and a zip up fleece hoodie or jacket (good for all seasons). This includes hats, sunglasses, etc.
  • a first aid kit.  What to keep in your first aid could make for it’s own post, but make sure you have the essentials (which usually come in a pre-bought kit). I also add my own items, like essential oils, colloidal silver, homemade hand sanitizer, etc.
  • Kleenex and or wipes. I also keep a moist washcloth in a plastic bag for wiping hands and in the event we come across poision ivy
  • sunscreen and bug spray
  • Water and snacks of course. We don’t get far or even home, for that matter, if we don’t have a gagillion snacks.
  • Plastic bag: for dirty or wet clothes, or trash
  • treasure box or bag: kids love to bring home all the things they find. I like the brown bags with handles. My kids like decorating these and I can clip the handles to their backpacks with a carabineer.

Exploration Accessories: These are things I like to bring but are not necessarily essential to a hiking adventure, but they do have lots of value and make for a really fun outing

  • compass
  • magnifying glass
  • binoculars
  • bug jars or holders
  • a net for catching bugs
  • bucket and shovel
  • kid play tongs or large tweezers for them to pick up stuff that shouldn’t be touched
  • rope or string
  • measuring tape (we like the flexible roll-up kind): we use this a lot for measuring tracks, but we have found that it’s good for making spider webs in the trees, a bridge for small insects to cross, etc. This is what I love about sitting back and letting kids come up with countless, imaginative ways to use something.
  • nature journal and art supplies: it wouldn’t be an adventure at all if my daughter didn’t have some sort of art media. Plus it’s really important for kids to document all that they’ve seen and discovered. We have a small pouch that we keep colored pencils, watercolors, scissors, tape, glue, etc. in.

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  • sticky roll (like those to get pet hair off)- we use these primarily for tick protection
  • field guides
  • camera: When we attended nature school, we used a class polaroid camera. The kids loved it so I’m hoping to add that to our nature pack but for now we just use my phone and I let my kids take some pictures
  • small foldable blanket
  • books: no matter what you’re reading, it’s just nice to sit under a tree and read together
  • flashlight
  • whistle or walkie-talkies
  • sometimes we like bringing a hand-held recorder to record bird sounds and it helps kids get quiet for a short moment

I will also carry more items for specific projects and activities but this list is a great start of items to bring along on your next outdoor outing.

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Enjoy the EDventure!