I have a remarkable knack of ensuring that my most resource-intensive training sessions are on the wettest days of the year. As a consequence, I arrive home with a car full of soaking wet resources. My house is one of those modern ones, that was built at a time when the idea of even needing coat hooks let alone a porch to peel off wet clothes was non-existent. So I live in a house that is not fit for my lifestyle.

This is similar to many education establishments. So how can we manage wet clothes and gear when we work in places not geared up to coping with the aftermath of outdoor activities? I’ve been rummaging through my collection of photos and here’s some ideas. Please do chip in, if you have any other good solutions or coping mechanisms.

 Seattle Nature Pre-School Storage outdoor gear

Firstly in the above photo, from the Nature Pre-school in Seattle, cheap plastic crates have been turned on their side and tied together. This ultra-economical approach is fine if you do not have to dry clothes. At this nursery, all the children’s belongings are removed daily as the place is also used by an after school club. So parents take home wet clothes and dry them.

Under stairs storage

At the Toulcuv Dvor Nursery in Prague, another economical approach had been taken. Washing lines on hooks were hung under the stairs. Clothes were hung up on the hangers. I liked this simple, space-saving solution.

Entrance area outdoor primary school

Having any cloakroom area situated beside the entrance to the outdoor space is a sensible move. Sadly this is often forgotten by architects and planners when designing schools. At my previous school we used cloakroom trolleys – and just wheeled in the “cloakroom” to beside the door leading to the outside space. A big carpet which can absorb the wet drips and mud also helps. In the photo above, from Utsikten Primary School in Sweden, the circle on the door is filled with plastic overslippers for guests arriving who do not wish to remove their shoes. This does help keep the indoor floors clean.

Mulleborg cloakroom

At Mulleborg I Ur och Skur Nursery, the entrance to the outdoor space was clearly designated as shown above. When children come inside from outdoors, their boots must be removed before leaving the benched off area. I liked the space for wellies stored under the benches. Also check out the child-sized wellyboot remover, complete with holding bar. On and above the radiators there are drying racks and pockets for gloves etc.

Clothes storage

When space is limited and there’s lots of wet clothing, having several approaches can be possible. At Havskatten I Ur och Skur, there is a drying rack above, clothing on the side and this rather smart drying cabinet. Would I be wrong to call it like a “hot fridge”? These are available in the UK too.

drying area

The one similarity I noticed between all the I Ur och Skur schools and nurseries I visited was the cloakroom systems. In the photo below, you can see this nicely. There is usually space for boots at the foot. Above this, each child has 4 pegs for their outdoor gear. Above this is a cubby for storing hats, gloves, etc. Finally on top is a box or basket for spare clothes. This is where parents check daily and remove wet clothes and replace with dry spares. Also look at the use of a traditional clothes pulley. Wet clothes left at the end of the day are hung up to dry – lifted up and into the warmer air at the top of the room.

cloakroom - hanging high

Whilst these have been international examples of cloakrooms and storage systems, there are some  great approaches in Scotland and the British Isles. Many nurseries have hoses near the entrance where children can hose each other down in their waterproofs before coming inside. In one particularly muddy outdoor patch, the nursery had developed a very sophisticated system. It involved having a big carpet area outside and several washing bowls. The children stepped in a bowl of water first of all. Next they wiped their boots on the outdoor mat before moving to the indoor mat for a second wipe and boot removal.

Common sense says that the more children learn independent routines, the easier it is for everyone to manage this aspect of learning and playing outside. This does take time to embed but the effort is worth it especially as the children grow older. Having dustpans, brooms and brushes about to enable children to sweep and tidy can be part of the fun too.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Coombemill October 17, 2013 at 09:00

Always good to get the children involved int he clearing up as well as the play. A few wet days are fine, but the smell of constant dying gear is not so good but very hard to avoid.

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Juliet Robertson October 17, 2013 at 14:09

Yes – one of my intentions when I move to the West Coast of Scotland next year is to ensure plenty of drying space in my home.

I think the hardest thing is the length of time some outdoor gear takes to dry. Some is very quick but others are very slow.

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Claire Hudson October 17, 2013 at 15:49

Juliet – we are a typical playgroup that has to put everything away at the end of every session and has limited storage space, but are already coming up against the mud and drying problem as we get the kids outside more. Have you come across any playgroups who’ve sorted this knotty problem? I love the idea of different buckets and carpets, and will look into that. It’s more the drying of the wet clothes that’s challenging. Thank you.

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snoo October 17, 2013 at 20:47

Hi we have just installed a retractable washing line above the cloakroom area. The waterproofs get hung on this to dry overnight….so far so good!

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Juliet Robertson October 17, 2013 at 20:49

Oh great news! It’s always good to hear of success stories. Thanks for letting everyone know.

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Kierna October 19, 2013 at 08:38

Definitely a design flaw in all UK schools! I find it fascinating that your Swedish photos look like every preschool I saw in Iceland & Norway, time to send school architects on a Scandinavian tour I think!

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Juliet Robertson October 20, 2013 at 08:37

I think it’s more that within the UK, the increased interest in the benefits of using outdoor spaces has outstripped the pace of design – every new school is generally a product of thinking 4 or 5 years earlier! That’s because of the length of time it takes to build a school from the conception to the end product.

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