Monthly Archives: November 2013

Rain Days

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.

rainday_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]

How Big Of A Spill Do You Want To Clean Up

At one of the schools where Anghelika works, a dad helping with the 2 year olds approached the teacher with a question before snack time. “How much water should I put in the children’s cups?” The expert response? … “How big of a spill do you want to clean up?”

One of the great stresses that parents (and their helpers) face when hanging around small children is the way that those small children insist on a not acting like adults. So we adults have a choice. We can either 1) force them, 2) freak out, or 3) adjust. We’re going with #3. For maximum happiness at the snack table, craft table, or playground, there are a couple of essential adjustments we can all make—first, to our expectations, and then to the environment we share with kids.

Adjusting expectations is as simple as remembering that young kids are messy. Children spill stuff. Plan on it.

Adjusting the environment is not so simple, because we have to straddle two worlds … the kids’ and our own. We find that kids always want to do things that are a little too hard for them—“No sippy cups for me!” And we like to encourage these mini revolutions of childhood so they can finish the day saying, “I did it!”. But we also have to keep a foot in our own world and remember that we will be cleaning up after the revolution. A well-designed environment honors the desire of children to do it themselves, and it also honors the physical limitation of the cleanup crew. If I don’t have a ton of patience for clean up, it’s better for me and for the child if I set up the environment in such a way that it will be close to impossible to make a bigger mess than I am willing to clean up.

We’ve always been impressed with parents who are not (overly) frustrated by their children. We suspect that part of the secret is designing children’s environments to minimize frustration, for child and parent. Children will be less frustrated when they can do what they want. Parents will be less frustrated when “what the child wants” does not create extra trouble for them. Keep in mind that kids have (nearly) unlimited energy, and parents have (increasingly) limited energy. Set up your child’s environment with both in mind.

How big of a spill do you want to clean up today?


[Originally posted on Parenting On The Peninsula]