Updated: Nov 18

It’s said that there’s no such thing as “bad” weather. Especially for children: if they’re in a rich environment for play and dressed appropriately, children can stay outside for hours. Same goes for adults—it just takes some rewiring of our conditioning! Bringing children out to play in rain, snow, and cold not only keeps their natural wiring intact; it also helps children develop critical skills that will serve them in any setting.
Rain and snow are, of course, magical to a young child. Most children thrill at the sensory experience of precipitation—they stick out their tongues for rain, they hold out their hands for snowflakes, they watch with wide eyes as rain puddles deepen and snow builds up. There’s so much pleasure to be gained from getting drenched in a warm summer downpour, jumping in puddles, and playing in the snow to the limits of their infinite imaginings.
Being out in this kind of weather isn’t always joyful; it can be totally miserable! What if, despite your caregiver's best intentions, you don’t have your gloves when the temperature drops? What if you don’t have snow pants and the wet seeps through your pants? Often peers can create the distractions and provide the scaffolding that encourages “suffering” children to power through:

Pointing up to a tree canopy that catches some of the rain, a child calls out, “We’re under the magic umbrellas!” and brings the others into the useful pretend scenario.

A child with sensory sensitivity is led by another’s enthusiasm to try immersing their hands in the rainy wet mud. Another time, a child worried about a deep puddle bravely joins one who has stepped in.

The distractions of the perfect snow for snowballs helps a child forget that their legs are wet and cold.

When the rain gets to be too much, children problem solve together to create a makeshift shelter.

Children who go through trials and tribulations with their peers may grow more than when adults step in to help; for sure, these experiences provide for lasting shared memories of overcoming challenge. Dealing with physical discomfort together inspires imagination, ingenuity, and bravery that help build the critical skills of perseverance and resilience. Being out in “bad” weather is good for a lot of things!

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Updated: Oct 24

During the worst of the pandemic, children had little to no physical interaction with their peers. Adults may be reluctant to let kids engage in physical play regardless, for fear of their child getting hurt or hurting others—which might worry us more! It’s hard to watch kids getting into it, or even just getting close, without wanting to pull them apart. Should we?
In fact, the experience of touch, both affectionate and rough, contributes significantly to children's healthy physical, social, and emotional development. High-fives, holding hands, and hugging give comfort and make a child feel like they matter in the world outside of home. Kids tickle each other, roll around, and even wrestle in ways that look dangerous to us but produce the loudest laughs and greatest joy! Playful release of aggression builds a child’s sense of their own power and strengthens their sense of their body in space; and exerting energy in a healthy way can actually make it easier for them to settle down when needed.
Kids may get hurt in the course of this physical play, giving rise to tears and anger—but for healthy development, kids need to experience it all! As they occasionally confront unfortunate consequences of physical interaction, kids learn social skills such as how to set their own boundaries as well as respect others’, how to ask for and offer consent, and how to repair relationships after conflict.
So there’s no need to wrestle with allowing kids to wrestle! The benefits of physical touch outweigh the risk of bumps and bruises. And when this play is outside in nature, the benefits increase: Children get fresh air and open sky; no structures or walls get in the way or confine the play; and the forgiving earth offers gentle landings.

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Updated: Oct 17

Over time, children who meet each other regularly to play in the woods develop deep connections to each other. Of course, joyful immersion in a shared play scenario fully imagined, using only what they find in nature, creates memories that last. But enduring repeated shared trials and successes deepen the relationships. When they confront the challenges of play in the elements and adults decline to intervene, children learn how to help each other, validate each other’s achievements, and communicate with each other about the things that matter to them.

A child becomes frustrated while dragging a heavy log; the others step up to lift it together.

A child stretches out her hand to pull another up a slippery trunk to reach her. One below directs the child where to put her feet and reassures her, “You can do it!”

On a cold day, a child puts the glove on another's left hand. On a rainy day, children work together to hang a tarp on a branch for shelter (whether or not they're successful isn't the point!).

A child slips and falls, about to cry at the shock of it, when another stops to check her scrape and help her up.

"Hey, come look! I forgot that dogs can actually swim!" A child puts his arm around another to physically share the excitement.

Over time, children’s sense of accountability to and responsibility for others grows. When adults don't do so much for them, children do for each other! Learning how to identify and respond to another’s needs when things get tough (in academic terms, practicing other-oriented, prosocial behaviors) strengthens the social bonds that create a community of care.

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