"There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing" - Scandinavian Proverb
Children and adults need to be warm and comfortable when outside. Everyone, including children, has different thresholds of tolerance when it comes to feeling the cold. The more time you spend outside, the more adept you become at dressing properly for being out. The same applies to children who learn tricks to keep warm such as moving about in winter, and seeking shade in the summer.
- Aim to keep temperatures even across the body.
- Ensure you are wearing layers of clothing. It’s the air trapped in and between the layers that insulate and provide heat.
- Avoid wearing denim jeans which get cold and heavy when wet. Generally cotton is not a good base layer for this reason in winter.
- Proper wool jumpers or synthetic fleece work well underneath a durable wind and waterproof jacket and dungarees.
- Wear thick socks, gloves and hat. Mittens keep hands warmer than gloves with fingers.
- Wear waterproof boots such as wellies. These should be large enough to let a child wear thick socks and sole inserts to insulate. There should be wiggle room for the toes.
Good features to look for in outdoor clothing
- Soft fleece collar with an adjustable hood on jackets
- Zip should have a flap on the inside to protect the child from being hurt when the zip is closed. Or show the child how to pull up a zip carefully!
- Jackets should cover the waistbands of trousers
- Have a piece of elastic at the end of the trouser legs so it can close round a boot. This is important in terms of keeping heat within the trousers. The trousers should cover the boots (do not tuck into wellies as water will run inside and the children will get wet feet), and have elastic at the legs so that water is not let in even if the child jumps in puddles
- Detachable hood that will come off if it gets caught on something
- Machine washable. Some outdoor clothes should not be put on a spin cycle
- Wool socks are best as they absorb moisture and stay warm when damp
- Children’s boots should be sturdy and have heels for a better grip
- Wide-brimmed rain hats like sou’westers ensure that rain runs over the back of the collar
- For very young children, warm,waterproof mittens in the winter. Many are designed to cover the wrists and have elastic to help reduce the chances of them falling off
- Wide-brimmed sunhats are needed for sunny days. Baseball caps are not ideal as the neck can get burned. Have ones with cloth that protects the neck
High visibility helps
Black, brown, green, grey and other earthy camouflage colours are not good for children from a safety standpoint. A child who is lost or has run away is very hard to spot in such colours. It also makes it easier for you to keep track of the child when outdoors. Have reflective tabs or reflectors that can be attached to the clothes.
Consider using high visibility vests when taking children off-site. This can be particularly helpful in woodland.
Finding or funding clothing
1) Try before you buy. Generally children are more likely to want to wear clothing they like and have chosen. Have a project where you get a range of samples. Creative STAR have created Try Before You Buy Boxes of clothing. Let the children try them on and see which ones they prefer based on factors such as:
- Comfort – how they feel
- Ease of putting on and taking off: how well the zips work, whether the straps adjust easily, effectiveness of the hood, etc.
- The type of outdoor gear. Everyone has different preferences in terms of dungarees vs all-in-one suits vs trousers. Even at outdoor nurseries there are differences of opinion!
2) Develop an outdoor dressing up box to help children practice putting on and taking off their clothes. Have capes, hats, gloves, mittens, trousers, all-in-one suits, dungarees and jackets with a variety of buttons, zips, toggles and popper fastenings. Alternatively make up little fastening boards with these items on them.
3) Both of the above will generate interest from children and their parents. It is a good time to ask for donations of outgrown clothes. Remember, it can take a while before parents understand about the need for good quality outdoor clothing and passing on items to the nursery. Have reminders at the door, examples ready and ask at parents’ evenings, PTA events, etc.
4) Have an Outdoor Ted at the entrance dressed in outdoor gear needed for the day. The children can look and check they have the gear in their bag or box.Link this to the next day's weather forecast.
5) Rent outdoor suits to a child’s family for their time at nursery. The children hire a suit and if they outgrow it, then they bring it to nursery and get the next size up. This involves an initial outlay but the income can be used to replace worn out gear. The children bring it to nursery daily, wash it as needed and can use it outwith nursery too. This can encourage family to go outside more often in all weathers.
6) Make it part of your school or pre-school policy that children should bring outdoor clothing and footwear every day. Have a range of samples from local stockists available at induction meetings. Try and negotiate a discount from a local shop or give parents an opportunity to buy through your school or setting to benefit from a bulk purchase.
7) Apply for external funding, e.g. Awards for All or other grants.
Ask your local outdoor shop and see what they can offer. Some will do discounts for schools and nurseries.
Look out for sales in high street shops. Sometimes you can get clothing through Tesco’s or Morrison’s school’s vouchers. Check you are buying durable items and that they have the features listed above.
Always check to see if clothing companies offer a discount for schools and nurseries. Many offer trade prices or discounts to schools and pre-school settings. The following companies generously donated clothing towards the Try Before You Buy boxes:
Try Before You Buy Outdoor Clothing Boxes
Creative STAR has put together several boxes of clothing for pre-school settings and primary schools to borrow for free. At the moment the service is only available within NE Scotland. However we are happy to provide advice and lists of what we put in, if other organisations and groups wish to develop boxes in their local areas. Please visit the Try Before You Buy page for more information.
Top tip for off-site expeditions...
Bring extra socks and plastic bags. If a child steps in a puddle, you can replace their socks and put a plastic bag between the sock and the wet shoe. It keeps the feet warm and dry.