Dear Parent or Guardian,
Are you reluctant to allow your child to jump in puddles? Do you find yourself saying “No” when it comes to your child getting messy, digging in the dirt, playing in the mud? Do you worry that your child will get sick when outdoors and exposed to cold temperatures? It’s normal to want to curl up and snuggle through the cold winter months. But, while skipping outdoor time may seem like a great idea at the moment, it can be a problem for everyone in the long run.
Since Covid-19 hit, many schools across the country have moved their classrooms outdoors. Although exciting for nature-based educators, there have also been many lingering questions about children getting dirty, getting cold and staying healthy outdoors. Let’s take a look at some of the most common questions I receive.
What’s so great about jumping in puddles anyway?
Yes, puddles can be a messy experience for children and I know what you’re thinking, “If I let my child jump in the puddles, all I can think about is wet clothes, piles of soaking laundry, muddy shoes, and uncomfortably wet kids.” Why bother, right? Let’s change the lens for a minute.
Despite the fact that puddle jumping brings sheer joy to children, there are many unexpected benefits that puddles offer in the development of young children. With every puddle being a little different, puddle jumping can…
- Teach young children how to walk, run and jump in a variety of different ways.
- Help children practice movement and gross motor skills.
- Teach children about the natural world.
- Increase children’s imaginations as they enter a new world of puddles.
- Inspire new vocabulary that includes, splash, kick, and stir.
- Prompt math skills by measuring the puddle.
- Invite exploration around reflections.
The key to puddle jumping is having the proper outdoor gear: rain pants, boots, and a raincoat. Kids in wet shoes are no fun. Remember, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.” So make sure your child is dressed to become a super successful puddle jumper!
Why should I allow my child to play in the dirt and mud?
Yes, playing in dirt and mud is another messy experience for children for all the same reasons as puddle jumping. Yet, the challenges of cleaning up after mud play may be overlooked when you understand the research behind the benefits of your child getting dirty and covered in mud.
Did you know that dirt contains microscopic bacteria called Mycobacterium Vaccae, which stimulates the immune system and increases the level of serotonin in our brains? Serotonin is an endorphin that soothes, calms, and helps us to relax. Did you know scientists say regular exposure to this bacteria may help reduce a child’s vulnerability to depression?
In short, within every Mud Kitchen and Mud Pie your child makes, the experience also brings with it:
- Lower stress levels.
- An increase in Vitamin D.
- A boost in the immune system.
- An increase in happiness.
- More opportunity for the development of gross motor skills.
It’s important to note that not all mud is the same. Please make sure the dirt and mud that your children are playing in is not treated with chemicals or used by animals
Will my child get sick from being outdoors in the cold?
Going outdoors in cold weather does not mean your child will get a cold or the flu. It’s actually safer than being inside if other children carry a virus. However, extremely cold weather can cause frostbite and/or even hypothermia. This, in turn, can weaken the immune system, which can leave your child more at-risk for getting illnesses, such as the common cold and/or the flu.
Important things to remember:
- Schools have temperature guidelines for going outdoors and teachers will never take your child outside on extremely cold weather days.
- Being cold does not cause illness.
- When it’s colder outside, children tend to spend more time indoors together, which makes it easier to pass on germs and infections.
- With the proper outdoor gear and an eye on the temperature, spending time outdoors is invigorating and offers endless opportunities to explore nature in Winter.
- Fresh air is good for children especially during the Winter season.
If you are interested in digging deeper, there have been many scholarly articles and books written by Richard Louv, a man best known for his seventh book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder where he investigates the relationship of children and the natural world in current and historical contexts.
If you are looking for additional activities to do with your children outdoors, make sure you check out the 1-hour online workshops from Outdoor Classrooms. They are jam-packed with ideas.
If you have any additional questions please do not hesitate to reach out to Victoria at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for all you do to reconnect children with nature.