By brittalippiatt, Nov 21 2018 11:58AM
Winter can be a challenging time to get outdoors, be it for a walk or play, and I must admit that even I am sometimes tempted to stay at home, snug and warm, rather than heading out into the cold - or worse - the cold and wet. But once I am out there, I am usually very glad to have made the effort - and can really appreciate the warmth and cosiness of the house afterwards.
In short, there are two important factors for successful winter outings: having the right attitude and realistic expectations and keeping yourself warm. There is no reason why we shouldn't get outdoors – just the opposite. Just like in warmer weather, we all still need outside time to get fresh air, light and exercise. And if we want us and our children to truly connect with nature, we need to experience it in all seasons and all weathers. Here are some tips for successful winter outings.
Staying positive and realistic
Thinking about outdoor play in winter, for me, is not about staying out for hours on end and enduring harsh conditions, but rather getting out at all. It is better to have half an hour of good quality time enjoyed by everyone than an overly ambitious half day trek with children who are cold and crying and who will, understandably, next time refuse to go out at all.
It doesn’t take a lot of effort to turn a short winter’s walk into an adventure. Just take some wool or rubber bands and find a stick plus some of nature’s treasures along the way to create your very own journey stick. Use 'Go find it' cards or make up your own scavenger hunt. Or how about some bark rubbings and winter tree ID? The Woodland Trust’s Nature Detectives have lots of ideas here.
Hypothermia is a real risk in winter, so it might be a good idea to get familiar with symptoms and treatment. However, prevention is the key, so once one in the party gets cold and a hot drink and/or moving around doesn’t cut it, it's time to head home.
Positive attitude alone doesn’t make for a successful winter outing if we get cold, so it is important to have the right clothing, for us and our children. For people in countries who are used to cold winters this comes as second nature, but for us in (relatively) mild Britain, finding the right clothes, especially for babies and toddlers, might prove a bit of a challenge.
This is the minimum clothing I dress my 4-year-old in when she heads to her Forest School in cold weather:
Needless to say that I dress very similar to that, with a minimum of three layers on my legs and normally at least five on my upper body. My new merino wool thermals have already proven very useful this year. Lots of my children’s outer clothes have come from Little Trekkers, an online shop specialising in children’s outdoor equipment, but there are a whole range of suppliers, unfortunately mostly online.
When it comes to footwear, it can be a bit tricky but planning for this will make all the difference as a person with cold feet is not a happy person. I see a lot of children wear wellies and while they are great for the rest of the year, they are not ideal in winter as they are normally not well insulated. It is possible to improve the situation very easily by putting some insoles in – sheepskin or even just some newspaper will make a difference, as will warm welly socks. We have had good experience with wellies made out of neoprene, fleece lined winter wellies, snowboots and also sturdy Gore Tex boots worn with warm socks.
Lastly - if you ‘baby wear’, i.e. carry your little one in a sling or wrap, I can highly recommend investing in a baby wearing coat. I have not been toastier throughout winter than when I carried my youngest daughter and we warmed each other by sharing a coat - it really was amazing. There are different options available with different price tags, or you might be able to pick up a used one.
Join us for some winter adventures
If you are keen to continue playing outside - we are going to run one of our parent & toddler groups right through the winter, with a warming fire, yummy hot chocolate, a big tarp for shelter if needed and lots of space to run around. Booking for Little Owls will be open shortly on www.bookwhen.com/natureconnections.