New Year: Noticing the Seasons with Children

It's still January, so I think it's still okay to talk about New  Year's Resolutions. This year, one of mine was: to do more to notice and celebrate the seasons.

At this time of year it's all too easy to feel gloomy and feel like the outside world is looking unchanged for weeks and weeks. It's still cold, the sky is still grey, the trees are still bare. We might notice big, dramatic things like high winds, icy roads and torrential rain.

But by taking a bit more time, and looking a little closer, we can notice tiny things that mean that the seasons are marching forwards - and these can really cheer you up! 

Being outdoors with a child, with no rush or set destination, really helps you notice these little things - children are very observant, and being closer to the ground, they often spot things like tiny shoots of plants coming up, interesting fungi, or ground dwelling creatures. 

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At our woodland the children have already spotted the bluebells beginning to pop out (as well as the signs of badgers digging up the bulbs! The children chose to carefully replant some this week) and picked out changes in birdsong. They’ve also noticed beech leaves curled up ready for spring, and even a caterpillar. 

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One idea we use in the woods to help us notice little changes in nature is Sit Spots. This involves choosing a place which you / your child feels comfortable sitting, outdoors. You could take a camping or exercise mat to sit on if you wish. Simply sit, listen and watch. Visiting the same place again and again, you will really get to know it and be able to notice the plants, animals and seasons. 

Here’s to 2018 - and noticing the little things!

If you’d like to notice and celebrate the seasons with your children in 2018 you can join us for our Forest Families sessions and seasonal Festivals - we’ve just put them on our booking calendar. You can book here.

 

 

3  ways for parents to keep warm at forest school sessions.

1 -  Layer up!­­

It’s very easy to spend all our energy getting the kids dressed and completely forget about ourselves!

When the kids get cold, we’ll often give them one of our layers but sadly it doesn’t work both ways. I look utterly ridiculous trying to ram a toddlers hat onto my enormous head or shove my fist into a pair of tiny mittens!

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It’s much easier to keep warm than get warm, so make sure you’re trapping that heat from your house or car in as many layers as possible.

Here’s a little example of what three of our leaders wear for a session out in the winter temperatures:

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2 – Get Moving!

Moving around gets that blood pumping around your body, from the warm parts like your torso and legs, around and into the extremities like fingers and toes.

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We’ll always give you plenty of excuses for a run around. Hide and seek, hunters and rabbits or just a game of chase are all chances to get moving and model for the kids how to stay warm by moving.

Sitting by the fire isn’t the best move in our forest. It’s a big open fire, losing heat in all directions and standing still will mean the same parts of your body are getting exposed constantly to the biting wind. Get running or walking around and it’ll give you body a chance to heat you up all over.

 

3 – Positive Mindset

It gets cold in Britain. it got cold last year and it’ll get cold next year.

Much as the British love discussing the weather, it isn’t always helpful to be sharing stories about how cold our fingers are or how long it took to defrost the car.

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Like we would say to the children, reframe your experience! Go exploring for beautiful signs of winter: icy spider webs, crunchy leaves, squrrels searching for nuts. Or even focus on the hot things around us. Talk to the children about how warm the fire is or share a cup of hot chocolate and really focus on feeling that warmth as you swallow and it warms your middle.

Dressing Children for the Outdoors in Winter

One of the most often quoted Forest School sayings is ‘No such thing as bad weather - just bad clothing!’ Here at Children of the Forest we only cancel sessions in high winds, when it’s not safe to be under trees. In rain, snow, sleet and low temperatures - we’re playing in the woods!

Winter seems to have arrived quite suddenly now, and I wanted to share some of my findings on dressing little ones in cold weather, so they can still enjoy the outdoors. This is a mixture of research and first hand experience from dressing my 3 year old.

If you think your little one is suitably togged up, but then seems a bit miserable outdoors, check out the tips below. Avoiding cotton is a big one that you might not know about - I didn't until recently.

Kids often can't process for themselves the fact that they're cold, let alone communicate that to you, so observing your child's mood and behaviour is a good way to check they're warm enough. Smiling, active, relaxed kids = probably warm enough. Whiny, clingy, tearful, not wanting to be active = signs your child might be cold. It's interesting that cold kids, who really need to get moving to warm up, are often the most reluctant to do so.

Here is a picture of my daughter’s Forest School ‘uniform’.

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Layer 1: Snug fitting proper base layer to wick away moisture. Made from wool or man made fibres e.g. polyester. (My 3 year old has some of these stripy merino ones from Mountain Warehouse, and is really grumpy outdoors if she’s not wearing them.) Avoid cotton next to the skin - as soon as your child sweats or gets wet, the cotton stays wet, and your child can get very cold very quickly. Same goes for jeans - they are not good for the outdoors.

Layer 2: Mid layer to insulate. Wool, lightweight fleece or man made fibres ideally. Since my daughter's coat is quite thick, I've gone for a wool jumper. You could go for an extra layer in here if it's really cold or your outer layer is thinner.

Layer 3: Outer layer to protect against rain and wind. Waterproof jacket and over trousers. If you can get breathable ones, great - these will stop your child sweating (and then getting cold) when being physically active. We have two pairs of waterproof over trousers, one from Muddy Puddles, one from Rukka. Hat to keep head and ears warm. My daughter won't wear gloves but if yours do, great.

On my shopping list as the weather gets colder are non-cotton socks, a nice light weight mid layer fleece, and some gloves she might actually keep on!

See you in the woods for some winter fun!