Our Guide to staying warm outdoors

Forest School top tips for keeping warm when outside in winter!

Here at Rowntree Park Forest School we play outside all year round, whatever the weather.  The children get so much from being outdoors, especially as the weather changes.  It’s a great learning experience and brilliant for building resilience.  Going outside when it’s raining, cold and grey doesn’t always come naturally but it teaches children to handle the elements, keep going when things get tough and have fun even when the situation isn’t their preferred option!

As a Forest School Practitioner, I spend most of my days outdoors so I’ve picked up a few hints and tips on staying warm outside.  It’s especially important for little ones as they’re smaller and don’t have the extensive circulatory system which adults have.  I’ve listed my top tips below but if you have others, please let us know in the comments.

Layering up is key

Layers trap air pockets between clothing.  This air warms with our bodies and insulates against the colder outside air.  Layering also means that you can take off a layer or two to prevent sweating if you or your child gets too hot running around.

I usually aim for three or four layers.  A snug base layer, usually a thermal vest or t-shirt, with another t-shirt on top.  I then add a jumper on top and then my coat.  If it’s really cold, I’ll add a bodywarmer.  I’m aiming for enough layers to keep me warm, but not so many that I can’t move!

The most important layers are the top and bottom.  The bottom should be comfortable and fitted.  Ideally something which wicks moisture away from the skin.  Lots of high street stores sell good thermal vests and tops which work brilliantly.  Try to avoid cotton where possible – it tends to hold water, making it colder and more uncomfortable.  The top layer should keep out the elements – waterproof and windproof is ideal.

Lots of our toddlers opt for two-piece waterproofs – a bib and brace/dungaree style bottom and waterproof coat.  The dungaree bottoms are often very good quality and are sufficiently adjustable to last for several growth spurts.  They’re also much easier when it comes to toilet time!

Keep moving

The most important thing is to keep moving.   Humans generate their own heat and so the more we move, the hotter we get (to a point!).  So, keep walking, jump up and down, rub your hands and stamp your feet and you’ll stay warm for a lot longer!

Often children stop moving when they get upset by the cold.  This can be a tricky cycle to break, as they will get colder quickly without movement.  It’s useful to have a few games in hand to get them moving.  Scavenger hunts, tig, or hide and seek are popular with little ones.

Don’t forget the extremities

Hands, face and feet get cold quickly, either because their exposed or because it takes longer for the warm blood to circulate to them.  Thick woollen socks (I ALWAYS wear two pairs) and sturdy boots will help and a warm hat is essential.

Gloves can be tricky.  The children and I find it hard to do all the exciting things we want to with our gloves on, so more often than not, we abandon them in favour of having fun.  I have found a good compromise – wrist warmers.  These lovely woollen tubes have made such a difference to how warm my hands are.  Mine are Turtle Doves, but other places make them.

I’ve also found neck warmers to be much better than scarves.  They generally fit more snugly, don’t trail around and you can keep them on all day.

And when it’s really cold…

Pop a hand warmer inside your coat (not next to the skin) for a lovely warm glow.  Please don’t give hot water bottles to children due to the risk of them leaking very hot water and scalding your child.

And the best thing about being outdoors in the cold, wet and windy weather?  Really appreciating that lovely hot chocolate and snuggle with your grown up around the fire or back home after a fun day out!

We have two forest schools running at Rowntree Park and you can find out more at https://rowntreepark.org.uk/events/booking.

Christine Banham – Forest school Practitioner – education@rowntreepark.org.uk

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