We enjoy long stretches of mild weather here on the San Francisco Peninsula. You would think we’d be excited about the rain when it came, and the chance to introduce our little ones to something different. But it’s clear that rain messes with our quality of life, judging from the way normally good drivers go to pieces and act like they just got their learner’s permit. We are an indoor culture, used to being dry. Rain is an inconvenience, and our children pick up on our frustrations when it gets wet.
Anghelika recently visited friends in rural Washington State, and saw the “outdoor school”, where their 3-year old attends. For four hours, in temperatures in the 40s and drizzle, the students learned, among other things, how to howl like coyotes.
But for both parents and teachers in our neck of the woods, rain days evoke images of stir-crazy kids bouncing off the walls and provoke fantasies of eight-hour Disney video marathons. We’re here to help. Our prescription for surviving rainy-day madness? Send your kids outside.
From a kid’s perspective, rain is not an inconvenience … it’s just exciting. They want to understand it; they want to experience it; they want to play in it. We say let them.
Of course, when a child is sick, they should be protected against extreme weather. But, in general, there is nothing wrong with a cold, wet child. Some facts: being cold and wet is not a threat to a child’s health; ‘cold’ and ‘wet’ are reversible conditions; and, if they are having fun, then they are not too cold or too wet. You will know when your kids have had enough, because they will tell you, and that’s the time to get them dry and warm. Bonus advice—you only get to ask this question once: “Would you like a jacket?”. If the answer is “No!”, let them go. Think about it: if your child goes out without a jacket and gets cold, they can always come back for one. Two things we love: an empowered child, and a child learning the consequences of their choices.
We tried to take every opportunity to go out whenever storms came through. I (Dave) took our oldest up Windy Hill in Portola Valley during a particularly big blow. We summited at the peak of the storm, and spent about 5 nervy minutes braced against a horizontal rain, before she said, “I’d like to go home now!”. But facing the wildness of nature gets under your skin. It wasn’t long before she was coming to us to ask, “Let’s go for a hike in the rain.” But fair warning! If you send your kids outside in the rain, they will probably keep going. Today, our daughter (pictured above) lives in Seattle, and is probably still making that face in the rain.
[Originally posted on the Parenting On The Peninsula blog]