I grew up in Minnesota, where all my Scandinavian neighbors, grandparents, and family were quick to say "There's no such thing as bad weather" if any child dared to complain about playing in the snow. School was only cancelled for cold weather if it was colder than negative 40! Snow days were more frequent, but even if the weather was too poor for driving, it was never too bad for snow forts and sledding. We went outside!
"Whether the weather be cold, or whether the weather be hot, We'll weather the weather, whatever the weather, Whether we like it or not."
Now that I live in Utah with my kids, getting outside in cold weather can seem intimidating, and the cry of "Mom, my mitten fell off!" feels never ending.
But when kids are stir-crazy and everyone is sneezing, it can be a great time to get out into some fresh air. (That's right! We even go when my kids are sick. So the germs can freeze. Or, that's what I tell myself...)
We can give you a million tips, to make going outside easier, but here's what it could all boil down to: Just go out.
Stop waiting for the weather to be perfect, for the kids to stop whining, for the laundry to be done. Just go. You'll all feel better for it.
Bring your friends. We love meeting up with moms for Nature Group once a week.
1. Don't complain.
Yes, YOU, Mom! Stop complaining. Think back on the delight of snow days and splashing in rain puddles. You grew out of that love, because you learned that cold weather is a pain. Every time you grumble and complain about the weather, you're teaching your kids that it's too hard to go outside. It isn't worth it. It's not fun.
Instead, be excited. Yes. Driving is a pain. Replacing mittens is a pain. Buckling children into their carseats is a pain (especially since they're not supposed to wear a coat while in the car AND we apparently destroy the planet every time we let the car idle to warm it up).
Oops. I was complaining too. It's okay. Nobody's perfect.
Identifying animal tracks.
2. Get good outdoor gear.
"There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing."
Whether you live somewhere that has deep snow, heavy rains, or just gray skies- get the gear that you need. Good boots, rain pants, mittens and coats are all worth the price. If your kids have soggy, frozen toes then of course they want to stay inside. Get them (and yourself) the clothing you need to stay warm. And then, don't waste it. Use it! If you have little kids, try to invest in good quality (gender neutral!) gear that can be worn by each of your children in turn. We don't even buy pajamas anymore, we just buy long underwear that the kids can wear to bed OR as a base layer when we are outside in cold weather.
Layers are your friend. Our kids each have a good down coat and a rain coat that can be layered for cold, wet days.
3. Bring Incentives.
During the summer, we recommend special snacks. During the winter- bring a thermos of cocoa! You'll be amazed how satisfying it is to drink from a steaming, sweet bottle after a traumatic snowball in the face. Cocoa, herbal tea, even steamed milk are all wonderful when it's frigid.
And bring friends! It's hard to be grouchy when you've got your best friends. Call up another mom and meet somewhere that the kids can run wild.
4. Keep it short.
It's a lot of work getting out the door. Rounding up children is hard enough, but making sure that everyone has socks, snowpants, hats and two matching gloves can seem impossible. (We keep spares in the trunk!) If you're also making cocoa, cramming sleds in the back, and calling friends- it can feel like a waste of time unless you stay and enjoy yourself for a nice long time.
But resist the temptation. Stay just as long as you're all having fun. You'll spend more time rounding up boots than playing in the snow, but your kids will learn that it's fun to be outside- not that it's an endless dreaded torture. Go home on a high note.
5. Join in the fun.
You'll notice that I talk about driving somewhere. That's because we are almost NEVER successful at outdoor time in the winter when I just send my kids out the front door. They come wandering back in two minutes, ready to come inside and snuggle and drink cocoa. Their mittens fell off, the neighbors aren't home, it's boring outside. (The only exception is when there's new snow).
So we drive to the mountains- where I am forced to participate and my kids can't give up so easily. Plus, the snow is deeper and more untouched. We can often find animal tracks, new sledding hills, and an abundance of sticks for snowmen arms. We always bring sleds, even if we aren't going to a sledding hill. We sometimes bring buckets and shovels for packing snow and making igloos. We pack extra mittens, cocoa and an orange in everyone's pocket.
Being outside reduces depression and anxiety, improves skills and sensory processing, and helps humans to feel healthier and happier. We all need to get outside, not just children. So get out there too. Go outside.
If you're reading this and thinking, "I guess I better buy a thermos and a sled and new mittens for everyone," then let me reiterate:
The most important part of getting outside, is just standing up and doing it.
The very best mittens are the ones that you actually wear. You don't need a total overhaul on all your outdoor gear or plans. Just stand up and go outside. Call to your kids right now and say, "Let's go on a walk."
That very act might help you realize what you need. I always find myself saying something like, "I guess we should have bought more snow pants and not new boots." You discover what you need by needing it. And if your kids have cold hands, then they'll be more excited when you buy them warmer mittens.
And if you can't believe it, just repeat after me (and my mother, and my grandma): There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.