Bad weather, clothes, activities and parents

10 January 2010 · 4 comments

in Interesting Issues & Hot Topics, Whole School

Last Friday my son’s school finally opened its doors to welcome the pupils back for a seasonal start amidst the snow. It was – 13° Centigrade. Being in S2, appearances are important. One unspoken teen social rule is to wear the minimal amount of clothing that your parents will let you get away with. I reckon it’s a self-inflicted rite of passage. So MJ eschewed the fleece pullover, thermal underwear, spare socks and a pair of gloves that I strongly advised him to wear. He wore a winter coat and Man United hat. Knowing the value of experiential learning I let him go to school inappropriately dressed for the climatic conditions.

Now I’m sure that most of you will have heard the saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” But what about “bad” activities?

One favourite teen game is “Snowman”. This involves being shoved into the snow by your pals and being completely buried by having snowballs chucked at you. Snow goes down your back, into your shoes and the result is that you get soaking wet and cold very quickly. MJ thinks it’s wonderful. When my anxious husband enquires as to whether this is a form of bullying, MJ refutes the suggestion immediately. “If you don’t get snowmanned, everyone thinks you’re scared.” It’s a boy’s only game. MJ chuckles at the thought of girls being involved. “It would be funny if they did get snowmanned cos they’d all scream as it’s so cold.”

I’m sure if this activity was brought to the attention of school staff, it would be banned after the first incident arose. Aside from the possibility of this looking like a game that could easily get out of hand, many school staff and parents worry about children getting soaking wet and sitting in overheated classrooms all day.

This situation is probably the norm up and down the country. Children are going voluntarily to school inappropriately dressed and then when let outside immediately start playing games where they are going to get wet and possibly hurt. Both the clothing worn and the activity undertaken are decisions made by the children who are being physically active and having fun.

Two days later, my son remains perfectly well. His Christmas cold has not reappeared. He remembered to put his wet clothes into the washing machine. He went to a football match yesterday where (again) because he wouldn’t wear enough clothes he came back freezing and thoroughly enjoyed warming up in front of the TV.

If we want our children to become responsible decision-makers perhaps the cold weather is an ideal opportunity to practice this and learn from mistakes. Let’s stop blaming schools and parents for being lax. Let’s stop banning games which may cause physical and/or social discomfort. Let’s give children an opportunity to learn for themselves in their way on their terms.

This is my nephew on New Year’s Eve 2009. Despite the coldest winter for over a decade, he still insisted on going paddling.
PS Anyone who wants some outdoor activities to do with children, then download my free Winter Wonderland pack from the resources section on my website.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Teacher Tom January 16, 2010 at 15:35

It’s been very wet here in Seattle these past few weeks, and my preschoolers naturally insist on playing in the puddles and mud. Just like your teen, many of them refuse to wear their coats and are happily soaked to the skin when their parents arrive to pick them up.

I’ve always said they’ll figure it out through the law of “natural consequences,” but after reading this post I’m wondering if there simply isn’t a lesson to be learned. Maybe being wet and cold isn’t such a bad thing, but WE adults were just taught that it was by our own parents.

Food for thought. Thanks.


CreativeSTAR January 17, 2010 at 12:59

You’re welcome. I think this is one of life’s conundrums and so frequently these issues appear within the world of taking children outside.

No-one wants children to suffer unnecessarily but sometimes there’s an element of choice in the matter. I used to see children who would deliberately find the wettest part of a playground, such as a broken gutter, to stand under and get soaked and come inside laughing about the experience…surely that’s a good thing.

Good to meet you and here’s to a future of shared experiences!


Sam Lovegrove January 8, 2017 at 21:51

Great post. My 5 year old in January regularly strips down in outdoor play to a vest and trousers (with horrified adult onlookers)and eschews the coat, jumper, hat, gloves, scarf, etc etc….whilst my 8 year old daughter (who doesn’t scream about the cold…!) walks daily to the beach barefoot with just leggings and a t shirt, paddles, or has a sneaky swim in ice cold water. I agree we allow the children to self regaulate and decide how to dress appropriately for the weather or at least prepare appropriately….but physical activity and lovely play and movement usually means they are usually boiling hot anyway!!
In my forest school I request children come dressed for the weather, children arrive with base layers, fleeces, waterproof trousers, jackets, hats, gloves, with abundance of spare clothes, and usually go home red faced, happy, soaked to the skin or mud plastered, filthy dirty and those wonderful layers stuffed in a bag!
Wish we had some snow though! Thanks for posting.


Juliet Robertson January 8, 2017 at 22:24

Thanks Sam – love your descriptions!


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