Today I am welcoming Linda McGurk to the blog as she launches her first book, which I LOVE! She also writes a fantastic blog and is a blogging peer of mine I greatly admire.
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!” If I heard it once I heard it a million times growing up in Sweden, where it feels like rainy days outnumber sunny days by 10 to 1 and talking about the weather borders on a national sport. In Scandinavia, getting fresh air every day, regardless of the weather, is considered crucial to good health and it’s an ethos that adults are adamant about passing on to kids. The reason why is simple: Kids need outdoor play for their social, physical and cognitive development, and the need to move around doesn’t go away just because the weather is less than ideal. Plus, as researchers have discovered, children who play outdoors are more likely to want to protect nature as adults.
Obviously, there are some exceptions to the rule – thunderstorms or other truly hazardous weather conditions are perfectly valid excuses for staying inside. But generally speaking, getting outside every day, even if it’s just for a little bit, is a boon to our bodies and minds. Sometimes the hard part is just getting there. Getting motivated to get off the couch when the sky is fifty shades of depressing, the thermometer is below freezing and the kids would rather stay glued to a screen can be a struggle. Not to mention all the times you’ll spend half an hour rounding them up and wrangling them into the appropriate gear, just to have them bolt back into the house after fifteen minutes in the backyard.
But even on days like that, getting outside is worth the effort. As Alys Fowler notes in her ode to winter in the Guardian, “I’d rather be stuck out in the rain, for a while at least, than stuck in on the sofa. Box sets are addictive, but a day lost to the sitting room is a day trapped, a day when winter seems longer than it is.”
If you still find yourself struggling with motivation to get outside with the kids during the dark and cold months, try these helpful tips:
Reframe the situation
Kids intuitively pick up on our attitude, so as adults we need to consider how we talk and think about the weather. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of the weather, for example rain, get the kids excited by emphasizing the positives, like the puddles that are forming and the earthworms that are coming to the surface. Conversely, if it’s extremely hot and dry, focus on activities that make the heat more tolerable, like having ice cream or cold lemonade in a shaded area in the backyard. Find more ideas for how to reframe inclement weather here.
Establish a daily rhythm
When you make outdoor play time every day routine, regardless of the weather, your kids will become more resilient in the face of “bad” weather and are less likely to fight it. Figure out what the best time for your family to get outside and try to stick to that rhythm whenever possible. The ideal time will vary depending on the ages, personalities and habits of your children, as well as the schedule for the rest of the family. For school-age children a good time to get outside is often right after school, since they’ve probably spent most of the day sitting at a desk. For younger kids, you may need to plan around nap and meal times (or just have them eat and nap outside, which is common in Scandinavia). For other families, walking together after dinner is an almost sacred family ritual. What you do and when you do it isn’t that important – the best rhythm for your family is usually the one that actually gets you off the couch and out the door.
Dress for the weather
If you’re going to live by the idea that there’s no such thing as bad weather, your kids also need to dress the part, since a cold and wet child quickly will lead to outdoor play fail. Invest in some decent-quality gear and learn some layering basics to keep your kids comfortable in cold and/or wet weather. And don’t forget to get good gear for yourself – kids are not the only ones who need snow pants to protect against the cold in the wintertime! In hot weather, wearing long-sleeved UV clothing protects children against burns, and seeking out shade and water is key to keep little ones happy outside.
Read more about enjoying the outdoors in any weather in my book There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather (Touchstone; Oct. 2017).
Linda Åkeson McGurk is a Swedish-American freelance journalist and author who started the blog Rain or Shine Mamma to inspire outdoor play and adventure every day, regardless of the weather. A nature lover and mother of two daughters, she believes that the best childhood memories are created outside, while jumping in puddles, digging in dirt, catching bugs, and climbing trees. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather is her first book.
© 2017, Tales of a Mountain Mama. All rights reserved. Republication, in part or entirety, requires a link back to this original post and permission from the author.