It’s no secret that young children benefit from having an ample amount of outdoor play time; even in the winter. In order to spend time playing outside when the temperature drops, you’ll need a game plan on how you’re going to organize the winter gear in your family child care program.
Too Much Time Indoors Will Impact Your Program
In my own experience working with kids during all seasons (in chilly Minnesota of all places), I have witnessed first-hand how a child’s behavior can be affected by not enough outdoor play.
LESS THAN DESIRABLE BEHAVIORS THAT OCCUR FROM A LACK OF OUTDOOR PLAY:
- Running in the house.
- Restlessness During Nap Time
- An Increase in Conflict with Peers
Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
No. It’s downright awful. Winter can be a difficult time of year for child care providers. It can be even more difficult for providers who never take the kids outside to play when it’s cold.
Cabin Fever and Kids
Providers have to work hard to fend off what is known as “Cabin Fever”. I love this explanation of cabin fever by Parents Choice:
Without fresh air and opportunities for vigorous outdoor play, kids can get that cooped-up, bored, restless feeling we call “cabin fever.” Stuck indoors, too many children spend long hours watching television or playing video games, neither of which help them release excess energy or use their time creatively.
If I could share one piece of advice for running a successful child care business in the winter it would be:
TAKE THE KIDS OUTSIDE EVERYDAY WHEN WEATHER GUIDELINES SUPPORT OUTDOOR PLAY.
The Benefits of Playing Outside In Cold Weather
There are oodles of reasons to get the kids in your program outside every day as long as the conditions meet your county’s weather guidelines for outdoor play.
Health experts agree that cold weather play is beneficial for a child’s development.
Outdoor play in the winter months allows kids to release the enormous amount of energy that is stored in their tiny bodies. Having an outlet for their energy allows them to have more control over their emotions and choices when they are back inside playing with their peers.
According to Fix.com, there are 5 ways kids benefit from playing outside in the winter months:
- Seeing the Outdoors from a New Lens
- Increases in Exercise and Using Different Muscles
- Vitamin D Exposure
- Breathing Fresh Air and Avoiding Germs
- New Challenges and Problem Solving
Reasons Providers Don’t Take the Kids Outside in the Winter
I think the real hang-up here is with the adults. As we, the adults get older we lose our flexibility, our spontaneity and our energy.
- ADULTS FORGET HOW FUN PLAYING IN THE SNOW CAN BE – As we get older, we forget how to play. Kids can think of a zillion things to do in the snow and get so distracted by their imagination (forts, snowballs, snow angels, king of the mountain) that they have little time to think about being cold.
- KIDS ARE BETTER PREPARED FOR THE COLD TEMPS – Most kids are covered head to toe when they go out with only their little eyeballs peeking out. This keeps them warm and toasty; allowing them to last outside longer than the adults who are probably sporting a fluffy down coat but only accessorize with a cute knit hat and a pair of stretch gloves.
- ADULTS DON’T MOVE AROUND AS MUCH AS KIDS – It’s no secret that if you move around you’ll stay warmer. Kids keep warm by running, crawling and trudging through the snow. By the time they come back inside, they have a decent layer of sweat under their gear. The adult typically stands still on the sidelines shivering while observing the kids at play; counting down the minutes until they can go back inside.
- DRESSING A GROUP OF KIDS IN SNOW GEAR IS EXHAUSTING – Getting a group of infants, toddlers and preschoolers fully dressed in winter gear will leave you perspiring. Not to mention the moment when one little bundled-up-babe announces he/she has to use the potty right before you go outside.
Challenges to Winter Gear in Family Child Care
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
There are three main challenges to winter gear in family child care that can weigh heavily on the day to day duties of a child care provider.
- Collecting Winter Gear
- Managing the Gear
- Dressing the Kids
1. Collecting the Winter Gear
Do you have a cold weather policy? Do you let parents know upfront what items they will need to provide for their child?
Many providers I have met with tend to get frustrated by the lack of gear provided by their clients.
Here’s Why: A provider can’t offer a healthy outdoor experience for a child if the child doesn’t have the proper gear.
Be sure you are effective when communicating your needs.
When communicating with your clients, be specific about the gear you need for each child.
Most parents want to know their child is comfortable outside. Many parents don’t spend the same amount of time outside as a child care provider, so they may not be aware of what items are best. Help them be successful by communicating your exact needs. Example: Instead of asking for ‘winter gear’ or ‘mittens’, request waterproof gloves. If your client sends a pair of thin stretch-glove mittens for the snowiest of days, kindly return them to the parents and ask them to bring in a pair of gloves or mittens that are water proof.
Equip each family with a checklist.
Who doesn’t love a good checklist? As cold weather creeps in, hand out a checklist to each family with your newsletter or calendar. I have made one for you! It’s a WINTER GEAR MENU. It explains why each items is necessary for happy outdoor play in the winter! Print it out on cute card stock and distribute to your clients or hang it like a poster in your entryway.
Share your winter gear knowledge with your clients.
You probably have seen a lot of winter gear products come through your door. You know what works well and what doesn’t. Maybe you know the best winter boots for kids? Perhaps you know the best way to dress a baby in 20 degree weather? Parents love a good recommendation! Example: I always recommended these mittens to my clients. They are the absolute best when it comes to mittens staying ON and little wrists staying WARM. Plus they are waterproof. Oh! And they come in glove form too!
Remind families to label each item.
Ask parents to label each items with a sharpie as the majority of winter gear comes in two colors: black and black.
TIP: If there is no tag to write on or the item is all black, try using a metallic sharpie pen to help with visibility! It works great!
Be Prepared for Post-Snow Play.
Some days the elements can make for a very cold and slushy experience. Ask families to send in extra socks and perhaps a pair of comfy pants in case a child needs to change clothes when they come inside.
2. Managing the Pile of Winter Gear
The amount of winter gear pieces in family child care is mind-blowing. I’ve done the math for a group of 10 kids:
- Little legs that demand 10 pairs of snow pants
- Small hands that need 20 mittens/gloves (paired correctly)
- Tiny feet that produce a line up of 20 boots
- 10 heads that leave a pile of 10 hats
- Short torsos that need 10 coats with 10 zippers
- Chubby little cheeks to be protected from the wind with 10 scarves or face masks.
Find a Winter Gear System that Works For You!
- Come up with a storage plan that works for you and your space. Arm your space with plenty of cubbies and hooks labeled for each child to keep the gear separated. Extra boot trays are a key to keeping boot puddles under control.
- Decide how you want the gear to be rotated. If your system consists of families bringing the gear to and from your home each day, you’ll need to devise a plan that allows the gear to flow freely. Perhaps it works best for you if families take the gear home at the end of each week to be laundered and then return it all on Monday?
- Ask for donations. Kids grow out of boots and other snow gear all the time! Ask your clients if they have boots or mitts that are outgrown and would donate them to your program. You can distribute these items to kids in need or store them in a box as backup gear.
3. Dressing the Kids
Getting the kids dressed is probably the number one reason daycare providers don’t take the kids outside as much as they could. It is physically exhausting to get multiple children ready for outdoor winter play.
Here are some real-life scenarios you may relate to:
- Consoling a crying baby and reassuring them that a bulky snowsuit is a good thing.
- Enduring the frustration of when you have to try and teach a toddler how to push his foot down into a boot when they don’t quite understand this concept.
- Asking preschoolers to work on their own to develop a sense of independence with winter gear only to find they have their snow pant shoulder straps looped and trapped between their groin area.
- Finding the missing hat…or boot…or mitten.
- Calming a toddler whose sock in her winter boot just doesn’t feel right.
I’m perspiring just thinking about it.
How To Avoid a Winter Gear Meltdown in Family Child Care
(I’m referring to you, not the children):
- Put on calming music. I’m telling you, this helps tremendously.
- Lay out each set of gear in a pile and announce who it belongs to.
- Get yourself a short stool or chair. Sit on it and announce that you are available to help. Let the kids bring their things to you.
- While you’re working to button and zip and tie each little babe into a bundle of warmth, remind yourself of all the ways the kids in your crew are benefiting from this activity (see reasons above)
- Encourage independence!
- Encourage teamwork! Allow big kids to help their younger peers.
- Smile. You’re making progress.
- Dress the babies last. I repeat…dress the babies last! Those itty bitties will thank you for it!
All this work on your part is worth every zip, buckle and tuck.
I would love to hear your tips & tricks for how you manage winter gear in your program!