I have a love/hate relationship with winter. I love the first snowfall; I hate the last one. I love the stark landscape of white, black and gray; I can’t wait for that first sign of green in the spring. I love the chance to snuggle under blankets on the couch; I can’t wait to shed the winter clothes and boots!
But like it or not, winter is here to stay for the next few months, and I have to figure out ways to enjoy it! When my children were little, it was imperative that we all got outside, at least for a little bit, several times a week. When we spent days on end inside, we would all get a little cabin fever and that’s when the squabbles would come on strong.
I found one of the biggest hurdles to going outside was actually getting dressed! There’s a saying: there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. So I collected all the gear: boots, snow pants, coat, hat, scarf, gloves but boy! putting on all that stuff sometimes took as long as our time outside! But getting dressed to go outside provides so many opportunities for learning and growth. When I started to think of it as a learning process, it helped me mentally tackle the challenge!
First, there are all the physical skills – both gross and fine motor – of putting on snow pants and boots; zipping, buttoning and tying; even putting on mittens requires a certain skill. Then there is the idea of sequencing (an important math skill): knowing what order to put on your clothes. You certainly can’t put on your boots before your snow pants! To help with the challenge of getting dressed, I often turned it into a game. I would sing or play short kids songs and “race” to see if we could get our snow pants on before the end of the song. Then we’d race to see if we could get both boots on before the next song was over. This still might be a 10 minute process, but at least it was fun and without meltdowns before even going outside! I also made a sign for my kids to follow: 1 = a picture of snow pants, 2 = a picture of boots; etc. They could follow the order and associate the numbers with the correct sequence.
Once outside, we found many ways to stay active and have fun. Hallie described several things we also liked to do: sled, look for and make tracks, and play tag. We also enjoyed going for walks to look for as many different colors, shapes or textures as we can. We liked to put colored water (water with food coloring) in spray bottles or old mustard bottles and make “paintings” in the snow. We would sometimes practice making shapes, letters or numbers this way.
Getting outside in the winter can sometimes be exhausting: getting all dressed, playing outside and taking everything off again. But ultimately, I wanted my kids exhausted so they would be just a little less stir crazy inside!
Author: Rachel Sandhorst, NE IA Food & Fitness Early Childhood F2ECE Associate