Do Kids Play Less Outside in the Winter for a Surprising Reason?

Hi Readers! Last night I did a podcast with Kari Svenneby, a native of Norway now living in Toronto and founder of the pro-outdoors site and movement, Active btfkbrhyby
Kids Club
. The topic was  “cold weather fun.”

Those three words happen not to go together for me, but I think they could and should for a lot of kids. Which is why afterwards, when we did a little Facebook chat, one of the comments hit me in the face like a snowball. Concerning dwindling winter recess time, a woman named Debra Scott wrote:

Kari has been saying for ages that we need to get the parents DEMANDING more outdoor time and the teachers will have to [send the kids out]. One of the BIGGEST problems is kids don’t come dressed appropriately because they don’t WALK to school — they get driven. So they get in the car in very little,  then into school,  and they don’t have the right stuff so the teachers can’t send them out! Big problem in winter. We have so many indoor recesses because of wet weather or icy conditions. It’s sad.

I bet she’s right! I bet that yet another unintended consequence of our fear for our kids (that they’ll be cold/tired/kidnapped) is that we drive them to school, which in turn makes them even less prepared for outdoor time later in the day.

It’s just so interesting how fears beget unintended consequences, like kids in flimsy jackets in the winter. (And ironically,  we call them our snowflakes!) – L.

Afraid of Snow Man by Center for Jewish History, NYC

Hop along home, little girl. It’s winter!


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155 Responses to Do Kids Play Less Outside in the Winter for a Surprising Reason?

  1. pentamom February 14, 2013 at 8:11 am #

    Maybe that’s some of it.

    Around here, my son can’t get his neighborhood friends to come out once the thermometer dips below about 45 degrees because their parents think it’s “too cold.” These are tough little boys who play backyard football and knock each other down constantly, too. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, and it means my son has only one friend who’s ever willing to play outside from about October to April, and that friend tends to be tied up with organized activities a lot of the time.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the explanation in the article is right to some extent, but I doubt that’s all of it.

  2. Cyn February 14, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    My kids go out, but they usually hate wearing coats. Around our yard, I let them choose what level of coat to wear, but they are VERY warm blooded and usually wear less than I think they should.

    If teachers operate on the “my level of coatedness is what the kids should wear” then kids may not be going out to play in the snow at school because the teacher’s excessive requirements are not appropriate to their young metabolisms.

  3. Jo February 14, 2013 at 8:50 am #

    We don’t have kids yet, but one of the things that my husband and I really liked about the neighborhood we are about to move into was all the kids playing out in the snow. We were leaving what is now our house after dark one night, and a couple of kids were out building a snow fort in the dark (~7pm). It made both of us happy to see that!

  4. Lola February 14, 2013 at 8:52 am #

    I’ve been trying for a couple of years now to get our school to allow those kids whose parents sign authorisations, to play outside in bad weather (in Madrid, “bad weather” is just a bit of rain).
    It happens that it’s not only the school the one to ban outside recess in “bad weather”, but other parents also feel that their kids are going to shrink or something if they get wet.
    So now I’m inciting my kids (at least the 9, 8 and 6 yo) to start a “revolution”, and gather signatures among their peers, so that both parents and teachers get to hear that kids WANT outdoor playtime, even if they get a bit wet. They only need five minutes to change into a pair of dry socks!
    I’ll tell you how it comes along, although it may take some time…

  5. Suzanne Lucas February 14, 2013 at 9:20 am #

    There is definitely some truth to this. When we lived in the US, during the winter we would get in the car, in our garage, drive to where we were going and then park and run in. I only even took a coat if we were going to be outside in below freezing weather.

    Our first winter in Switzerland we didn’t have the proper clothes–and our city has a climate very similar to Philadelphia, where we lived in the US. After being here 4 years, and still not owning a car, we have a bulging coat closet with coats for all different weather variations. Scarves, hats, boots, you name it, we have it.

    Walking regularly definitely changed how I dress and how I dress my kids.

  6. bequi February 14, 2013 at 9:29 am #

    In Utah, we have air quality problems in the winter. We have lots of valleys with lots of people, surrounded by very tall mountains, and all the smog gets stuck. Every few weeks, we’ll have a windy day or a storm that blows everything out, but the rest of the time if you go outside, you get SICK from breathing the crap. It only takes about 3 days to get from clear air to disgusting air. I wouldn’t let my kids outside if you paid me.

  7. Jennifer February 14, 2013 at 9:35 am #

    I disagree with the reasoning here. I live in a poor, rural town in northern Vermont. Few kids walk to school, mostly because few kids live very close to the school. If the temperature is above 0F, they go out for recess. Everyone has snow gear, and everyone has winter boots and indoor shoes. The nurse has extra mittens and hats for kids who forget them, and they get donated gear for kids who can’t afford it.

    If parents know their kids will be going outside everyday for recess, they’ll send their kids in with the appropriate gear. Making the change will take a while, but if the school is consistent, parents will make sure their kids are prepared.

  8. Kelly February 14, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    We just have a set of snow gear that we leave at the daycare. He has the snow pants, jacket, hat, gloves and snow boots. I bring him in a more flimsy jacket because it’s better for the carseat. (i.e. safer and he can actually breath).

    They take the infants and toddlers out if it’s above 20 degrees and the rest of the kids out if it’s above 0 which seems reasonable to me. I think the toddlers are a bit less likely to mention if they become too cold and probably don’t move quite as fast to stay warm.

    I think the reason my son (2yrs) doesn’t get out more in the winter is it takes so darn long to get him all bundled up.

  9. Tsu Dho Nimh February 14, 2013 at 10:12 am #

    That definitely makes sense – going from a heated house to a pre-warmed car and then scurrying into a heated building doesn’t need much in the way of protective gear. So the fragile flowers can’t go outside.

    I went to grade school in Montana, and unless there was a howling blizzard (defined as being unable to see across the playground because the snow was so heavy) we were kicked outdoors thrice daily to burn off some energy.

    My mom had some cockamamie idea about it being too cold at times (below zero F freaked her out), so on clear cold days we sent my brother out with a small candle to put under the thermometer and warm a bit of air up so we could claim it was “warm enough”.

  10. CrazyCatLady February 14, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    My kids would love to get into the car without a coat every time. But I make them take it, even if they don’t wear it in the car because our car has been known to break down. I tell them we are playing boy scouts (“Be Prepared.”)

    We do a co-op style school, and if they play afterwards, I let them decide what and how much to wear. Above freezing I don’t worry too much. Below freezing they have to have it on, but it doesn’t need to be zipped. Fortunately, they have come to an understanding about our climate and do not do the no coats no shoes stuff as much as they did when we first moved north of CA.

  11. Warren February 14, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    This recess called on account of weather is a recent thing. It did not matter what the weather was in the 70’s, we went outside. Only one rule, if there was lightening, we could only use the wood baseball bats, we had to leave the aluminum ones inside.
    Fast forward to today, and the following is a list of reasons for cancelling recess.
    1. Too cold.
    2. Too hot.
    3. Rain.
    4. Snow
    5. wind
    6. freezing rain
    7. fog
    8. air quality
    9. the possibility of any of the above, as the weather network has forecasted.

    I think the house to car to school has something to do with it. But I do believe there are two major reasons this happens.

    Parents today that didn’t enjoy recess as a kid, hated being outside period, let alone in less than perfect weather, have complained enough. This way their little darling doesn’t have to go thru what they did. Parents do not think you should be able to force their kids to go outside.

    Also I believe the teachers do not want to go outside, in the less than perfect weather. Back in our day, it was the teachers that smoked. They always did yard duty so they could stand under the overhang and have a smoke. Teachers cannot do that now, and thus why go outside.

    Let the teacher that smokes, smoke if it will mean more outdoor recesses for the kids.

  12. Amanda Matthews February 14, 2013 at 10:55 am #

    Not only are kids wearing too little, when they DO wear enough, in the US their store-bought winter apparel is not warm enough nor waterproof enough.

    Compare for yourself the warmth and waterproofness of modern day polyester or acrylic coats, mittens, etc. bought from a store vs wool sweaters, mittens, etc. (which you will either have to make yourself or order online to get 100% wool). Actually stand in the snow for awhile in store-bought boots.

    I have compared it myself, and honestly I would not send my kids out to play in the snow in modern-day store-bought coats, mittens, and socks. They get too cold, their hands get soaked in freezing melted snow, and their feet get the same if they don’t have wool socks under their store-bought snow boots (while they are warm and waterproof for a few minutes, or while just walking over shoveled/compacted snow sidewalks, after actually playing in the snow for awhile the warmth and waterproofness doesn’t last). Yes many of us and our grandparents went out no matter the weather, but in recent years store-bought clothes have gotten thinner, more cheaply made, and have less and less natural materials. I can’t even find galoshes in stores anymore, like I had as a kid (only rain boots, which is not quite what I want).

    My kids go outside no matter the weather (the last time I can think of that they stayed inside because of the weather was a couple of years ago, when the snow was actually so high that we couldn’t open the doors), but I knit, crochet and sew their winter and rain apparel, and make it actually warm and waterproof (well water resistant in that it wicks the water and sweat away from the skin). It wouldn’t be realistic to expect everyone to make their own or order pricey stuff online, so I don’t know a solution to this.

  13. mollie February 14, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    We have that issue with my husband’s kids, who spend a week with us and then a week with their mother, back and forth. For the longest time, they balked at wearing coats, because at Mom’s, they were driven everywhere, including to school. At our house, they walked, and they refused to dress for the weather (have you noticed that kids are also far more self-conscious about what they wear at much younger ages? Thank you, consumerist culture).

    We’ve had some knock-down, drag-outs about coats around here. What a bore and a chore. I had one winter coat for about two or three years, there was no fashion statement involved, and no choice to wear it or not wear it. If Mom said wear it, I did.

    Ah, to be a parent in the 70s.

  14. Rae February 14, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    As another poster mentioned, it’s a vicious cycle. In my kids previous school, they went out no matter what, and I made sure they had gear that they left at school. But thier current school.. I stop sending all those clothes, they never go out, what is the point? However, every once in a while, when the moons line up right, they do go out, and my kid is not always dressed the best. The other issue is they only get 20 minutes, by the time you get all thier clothes on, they hardly play at all and it’s time to go in and get the clothes off- they hardly have time to get cold.

  15. Warren February 14, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    No offense Amanda, but you are buying the wrong stuff then. My kids are in store bought winter gear and they are warm and dry for hours outside.
    I am in store bought gear, and I am outside working in some of the nastiest weather, while I am cold and wet when I get home, it is because I am lying underneath trucks on the side of the highway, not because my gear failed me.

    A couple of layers, and their outer gear is all they need, and I do not know what boots they are wearing, but for winter we buy for function not appearance.

  16. WendyW February 14, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    Here in MN the kids go out unless the temp or wind chill is 0. The lost & found bin is free access to anyone needing hats and gloves. I remember as a child leaving my school shoes in my locker overnight, and changing into/out of boots for the bus ride home-because kids WILL play in the snowdrifts while waiting for the bus.

    I tried to find recess info for the district in ND where we used to live. I couldn’t find a recess policy in their handbooks. They DO encourage walking and if I remember right, the elementary schools truly ARE neighborhood schools, so most kids would be in walking distance. I also remember that each school has a city park right next door, complete with hockey rink, so the kids can ice skate during recess.

  17. Amanda Matthews February 14, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    @Warren I know I WAS buying the wrong stuff (I don’t buy it anymore) but I was buying what most people are buying.

    Around here all there is anymore is Walmart. If you don’t buy online or make it yourself you buy the stuff at Walmart, which has gotten – as I said – thinner, more cheaply made, and has less and less natural materials (either none at all, or just enough to make it a selling point but not enough to make any difference).

    People aren’t going to go through the trouble of finding and buying the quality, more expensive stuff when it isn’t fashionable and they aren’t going outside anyway.

  18. Shannon February 14, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    As some of the other commentrrs mentioned, the problem at my kids’ school is that they have ridiculous expectations for what the kids need to have on to stay warm. My kids play outside a lot at home even in cold weather. But if I send them to school in the jackets and coats they are perfectly comfortable in, the teacher will send them to the Lost and Found to get a warmer coat. They make me feel like a neglectful parent, but I just have very active, healthy boys that don’t get cold that easily.

  19. Havva February 14, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    @Warren / Amanda,

    It may be a problem of wrong stores, or just a function of the area. In our area the schools are only required to let kids play outside if it is over freezing and I think it shows in the winter gear available.

    I went looking for a wool coat for my daughter this winter. I wanted something warm enough for recess and slim enough for the carseat. I felt like I had looked everywhere, even a store with “Coat Factory” in the name. All I found was polyester, including these thin fleece jobs made up to look like a good wool coat. It was obvious the wind would go right through those. Then one day my daughter dragged me into a store I don’t usually shop (because their stuff seems flimsy) and straight to the toddler rack where I found the coat she is using now. It was the only thing I saw that contained more than 5% wool. Even so it still only has 40% wool. They also had a variety of other slim, and warm coats. We couldn’t find mittens that fit her at all. Thankfully, grandma knit two pairs for her. I am told by other parents that to get a real winter coat for kids you have to go to the sporting goods stores.

    So until you know where to shop, or if you lack the right shops, it can be a real problem. If I had the time and skill, I would have broken down and made my daughter’s winter gear as well.

  20. bequi February 14, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    I agree with Amanda about the warmth problem. I went to Walmart to buy coats for my girls, and discovered that above a size 4T they don’t make warm coats. They only make jackets with a fur lined hood. Apparently, when a girl reaches kindergarten she cares more about her appearance than her comfort. I had to buy her a boy’s coat because that’s the only kid they had that was warm enough to use outside.

  21. Emily February 14, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    When I was a kid, I hated recess. I hated the cold, I had no athletic ability, and I hated being teased and bullied by the other kids. So, whenever I could, I’d grab a pass for the library or the computer room, and spend recess reading, finishing up work (since I had trouble concentrating in the noisy, crowded classroom), or playing some educational game on the computers–usually Cross Country Canada, Treehouse, or something of that nature. Anyway, after a while, the teachers decided they didn’t want to supervise either of these “indoor recess” options anymore, which they only did sporadically in the first place–and, I still remember the time EVERYONE in the computer room (including me) got banned from there for a week, because two boys started fighting when the vice principal who was holding down the fort, had to step out for a moment. Anyway, when the teachers decided they didn’t want to offer these options anymore, they put it on us–the message was “students, get some fresh air.” In that context, I think it was a cop-out–they pretended it was about our well-being, but it was really about their convenience. Also, for the record, I was a very well-behaved student, and I didn’t really need to be “supervised” in the first place–I’d just sit quietly and do whatever, until the bell rang to go back to class.

    Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, I’m in favour of having genuinely “free range” recess and lunch breaks, which would simply be free periods when no classes were scheduled–15 minutes morning and afternoon for recess, and an hour at lunch time. Students could use this time to eat, play, or socialize, inside or outside, read in the library, play on the computers, practice musical instruments if there’s a music room (and, at my ideal school, there would be), or catch up on homework/studying. Activity groups such as sports or student government could also meet during this time. That was how it was in high school, and I think that that way of doing things should start earlier. A lot of kids arrived at high school in grade nine with very poor time management skills, because they’d always been told what to do every minute of every day in school, for the previous nine or ten years, from kindergarten or JK through grade eight.

    I’m not saying that four-and five-year-olds should be given complete autonomy, but maybe if they phased it in gradually–first delineating “eating time” and “free time,” and taking the kids around to all the different activity options a few at a time, and then letting the kids decide which to do when. They’d mess up a few times, and end up either inhaling their PBJ’s at the last minute, or being a bit hungry that afternoon, but that way, they’d learn to plan better next time.

  22. Amanda Matthews February 14, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

    Havva just made me think of something else that may be affecting this that I hadn’t thought of. Kids aren’t suppose to wear coats in a car seat. So what can you do? If you try to take off the coat, buckle them in, and then put the coat back on when you arrive at your destination, they’re freezing while the door is open for you to get their coat off and on. If you have multiple kids in car seats, it becomes impossible to keep them warm and get coats off and on.

    So unless you’ve got a van big enough for Mom/Dad to go to the back and help kids in and out of coats, and a school drop off system that is conductive to that… of course if you can’t find a thin, warm coat, you’re going to pre-warm the car, have them get in quickly, and run into the school. And then you’d probably not bother to have them take a coat with them, because it’s a hassle and they’re probably not going to use it anyway.

    So even once they’re out of the car seat, both the parents and the kid are used to doing things that way, and see no reason to change it.

    It is interesting how coat trends (puffier coats, made of thinner/cheaper material) and car seat trends (car seats being required by law, to higher ages, and now telling people no coats in car seats) have kind of been adverse to each other.

  23. lollipoplover February 14, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

    My kids walk to school (bundled up) but rarely bundle for recess because it’s so short (30 minutes). We have good quality winter jackets (ll bean, lands end) but my son won’t wear his winter jacket for recess even when it’s really cold- he just wears a thick hoodie. They go from recess directly to lunch and he doesn’t like to schlep winter gear and his lunch bag. He says he’s never cold because he’s running non-stop and I believe him.

  24. Warren February 14, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    Okay, I see the trend here.

    Coats have to be perfect. Made of the right material, in the right style, easy on easy off, and not expensive. Ok, got it.

    I am sorry I have raised three outdoor kids, in Ontario, where winter is winter. I have not run into any of the problems that are being described with winter gear.
    And I shop at WalMart, Zellers, Canadian Tire and TSC Stores.
    The only thing I can think, is that your expectations are too high. These are winter clothes for kids, not for an artic expedition.
    Gloves and hats, my kids have multiples with them, so they can where dry ones, while the others are drying. Same with socks.

    Unless you have gone for the cheapest of the cheap, the coats will keep them dry, and most of the wind out. These days we do not expect the single layer of an outer coat to do all the work. Layers have always been the proper way to keep dry and warm.
    When all three were at home, during the winter, I don’t think we had one heat register in the house that didn’t have gloves hats, socks or boot liners on it.

    Question……..what is this about no coats in car seats? So your kid freezes for the first ten minutes of the carride? Because I will be damned if I am letting my car run for half an hour before putting my kid in it. And there are days it takes over half an hour for any real heat to cut the -25 temps.

  25. Amanda Matthews February 14, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    @Warren, oh, you’re in Ontario. That’s the difference.

    As I said I’m talking about the US. And yes you’re close, but from what I’m told this is not common (or at least not AS common) elsewhere, not even Canada. In the **US**, clothing has gotten thinner, cheaper made, and less natural materials. In the **US** the focus has gone to fashion rather than function, and if you’re trying to focus on function, you have a hard time finding anything. When you DO it’s expensive, and as the US isn’t doing too great economically right now, a lot of people can’t afford to spend the cost on such coats every year (because kids grow fast and the cheaply made clothes often don’t last long enough to be passed down).

    I don’t pre-heat my car personally. But my kids don’t freeze because as I said I make their stuff myself, out of 100% wool; so it is thin enough for a car seat yet warmer than a polyester coat. They don’t need multiple gloves because their 100% wool gloves keep their hands dry all day, and the outsides are dry by the next day. In order to BUY 100% wool coats, mittens, etc. I’d have to order it online and it would cost quite a bit (more than I could afford, admittedly).

    I do see some of my neighbors with kids preheating their car for 20 – 30 minutes. The people across the street are doing it multiple times a day lately! They could probably afford warmer winter gear if they weren’t spending so much on gas… but they probably don’t know the warmer gear is available/don’t know the difference it would make, and it would probably be rude to point it out to them.

    The change happened so gradually that most USians didn’t notice, and just came to accept that when it’s x degrees outside you will freeze. I had accepted that, until I started making things myself; it was only then that I started looking at the quality and fiber content of today’s store-bought stuff vs the stuff from 20 years ago. It wasn’t until I actually went outside in my handmade winter gear that I realized the warmth and waterproof difference, and realized that it IS possible to be comfortable outside in freezing weather.

  26. Amanda Matthews February 14, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

    Also I don’t know if the “no coats in car seats” thing is just a US thing, but I’m guessing it is. To be honest, even when my kids were in puffy store-bought coats, I didn’t follow it because I found it impossible to do without the kids freezing.

  27. Donna February 14, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    I agree with Emily. Kids should have options. I did walk to school so was appropriately dressed. I still would have rather stayed in and done other things during recess some of the time. I liked playing outside but only when I wanted to and definitely not when I had to then sit in a classroom wet for hours afterwards (and problem in both rain and snow).

    I don’t agree with this notion that kids must go outside even if they don’t want to be there. I see no reason to prevent kids from going out in any weather (except lightening) but little gained by making kids who don’t want to be outside be there.

  28. Backroadsem February 14, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    As a Utah resident, I can definitely get behind what bequi is saying about the inversion in the valleys. When I was teaching, I think we had more announcments of “limited/indoor recess” than “bad weather” recess. It had to be an absolute mess weather-wise to full-out cancel recess, to which I am grateful. Kids like bad weather, I’ve noticed. But for inversion, I believe that’s neither here nor there on the topic.

    The driving to school may not be the main reason, but it’s fair to call it a contributing factor. I recall once a furious mother contacting the school for my friend’s class. Her 2nd grader was attending a field trip to an outdoor nature center up in the canyon in the middle of winter. Now, one would think “‘K, I live in Northern Utah, it’s cold and snowy down here, it will most likely be the same if not worse in the canyon, perhaps I should send my kid to school with a coat”. Apparently the teachers thought it was so obvious they didn’t mention the necessity of a coat on the permission slips. Mother was furious because “no one told her the kid might want a coat for the field trip.”

  29. mollie February 14, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    Winter isn’t really winter where I live (I lived in MN for 15 years, and THAT’S winter), what we have is a long, damp, rainy winter, and what FLOORS me is that the retailers carry a preponderance of coats for children that aren’t the least bit waterproof. They look like “winter coats,” but they are like sponges in the rain, and soak through immediately. I can count on one hand the number of days we get between November and March that are below 40ºF and dry. A raincoat with a sweater underneath is more effective than most of the coats sold here for kids.

    My son, who insists on wearing shorts all winter, was not allowed out for recess on the one day it snowed last year. Served him right! All of the properly-dressed kids were permitted to go romp in the snow and he had to look out the window since he was too “cool” to wear a coat and pants.

    I see a combination of things: a lack of functionality in outerwear, a lack of fortitude in parents to overcome the resistance of kids to wear things that aren’t “cool,” and a preponderance of “wisdom” about how to “protect” kids.

    I like the attitude in some northern european countries: “There is no ‘bad’ weather, only ‘bad’ clothing.” Meaning: dress for it, and get the hell out there. Maybe you don’t want to get fresh air, but get it anyway. It really is good for you.

    And Lenore, I LOVE your new promo video! You are indeed changing the world. 🙂

  30. Becky February 14, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    I’m sure it’s much harder to control as kids get older, but my son is in kindergarten and we get notes home from the teachers reminding parents to bring all their child winter gear to school. They try to get outside to play and explore once a day, as long as it’s warmer than -16 c (about 3 degrees f). I love that they make the effort!

  31. CrazyCatLady February 14, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    I always made certain that the car seats that we had (not the coats) would work with different sizes of coats. That is, they could be adjusted by me easily to fit over a coat if needed, then snugged back down.

    Here we have windy days, as well as cold. When the wind gets going right, at the time of year when dirt and sand can come up (during plowing mostly) they will not let kids play outside.

    However, the schools do a great job of allowing kids to walk too and from school, which I love.

    I have to agree, the stupid $1.00 gloves from Walmart and Target are only suitable for in the car. However, they are better than nothing, and I have gotten them for a pair of young neighbors who didn’t have any but really wanted to play outside with my kids. I also got them winter coats – from the Salvation Army.

  32. Warren February 14, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    If you want to find affordable winter clothing, that works, check out anyplace that deals in work wear, you would be surprised at how much kids stuff they will have..

    And you know what, don’t be proud, Im not. We go to the thrift stores all the time, because it is easier to have two or three of things, and not really care if they get wrecked. Kids grow to damn fast to spend big bucks everyyear just for something they will tear, and rip.

  33. Jayme February 14, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

    We live in Fairbanks, AK. Kids here can’t play outside when its -45. Anything colder than -20 they have indoor recess (which is FINE by all means) but worst of all is the unsafe air quality once it dipped into the negatives.

    Kids dress warm here, it is life or death.

  34. Jholl February 14, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

    In our town, we have pretty cold winters. Recently, we had a couple weeks when it didn’t top 12 degrees. But, outdoor recess always happens. The kids are told to bring snow clothes to school and parents either have their kids wear them or we pack them in their backpacks. The teachers here would not dream of skipping outdoor time- the kids need to get out for their sake and the teachers sake! Unless there is major ice, recess carries on!

  35. Christina February 14, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    There are special car blankets you can get now for car seats, so the kids stay warm without wearing a coat. They are expensive though, and with twins it was prohibitive. I just kept their coats on them and pulled tight on the straps. Prolly a no no, but we mostly walked in any event (in Chicago in the winter). Their kindergarten tosses them outside in pretty much any weather. We just keep backup gear at the school in case there are big temp drops during the day.

  36. Brenda Adler February 14, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    We go out more when the weather stays consistently cold.

    When it’s way below freezing, and then above and melting muddy icy mess, then way below, then way above it’s no fun. It makes the cold seem colder, and the slippery ice, slippery mud, and finding out that your winter clothes aren’t puddle resistent… no fun at all.

  37. Heike February 14, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

    It’s not always the schools that are to blame: at our preschool, we usually have the children play outside for half an hour to an hour, three times per day. But it’s not unusual for some parents to complain, especially for the afternoon playtime (3 – 4 or 4:30 pm) during the colder part of the year, that it’s not right for children to be outside this long in the “cold” – and our schools are in Southern California! Luckily, even more parents love the fact that the children get dirty, have grass stains on their pants, and sand in their shoes…

  38. Ravana February 14, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

    I think another big reason is that none of the teachers want to do playground monitoring duty in “bad” (cold, warm, sunny, rainy, windy, snowy) weather and the unions have made it so they don’t have to.

  39. Christina February 14, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

    @Warren – thrift stores are the best! We get really good winter gear for next to nothing.

  40. Len Layton February 14, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

    Another unintended side effect of kids not playing outside is short-sightedness (myopia) – now shown conclusively to be caused by lack of bright light exposure during childhood. Myopia is now at epidemic proportions in China – 90% of 12 year olds need glasses – up from under 5% only 40 years ago! Kids MUST spend time outdoors otherwise they really will go blind. See and

  41. Ann in L.A. February 14, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

    I wouldn’t discount adults’ relatively-rational fear of the mess tracked in by messy boots and snow melting off clothes all over the classroom either. The school I went to in Milwaukee in the 70’s still had a cloak-room attached to each room, where we could change out of our wet clothes before heading into the main classroom. I doubt many modern schools are designed that way today.

  42. Yan Seiner February 14, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    @Amanda et al: I’m baffled by this “clothing is impossible to get” stuff. I am wearing a fleece vest that I bought 7 years ago for $5; it still serves.

    Most of our stuff is relatively cheap, bought on sale, and then used until no one in the family can fit into it.

    We only put money into boots and gloves as we backpack a lot and boots and gloves make all the difference, but still you can get really good boots at the end of the season for relatively little $, and gloves can be had almost free come March.

    It’s about finding reasons why your kids can’t do things; find ways for them to be outside, not reasons why they can’t.

  43. Warren February 14, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    Thanks, I didn’t want to be the bad guy today. But I really really wanted to say, stop with the excuses.

  44. WhyGee M. February 14, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    Where I live here in Montgomery County, Maryland, county-wide school policy is that children are not allowed to go outside if the temperature is below 32degF, even if it’s sunny. I was shocked and saddened because I think this threshold is too high. You’re right, parents need to speak out about this. Children get so very little recess time as it is, and to take away most outdoor time throughout the winter hurts the kids’ ability to focus at school and, ultimately, do better and it punishes the teachers who don’t get a break. Letting kids go outside during cold weather is win-win for everyone. Parents need to simply be informed about dressing their kids, and, perhaps a winter-wear drive can be done for those families that can’t afford warm gear.

  45. WhyGee M. February 14, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    @Ravana – Please don’t blame the teachers and unions here.

  46. vjhreeves February 14, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    Commented above: “They take the infants and toddlers out if it’s above 20 degrees and the rest of the kids out if it’s above 0 which seems reasonable to me.” Holy cow! This makes me glad I live in Florida! I HATE cold, and also did as a kid. I would hate to be sent outside to play in ONE degree weather. If my kids say they don’t want to play outside because it’s too cold (here that’s around 45 degrees), I don’t make them.

  47. Amanda Matthews February 14, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    @Yan as I said, I make quality, warm stuff myself, so my kids do go outside. It’s not an issue for me, and I’m pretty sure the other people said they DID eventually find something that worked for them. I’m just saying I can see why it’s an issue for other people, especially people that don’t see a reason to put much work into it.

    Maybe it’s an area-by-area issue within the US too. Maybe 7 years ago, clothes were better quality. But if **I** went to the store and bought an article of clothing today, it would not last 7 years. I’d be lucky if it lasts 3 years. And I do pass things down, but they wear out long before they get a chance to go through the whole family.

    I check thrift stores often searching for deals. The stuff at the thrift stores (around here, i.e. an hour’s drive within my house) is generally the same cheaply made, synthetic crap. Thrift stores get rid of all clothes that don’t sell after a few months (at least in the US), so for kids you’re only going to get something that was bought from a store maybe a year ago. For adults, every now and then there will be something from someone that kept their clothes for 20 years and finally it went to the thrift store, but that’s rare. From what I’ve seen, when someone goes through the trouble of making things themselves or ordering quality stuff online, they DO pass it down through the whole family, or sell it as used online; so it doesn’t go to the thrift stores.

    You can buy sales, but it’s still going to be that same cheap crap. If you buy a winter coat on sale and then it gets a huge hole in it in the middle of winter, you’d have to buy another while it isn’t on sale. If your kid has an unexpected growth spurt and suddenly doesn’t fit his clothes anymore, you’d have to buy more while they aren’t on sale.

    Why is it so hard to accept that things are different in different areas?

  48. Amanda Matthews February 14, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    *And I do pass things down, but they wear out long before they get a chance to go through the whole family.

    – the store bought stuff, I mean. The stuff I make last through all my kids and then is given to a younger relative or sold.

  49. Ali February 14, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    Ok, I’ll say it. I’m tired of being picked on because I drive my kids to school. Why do I drive them? Because the local school is a single language school, it’s fine and all, but the one they attend currently is a dual-language school and I firmly believe kids need to acquire language in the primary grades. Life is more complicated than “don’t drive your kids to school.” To get a better education than the local -bus accessible- school, driving is the only option when you live in suburbia.

    Complaints about being picked on aside, adults seem to have different temperature sensor than kids do. My kids are always hot and even in mid-winter with the furnace turned down will go to sleep with summer PJs on. I’m the one who is freezing. Frankly, I think this is a bigger issue…perception of cold.

  50. pentamom February 14, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    Ali, the idea isn’t “don’t drive your kids to school,” it’s “don’t drive your kids to school if they could reasonably walk.” Obviously, yours can’t. But that’s not the case most of the time, and that’s not what people here mean when they criticize driving your kids to school.

  51. lollipoplover February 14, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    I’ve never understood why kids would be denied recess because of inappropriate outerwear except in extreme weather conditions, like the Alaska commenter above. Kids won’t go into hypothermia in a Walmart Jacket in 30 minutes.

    We’ve always gone with the “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just poor clothing choices.” I don’t get where it was required to bundle them up like the younger brother in “Christmas Story”. Kids who don’t wear gloves can put hands in pockets to warm them. Or play basketball or another sport that engages the hands. Better yet, put the Lost and Found near the recess yard. If not claimed, put a “help yourself” borrowing box there for kids who *forgot* a coat.

    And quality coats last for years and are great hand-me-downs. My youngest is in a waterproof ll bean coat that’s gone through 4 girls so far and is the warmest, buttery soft coat with a removable outer shell, good for all winter weather.

  52. pentamom February 14, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    vjhreeves — it’s a matter of acclimation. I remember when I was a kid, 20 didn’t seem that bad (and we did have the proper clothing.) Zero seems pretty rough to me, too, but if they’re properly dressed and have been doing it all their lives, it’s completely different than what it seems like to someone who has lived in a warm climate all their life.

    I, on the other hand, can’t even imagine how someone could stir out of air-conditioned doors above 95F unless it was a matter of life or death or you were heading into the pool. For other people, it’s fairly normal — or no one would live in South Florida or Arizona. Being used to it doesn’t keep you from being cold or hot, but it affects your tolerance for it a lot.

  53. Donna February 14, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

    I think certain places are particularly hard to get kids dressed appropriately for cold.

    I grew up in New England and New Jersey. Everyone had proper winter gear. Snowsuits in Maine and heavy coats, hats, gloves, scarves, etc. in New Jersey. You invested money in your winter clothes because you were going to be in them every single day for 3-4 months. And people are used to going outside in the cold because you can’t hibernate for 3-4 months.

    At 12, I moved to Georgia. Nobody had decent winter clothes. Everyone had a coat of some sort and maybe a hat and gloves, but not something made for 3-4 months of cold winter. Because there are not 3-4 months of cold winter in Georgia. However, there are cold days in Georgia. Winter temps vary from 70s to below zero, sometimes in the same week. You are not going to need a heavy winter coat more than a handful of days but you do need one those handful of days if you are outside. Many choose to stay in on cold days rather than spending money on a winter clothes you wear 10-20 times, depending on the particular winter. And I don’t disagree with them. We went to the mountains a lot so had some heavier clothes but I wouldn’t spend a lot of money on winter clothes in Georgia otherwise. I just don’t have money to spend on things my child will get so little use out of. It works … for Georgia.

    The problem is that we are a much more mobile society than we were 30 years ago. Few people stay in one area of the country for their entire lives. As they move, they take their mentality towards and preparedness for the winter with them.

  54. sherri February 14, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    Where I live the kids have outdoor recess unless the temperature goes below -28 degrees celcius. If kids don’t come to school with the proper gear they still have to go outside. We had a couple of weeks of -45 degree temperatures last month where the kids were stuck indoors and they were absolutely stir crazy! My kids still walk to school even if it is -45 degrees. They just dress for it!

  55. sherri February 14, 2013 at 3:44 pm #

    I see people comments that there isn’t affordable warm winter clothing available in the US. My boys are wearing winter jackets from Old Navy. They were very cheap and they are plenty warm enough for our -45 degree weather. I’m pretty sure that Old Navy outerwear is available in the US.

  56. Warren February 14, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

    Alot of you should never live along Lake Ontario’s northern shoreline. Winters capable of -40s and Summer capable of +40s, and that is celsius.

    For the kids who grow up in Florida, I would not expect them to be out playing at minus 20, my kids in Ontario on the otherhand, yes get your butts outside.

  57. Donna February 14, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    @pentamom –

    That acclimation thing is totally true. This time last year (our summer) I was completely miserable in A. Samoa. While the outside temps are very similar to Georgia summers, air conditioning is uncommon in houses so you get no reprieve and that makes a huge difference. Now it is still hot as heck, but I am much less miserable – and the humidity does not swell my hands and feet anymore.

    Honestly, I think many of the things we are mentioning are bit players but large-scale central heat and air is the main culprit for people not wanting to go outside in extreme temps … and it has been brewing for years. Our inside environments are perfect; outside, not so much.

    Having now lived without air conditioning in my house or car for over a year in a horribly hot climate, I see a HUGE difference in my mentality towards outside and the heat. When it is no cooler inside (and maybe even hotter), there is no reason not to go outside. We are not running marathons in the heat of the day here and often choose to stay in to stay out of the very intense South Pacific sun, but sitting in the shade or sitting on the couch is no different so you might as well sit in the shade.

    Same with winter. If being inside is only slightly warmer than being outside unless right by the fireplace, you don’t have such an attachment to being inside.

  58. pentamom February 14, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    Donna, you are so right about climate control. AND about going outside when it’s hot because you might as well. I know I’m a lot worse about it since I have a lovely, central-air-conditioned home now, than I was in my little oven of a Cape Cod.

  59. JJ February 14, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

    In my experience kids kids will gladly play outside in the cold even without a hat, gloves or real coat as opposed to a hoodie. If anything it’s the adults that think its too cold for them to go outside.

  60. Amanda Matthews February 14, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

    @sherri I looked at Old Navy’s site, and maybe we have a different idea of affordable. $30 – $60 for a cotton/polyester coat is not affordable to me. (In fact, I would call that grossly overpriced for cotton/polyester that someone is only going to wear a couple of months and then outgrow before next winter.) I have 4 kids so that is $120 – $240. They will be cold and soaking wet after a couple hours of playing in the snow.

    I guess they work for just recess, which I am assuming is at most an hour outside, and probably not playing in the snow. But it wouldn’t work for my family.

    I made 4 wool coats for about $50. They will keep the kids warm and dry for hours in the snow. If I wanted to buy wool coats, that would be $90+ per coat! And while I could pass them down, I’d have to buy at least the oldest kid a new one every year. That’s not affordable to me either. And they don’t have them in stores, so if I had not looked for them (to compare how much it would be to buy them vs to make them), I would not even know they were an option.

    If we were buying coats we would have to go with Walmart’s 100% polyester coats, which are $10 – 15. The kids would still be cold and soaking wet after a couple of hours. And while I know they would come inside before they got hypothermia, frostbite, etc. I would rather they play outside as much as they feel their bodies need, rather than having to come in because they are getting too cold/wet. And I would not at all be comfortable with them being forced to go outside despite the fact that they are feeling too cold.

  61. Stephanie February 14, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    We had what is probably our one day of snow here just recently. Most years it only snows at night at our elevation, but this time it happened on Friday, right during the school day. Caught just about everyone off guard, because daytime snow is so rare for us.

    I was picking up one of my son’s friends for a playdate, and she really wasn’t dressed for the weather. Light jacket, sneakers, no gloves, no hat. Fortunately, I had grabbed my kids’ snow gloves because I knew they’d only brought lightweight ones to school that morning, so she got to borrow some decent gloves for the walk home. Good thing it’s only a quarter mile walk from the school to the house, so I got her warmed up pretty quick.

    While the snow wasn’t expected so early, the cold weather was, so I was amazed she was dressed so lightly. Seems to have been her own choice, as she’d been told to pack her snow suit in her backpack, but didn’t. I dug up enough warm clothes that she could play in the snow at my house.

    My kids were just steamed that the teachers wouldn’t let them go out to play. It was a minimum day, so not much time, but with daytime snow being so rare here, they really wanted out in it. Most snow misses us by just a couple hundred feet in elevation, or about a 10-15 minute drive up the road.

  62. hineata February 14, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

    Catspaw and I were laughing over the phone about this. Some of you people actually open your doors when it’s -40degrees celcius? Don’t your faces fall off?! 🙂

    Seriously, Donna is so right, acclimatisation is everything. The first time I stepped out of the airport in Singapore, I thought I would keel over – the humidity feels like a wall. And Warren’s comments somewhere about showering don’t work in countries like that – my mum-in-law has no aircon, and we shower with buckets three or four times a day. Even then, as soon as you towel off, you just want to get that cup out again and keep going! I think, BTW, it’s why SE Asians have so much trouble sometimes camping – it is a total anathema to most of them not to shower at least twice a day. They feel genuinely filthy (whether they are or not) without that cleaning routine. It’s what you grow up with.

    After a few days, though, I can wander around outside again without feeling like death is inevitable (from the heat, anyway – not a lot you can do about the traffic!). So maybe we would also survive that ridiculous sort of cold, LOL!

  63. David February 14, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    Great topic. I’m aware that Kierna Corr and her coeducators over at Learning for life dealt with the issue by fundraising and purchasing suits and boots for the centre. That way the gear is always on hand, they get to choose top quality outfits and best of all the children get to experience the nature in all its transitions – rain, snow and mud.

  64. sherri February 14, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    Amanda-I buy my kids coats at the end of season clearance for the following year so I only pay about $15-20. I live in a very cold climate, and my boys wear their winter coats from mid October until mid April. I buy them a little big, so they can wear them for two seasons, and the older one passes his down to his brother. I generally get about four years wear out of a $15 Old Navy coat. My boys walk to and from school in these coats, one hour a day recess, and countless hours playing in the snow after school, toboganing and skating etc.

  65. Kristin February 14, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

    my son goes to preschool here: it is outside everyday for 2.5 hours – there is no inside space. they dress for the weather and can have fun any day. The farm and forest are their classroom. It’s a shame there aren’t more opportunities like this.

  66. hineata February 14, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

    Back to the recess issue, I didn’t think most of your North American kids got recess anyway. And those that do, it sounds so short you could probably play buck naked in the snow and not get hypothermia.

    Here, a lot of my kids don’t have/bother with decent wet weather gear, which can be gotten quite cheaply at the local Walmart sort-of equivalent or the thrift shops. We do cancel playtime if it’s raining hard, but the kids still play under the verandahs unless it’s actually really cold too. Rain is different to snow, in that snow is fun to play in (the few times I’ve actually got the chance to) but with hard-out cold rain, your choices for games are somewhat limited. And you get sick of bruised bums, broken arms etc from slips. From what I can recall we have always cancelled play here in rainy weather – certainly we did when I was young, forty odd years ago. Though it never stopped, and still doesn’t, kids walking to and from school.

    Wind, on the other hand, as long as it’s not raining too and there are no sheds, trees or roofing iron blowing around in it, is huge fun, and we never cancel playtime for that. We used to have great fun holding coats about ourselves and ‘floating’ in the wind – you could go a few feet and it was like flying. My kids still get to do that sometimes (the Wellington area being considerably windier than Chicago, which I gather seems to be the NA barometer for windiness).

  67. hineata February 14, 2013 at 6:32 pm #

    @Warren, about Lake Ontario’s shoreline – you are absolutely right. And in a country the size of Canada, why would anyone at all want to live around the shoreline of Lake Ontario?!

    Though you could always ship the Aussies in for summer, and the Siberians in for winter, if you’re serious about wanting actual human beings to inhabit the place….:-)

    (And yes, Canadians, I am joking….about our cousins the Ozzies, at least, LOL!).

  68. Donna February 14, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    “the Wellington area being considerably windier than Chicago”

    I concur! And we had a wonderful day and a half of tramping around outside in the Wellington wind … although I did think the people swimming were a tad nuts.

  69. Jenny Islander February 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

    Agree about the flimsy quality of many of today’s “cold-weather” kids’ garments. We spent a bundle on brand-new Hanna Andersson coats, snow pants, and gloves, all rated as their coziest items. But we discovered that they didn’t keep the wind out worth a darn and they wicked up water almost instantly. And the sleeves were too short! I could have paid Wal-Mart prices for comparable quality. Next year we are going to the consignment store to look for used high-quality goods.

  70. hineata February 14, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    Sadly, Donna, if we didn’t swim when it was windy we might never swim at all! Though it does do wonders for the goosebumps….

    My favourite wind moment in recent years was when we were standing around my father’s grave (expected death, bone cancer, definitely a release rather than a sad occasion) and having to hold my elderly aunties in ‘death’ grips to prevent them flying in and joining him! While the flowers from the fire engine sailed past into the fence at the end of the cemetery (where most such tributes end up in that area) and my kids were almost in tears because I felt it was inappropriate for them to go ‘coatflying’ at that particular moment….

    Gosh, we mothers are cruel at times 🙂

  71. hineata February 14, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

    Actually, moving way, way off topic, but maybe someone could enlighten me about what happens with things like burials in ‘snow’ country. Do you cremate? Or keep someone ‘on ice’ until the ground thaws? Seriously…I imagine the ground must get pretty frozen, if lakes are freezing over.

  72. C.J. February 14, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

    I drive my kids to school and they wear proper winter gear. We live in the county and the kids would have to cross an unsafe very busy county road so I drive them. I don’t see how driving kids to school means they shouldn’t be dressed properly for when they get out of the car. We live in Southern Ontario so it can get pretty cold. The kids still go out for recess unless the windchill gets below a certain temperature. I can’t remember what that temperature is right now but it is reasonable. The go out for recess most days. I have even seen them go out for recess when it is spitting a little. We live in a low lying area and the school yard floods sometimes. My kids miss oudoor recess sometimes because of the flooding, especially if it floods then freezes but rarely for the weather.

  73. sherri February 14, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

    Here in Winnipeg our kids get 15 minutes morning recess, 40 minute lunch recess and 15 minute afternoon recess, all outdoor unless colder than -28.

  74. Rebecca February 14, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

    As a teacher, we WANT kids to have recess. (whoever tried to blame it on unions is misinformed). Indoor recess is LOUD. The kids are too wiggly to pay attention when they don’t get recess outdoors, etc. We’re not allowed to go out if it’s below freezing/rainy (in the South). I went to school in the same district in the 80s & we went out every day, unless it was thunderstorms. Ive been told its because of parents complaining that we made kids go out when it was too cold. We’re raising a generation of wimps. Put on your coat & go for half an hour! (barring some legit medical issue, of course).

  75. Jana February 14, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

    I didn’t bring a coat to grade school because I didn’t own one. I live in Nj, so it’s pretty chilly here sometimes but I’ve never wanted one or been cold. What annoys me to no end is when people don’t trust kids without a judgement impairing disability to act like people.

  76. Jenna K. February 14, 2013 at 8:59 pm #

    Here in the coldest months, we also have a horrible temperature inversion that traps the bad air, so the air quality is dangerous–akin to smoking. It’s awful and that’s why they keep the kids in. They don’t keep the kids in from recess for cold unless it’s below 20. Usually when it’s below 20, the air quality is really bad too, so it’s kind of a hand-in-hand thing. I don’t mind if they keep them in because the air pollution is so bad. Just walking out in it for a few minutes left me gasping, so I don’t want them playing in it for 15-30 minutes.

    I’ve been torn on this issue though. I don’t like being cold. In fact, I despise it. I’d rather be out walking in 110 degree heat than in 32 degree cold. So when it comes to the idea of making my kids walk the mile to school when it’s below 32, I shudder. I know they’ll be fine–they are bundled appropriately–but I would be miserable walking that far in that cold, no matter how bundled I was. So I have a hard time making them do something I really don’t want to do.

    I do make them walk the five blocks to piano lessons though. Well, during the months when it’s not dark by 5:30–I don’t really want my young kids walking in the dark alone. Now that it’s light again when they get out, they’ve been walking even though it’s still pretty cold.

    So yeah, I’m torn. Because I don’t like to be outside in the cold at all (even though I grew up walking to and from school in it, etc.) I don’t like to make them. Maybe I should anyway.

  77. Angelica February 14, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

    I refuse to take off my kid’s coat to ride in a carseat. The rules and hype around carseats are just getting more and more onerous. And they don’t make that much of a safety difference for most kids, IMO. Just another thing for people to obsess over.

    Warren: Americans are wimps about the weather. Except for those in the far north. As soon as snow starts flying around here (D.C. area), they shut the schools down. Afraid all the parents driving their kids to and from school are going to be stuck in traffic or getting in traffic accidents.

  78. CrazyCatLady February 14, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

    Hineta, they have a small building at the older cemeteries made with thick stone walls, where the body is stored until the ground thaws enough for burial. At least that was how it was handled when my grandfather died in the winter in about 1980.

  79. Warren February 14, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

    -40 C is just a fact of life that you deal with. My former inlaws used to give me greif for not monitoring the weather channel, since I work outdoors. I used to ask them why, because in the winter it is cold, in the summer it is hot, and it didn’t matter what the weather, when my phone went off at whatever ungodly hour, I had to go. I do not have the option of declining.

  80. Warren February 14, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

    As for the winter funerals, I hate to say it, but they are bagged, tagged and flagged for the spring. Pretty much no different than the walk in freezer in grocery stores. They do not rely on the outdoor ones much anymore, because the unstable climate can cause premature defrosting, and attract some of those in nature that do not know any better.

  81. GR February 14, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

    My experience with a public elementary school in montgomery county, MD was a stricked county policy against being anywhere near snow, a principal from the South who thought 50 degreeF was freezing and many parents who constantly complained if their babies experienced any sort of discomfort. Many of us drove our kids to school because it was a magnet program and therefore outside our neighborhoods. The drop off area was a circle by the front entrance. If there was even a slight drizzle I’d be stuck behind parent after parent who wouldn’t let their kids’ out of the car until they were able to pull up as close to the door as possible.

  82. Sarah February 14, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

    We live in a small town in Wisconsin, and the kids go outside for 3 recesses unless it’s 35 below with the wind chill, or actively sleeting/etc. The elementary school lets kids play freely, including sledding down a school hill and building an elaborate fort city at their 3 daily recesses. They require snowpants Nov-March or so, and if a child forgets theirs, there are about 10 pairs in the lost and found that they can borrow. The free play is not risk-free, and I love it. My 8 year old sledded off course during a recess this year, and knocked half of her front tooth out. (She’s fine, and it could have just as easily happened in our backyard.) I sent an email afterwards requesting that they NOT change the sledding policy- I think it’s so great and rare that they let them be kids at recess, especially in the cold weather.

  83. hineata February 14, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

    @CrazyCatLady and Warren – ta for that. Guess it makes sense.

    @sherri – that’s great! Am glad some kids up there still get to play.

    Wish we had more snow to play in here, though the schools aren’t built for it, and we actually had to close about eighteen months ago when it did snow (first time in forty years, from memory). All the plumbing etc froze, boilers wouldn’t work, and anyway the roads and footpaths were dangerous because most of us don’t know how to walk or drive in the stuff. The kids had more fun that way, of course, as everyone played outside all day….

  84. Jenn February 14, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

    My school board follows Environment Canada’s extreme weather guidelines and I believe that it needs to be -35C windchill or -25C before they have to keep the kids in. I teach at a low income school and we send them out, even if they are not dressed for the weather. We keep donated winter clothing for the kids to use and keep if they need it. Our kids rarely complain about how cold it is. It’s the `in’ thing to wear a hoodie as a winter coat.

    When I taught at a more affluent school, the principal used to keep some smelly old mitts and hats in his office and make the kids wear those when they didn’t have them. Real life consequence so they made sure they didn’t forget!

  85. wholesome kids February 14, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

    It seems a shame to miss outdoor fun if parents are worried about weather. This often gets transmitted to kids, and when parents say things like “yuck, it’s raining again” kids slowly learn to dislike cold and rainy weather. I try to say “rain- great weather for trees!” or something like that. Subliminal messages that I hope will stick with them.
    Also, I myself exercise in the rain and my kids see me doing this, so that helps encourage them to venture out when it’s not sunny or warm.

  86. Kimberly February 14, 2013 at 10:49 pm #

    It was cold enough here today that we had frost on the ground (subtropics so that is cold). Some of our kids do not have coats because they would only need them 3 or4 days a year. So two of us too those with jackets outside. Those without stayed in with a 3rd teacher.

  87. John February 14, 2013 at 11:07 pm #

    Got a funny story. When I was in Kindergarden back in 1961 before teachers got sued for disciplining their students, before going out for recess, the teacher told us not to roll in the mud and snow because she didn’t want us to sit in wet clothes and shiver all day. She said we’d pay dire consequences if we didn’t listen to her. Of course, I didn’t listen and had a great time rolling in the wet snow and puddles! Well, the teacher then told me that I couldn’t sit in those wet clothes all day and she wasn’t gonna send me home to change even though I lived only a block away. So since no other little boy trousers were available for me to wear while Mr. Baim, the school janitor, threw my wet clothes in the dryer, the teacher told me that I’d have to wear a green dress she had in the back storage room! (I’m a guy) So after she put me in that dress, I walked out of the back room to a chorus of laughter. But it really wasn’t that bad and I only had to sit in that dress for 30 minutes. Sounds cruel and a teacher would get fired and sued if they did that today and not to mention, making national news headlines, but I tell you what, I definitely learned my lesson and never again did I roll in wet snow and puddles during recess the entire 8 more years of grade school! And by the way, I didn’t turn out to be a transvestite! 😉

  88. linvo February 14, 2013 at 11:30 pm #

    I do see that a lot at our school. Kids getting out of the car without even a jumper when it’s -5 C in the morning. We used to ride our bikes to school, so mine was always appropriately rugged up (taking into account that she claims she NEVER gets cold). I must admit that now we have to drive 45 minutes to school since we’ve moved, it is harder to remember warm clothes. Unless my daughter comes for our morning dog walk before we get into the car.

    My pet peeve is when kids are not allowed to go out when there’s just a few drops of rain. I suspect it is often too because they don’t take rain coats. But it is just being overprotective too.

    Having grown up in Belgium, a very wet country and pretty cold in winter sometimes, I just can’t relate to this at all. We HAD to go outside at recess no matter what the weather was like, often to my annoyance. We used to sneak into the toilets to go stand against the heater to warm up. But it has taught me to not fear the elements. If I ever complained about having to ride my bike to school in pouring rain, my mum used to say: “You’re not made of sugar, you won’t melt”. A popular phrase to use on my own offspring now.

  89. linvo February 14, 2013 at 11:32 pm #

    I suddenly got reminded of a wet (but warm) summer here a couple of years ago. I used to pick my daughter up from after school care with the bike and kids used to walk up to me, look at the rain outside and ask: “How are you going to get home?” as if the rain was this impenetrable obstacle. Bit sad…

  90. anothercanadian February 15, 2013 at 12:51 am #

    Chiming in from western Canada, where the temperature can go from -40 to +20 Celsius in under 24 hours and the wind comes howling across the mountains. The shores of Lake Ontario have no monopoly on winter in this country! You learn pretty quick that you cannot cheap out on outdoor clothing. You can buy it on sale, you can hand it down, you can get it used, you can size up, but you cannot waste your money on discount store crap. But the good stuff (which doesn’t have to mean the fancy brand names) lasts, and lasts, and lasts, and your kids stay warm and dry even when they’re sledding on their adorable little derrieres down a melting snowbank. Which is actually a lot of fun.

    And technical cold weather gear — for kids and adults — is often made of polyester. Fleece is really warm. It’s not expensive. An all-season rain jacket can go over top to cut the wind. Layers, folks, layers. And if you don’t know where to shop, wouldn’t it make sense to, um, ask?

    We — and our neighbors — walk to school EVERY SINGLE DAY. Full stop. Everybody I know who lives close enough does. I have never heard of an urban school being closed for weather, though sometimes the buses run very very late. Sometimes they can’t get the buses to start & then they send out warnings so kids aren’t freezing at the side of the road.

    What is this nonsense about no coats in car seats? That rule only applies to infants.

  91. C.J. February 15, 2013 at 1:20 am #

    @anothercanadian- I have only ever seen our school close once in the 7 years I have had kids in school. It was a pretty bad snow storm and they were asking everyone to stay off the roads if possible. If the weather is really bad the busses will sometimes be cancelled in the morning and parents have to get their kids to school themselves. Even that doesn’t happen very often. I live near the US border and we get mostly US tv. Their schools are always closing for weather. I never understood why their schools close so much more than ours when we get the same weather. We don’t even know what winter is compared to what you guys get. I have a friend that moved to Alberta and she works outside. She has told me it gets so cold you can hardly breathe. Ontario definitly doesn’t have the monopoly on winter in Canada. She also said she has seen all 4 seasons in one day. I don’t complain about the weather to her!

  92. Frau_Mahlzahn February 15, 2013 at 3:27 am #

    Actually, when I was an exchange student to the US almost 30 years ago (!) it already struck me back then that people would spend all their time either in buildings or in their cars — hardly anyone spent time outside. In High School we weren’t even allowed to go outside, except for a really small walk between the building and the gym. I found that very disturbing.

    Nearly the same a few years later in Grad School. I lived in a neighborhood with kids, but none of them were playing outside. And it didn’t surprise me, because even though people would go jogging or biking for sports, but just being outside was nothing that people seemed to do naturally — most spent their time inside.

    Also, it seemed to me, that the concept of walking to get somewhere just wasn’t anything that occured to anyone, and they thought I was weird, because I did that (and still do — walking is my means of transportation whenever possible, ;-)).

    So I’m not surprised.

    So long,

  93. Frau_Mahlzahn February 15, 2013 at 3:32 am #

    Oh, by the way, here in Austria most preschoolers have a second set of waterproof winterclothing, so they can outside. And in elementary school it has to rain hard for the kids to stay inside during recess, but snow has never been an issue — on the contrary, often they get extra time outside, and many teachers don’t give homework, so the kids can play outside in the afternoon.

    So long,

  94. Captain America February 15, 2013 at 4:56 am #

    I’m a bad parent who makes his son walk to the bus in inclement weather and cold and chilly stuff, in order to toughen him up, but also (heck, I’m not mean) because it’s simply healthy.

    As a kid, we loved the snow and doing stuff outdoors, and my son does winter very well.

    The problem is that “experts” have decreed cold weather to be “dangerous”. No, it’s not. It’s cold weather.

  95. Tsu Dho Nimh February 15, 2013 at 7:45 am #

    @Amanda … I used to do ski patrol, and still spend several weekends a month in AZ’s snowy mountains, photographing and exploring. In modern store-bought clothing. None of it wool, and very little of it specifically “ski gear”

    It’s a matter of knowing how to layer your stuff. One layer of cheap “longies” under a long sleeved t-shirt, under a cheap acrylic sweater, under my $2 thrift store nylon windbreaker … add good gloves and boots … I’m good down to freezing even in levis.

    If it’s colder, like -10, I use ski pants and a ski jacket.

    The advantage to animal and synthetic fibers over plant-based is that cotton soaks up water (sweat, rain, melted snow) and stays wet. You die of hypothermia. Synthetics dry fast, wool stays insulating even if wet.

    The more common problem we see with people who aren’t accustomed to cold weather is that they overdress … jackets are too insulating, too many layers. Then when they get active they overheat, they sweat, and their soaked layers chill them off as soon as they stop moving.

  96. Katie February 15, 2013 at 8:17 am #

    On cafe mom I saw a post by a mom who lived 3 blocks away from the school who was criticizing another parent because she saw the kid walking about 2 blocks 2 school. She said she even goes out in advance to turn her gas guzzling SUV on so it is warm by the time the kids get in. Flash forward 20 years, you think her kids are going to get daily limo service in life? There will be even more weather extremes because stupid people like her have ruined the ozone layer.

  97. Katie February 15, 2013 at 8:22 am #


    Even as someone who has always lived in the states I find the lack of outdoor time and especially interest in walking places shocking. Although the idea of walking is starting to get a little more common. The county I live in has finally mandated sidewalks be build if someone does a building addition. It is amazing how many places don’t even have sidewalks. Sometimes people see someone walking or taking the bus and they seem to think oh so you don’t have a car. I prefer the European way of doing things. I can’t wait to go visit Europe again.

  98. Taradlion February 15, 2013 at 9:14 am #

    I think “bad weather” and “cold weather” is somewhat relative. What was airtime snow in Massachusetts, shut the city down in Virginia for days (no plows,etc).

    I don’t get cold easily (except hands and feet). I HATED being overdressed for me as a kid because my mom was always freezing…you know when you need to wear a sweater? When your mother is cold!

    My kids run very warm. Makes me crazy when they are told they can’t go out because they don’t have appropriate clothing. To me, if my kid came to school wearing it, I am fine if he goes out in it….and for the most part, I let them decide (exception is rain coats if raining and I will insist on a coat vs jacket in winter-but not zipping it). We’re in NYC, so not really a car culture. My son plays outdoor flag football in underarmour and a jersey with gloves…hasn’t been THAT cold (32F). He still wears short if it’s above 32F (below that and I do make him wear pants). As long as he doesn’t complain or ask to go inside, it’s his body.

    Also, I do think most/many teachers do want kids to run around. I think they have gotten wimpy about weather, but also, I see teachers providing the recess supervision. When I was a kid, we had “noon aids” that supervised recess while teachers had a prep. Only two for a ton of kids. Now the student to teacher ratio seems to have shifted-more adults to fewer kids.

  99. Yan Seiner February 15, 2013 at 9:17 am #

    Our son’s middle school does a walk every year. This is something like a 5 mile walk, but it used to be longer; now the kids walk out and get a bus ride back. This year for the first time, my son had to get a permission slip from us to wear shorts on the walk. It was not unusually cold or anything, and my son has *never* worn long pants to school, but never mind that, he needed permission. He’s 12, he knows how to dress himself.

  100. Tsu Dho Nimh February 15, 2013 at 9:24 am #

    To everyone: if it’s COTTON … don’t wear it for cold weather outer gear. Cotton wicks moisture and that’s what kills you. The slogan is: “Cotton chills, cotton kills.”

    Every hypothermic patient I can remember treating was wearing cotton sweats over or under levis … and the clothing was soggy with melted snow or in the most spectacular case, frozen solid on the surface like ice armor.

    ” they’re freezing while the door is open for you to get their coat off and on. If you have multiple kids in car seats, it becomes impossible to keep them warm and get coats off and on.”

    They are not “freezing”, they are merely a bit chilly and whinging loudly about it. They will warm up as soon as they put their coats on.

    I don’t want to give the Montgomery County schools any more ideas, but it’s actually EASIER to get hypothermia when the weather is above freezing … because you can get wet more easily. The worst weather to get stuck in is about a 35-45F rain.

    If it’s about 20F (-6C) the snow is dry enough you can brush it off your clothes. At 0F (-18) you can roll in snow and come up dry. Assuming your clothing is not cotton, of course.

    You are not going to need a heavy winter coat more than a handful of days but you do need one those handful of days if you are outside. Many choose to stay in on cold days rather than spending money on a winter clothes you wear 10-20 times, depending on the particular winter. You can’t do it all in one garment. Wear layers … a couple of sweaters under a waterproof windbreaker.

    The solution to chilly kids/babies in car seats … fleecy lap robes to wrap around their legs. Cheap synthetic fleece is all it takes.

  101. Bobca February 15, 2013 at 9:29 am #

    Of course, if they had recess when it is cold, the kids and parents would learn that, and most of the kids would dress appropriately for it.

    I let my children wear whatever they want on cold/rainy days. If they get cold or wet, they learn to change their habits. Amazingly…they know how to dress appropriately for the situation. And more amazingly…they do not have any adverse effects from the weather.

    I know, I know…personal responsibility and facts are not acceptable viewpoints these days, but as an old curmudgeon, I continue to fight the tide of irrationality.

  102. Emily February 15, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    @Sarah–I think that’s awesome that you didn’t get upset with your daughter’s school after that sledding accident, but I have to ask, was the dentist able to fix her tooth?

  103. Captain America February 15, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    re: above.

    The secret is wool. For a good many years I bought my nephews wool socks for Christmas. It’s just great stuff in the cold.

  104. Emily February 15, 2013 at 10:49 am #

    Wow, it seems we have a lot of wool fans here, but I just wanted to point out that some people, including myself, are allergic to wool. I don’t have it too badly, and I can wear wool if it’s lined with something else, and the wool never actually touches my skin, but wool-to-skin contact for any decent length of time will make me itch spectacularly, and scratch myself raw. Like I said, some people have it worse, to the point that wool causes them to break out in hives. So, just because something may be an option for some people, doesn’t mean it’ll work for everyone.

  105. Yan Seiner February 15, 2013 at 10:53 am #

    @Emily: I’m with you. Wool is not my friend. Smartwool is pretty good, but regular wool is a no-no. Synthetic fleece for me all the way. Wool also gets stretchy and loses shape over time; synthetics are great and getting better all the time.

  106. Kate February 15, 2013 at 11:35 am #

    @Bobca – you would think that but no. In my experience (5 years of working with kindergarten) what really happens is that the recess monitors have to spend 30 min a day surrounded by kids whining about how cold they are. Not all kids of course, but at least 10% which is enough to make it quite unpleasant. Then the parents of those 10% complain to the principal rather than make sure their kid comes to school with a hat and some gloves.

  107. Dana February 15, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    My kids go to the Sudbury Valley School ( The school is situated on a 10-acre campus which includes a pond. They’re allowed to plan their days and spend their time as they please.

    On an average day, they spend 3-4 hours outside, sledding, building snow forts, rolling down hills, you name it.

    On really cold days, under 10 degrees, I think, kids under eight have to check in with a staff member to make sure they’re appropriately dressed, but they still go out.

    I think they’d shrivel up and die if they went to a school that kept them inside all day long!

  108. Emily February 15, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    @Kate–I think a line should be drawn somewhere. Even if you “dress for winter” in a coat, hat, mittens, etc., Canadian winters are such that there are some days when you just don’t want to be outside, unless absolutely necessary–and, by “absolutely necessary” I mean like, five minutes to take out the garbage, or 30 seconds to run from house to car to school or work.

    Like I said before, I really don’t understand the adult mentality of forcing kids to play outside when they don’t want to, often for perfectly legitimate reasons–weather, bullying, lack of athletic ability, introverted personality, wanting/needing to do something else inside, etc. I mean, okay, if Phys Ed was outside, and it was either a compulsory class, or a class that students chose to take, but knew that it’d be outside sometimes, then that’s fine, but I think that forcing kids outside and calling it a “break” for their benefit, is kind of missing the point for a lot of kids.

    I like the idea of the Sudbury Valley School that Dana sends her kids to, because that way, the outdoorsy kids can spend time outdoors, but it’s not mandatory. What my elementary school teachers didn’t get about me was that recess wasn’t really a “break” for me, because what I really needed was a break from social interaction, especially considering the fact that most “interactions” I got with the other kids, were negative–it was mostly along the lines of “Brainer, fatass, Chunks Ahoy……hey, Emily, can I copy your homework?” So, if I was allowed to go to the library or the Resource Room, and read or study by myself, or the computer room, and play on the computer by myself, then that was a break for me, whereas outdoor recess wasn’t. I tried to explain this to my teachers, but they twisted it around on me and said that I had “poor social skills” and “needed to work on them.” As an adult, being introverted seems to be socially acceptable, or at least, more so than it was when I was younger, but back then, adults seemed to be bound and determined to “fix” it, by constantly forcing me to do things I hated, like recess, gym, dances at school and camp, etc. So, I think part of “Free Range” should be about letting kids discover and be the people that they are (within the confines of safety, good manners, etc.), instead of forcing them to be something else, for the convenience of the adults.

  109. Warren February 15, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    Let’s get something straight Emily, until lately there was never a winter day that was too tough for kids to play outside. As a matter of fact our parents used to have to force us to come in, just to eat and drink. They eventually gave up on that, and would just drop a cooler beside the sled hill, or rink. Knowing we would come in when we wanted.

    I am curious to know how cold it has to be for you to consider it unplayable, and one of those days you just don’t want to go out in?

    I hear you making more excuses for not being outside, as a kid than for being outside. Sorry, but that is how it appears.

  110. bmommyx2 February 15, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    The first pre-school my son went to was an unstructured school & the kids were free to go outside as they pleased even if it was pouring rain. The next year he changed schools & if it was raining they didn’t go out & he had a hard time understanding. I’m also sure that most parents didn’t want their kids getting soaked & muddy too and the teachers didn’t have time to change all the kids clothes if they did. Now that he is in Kindergarten they have very limited outside time. Were we live the school is too far away to walk to so i have to drive my him to school There is another reason at least for younger children. It’s not safe to wear jackets & other heavy winter clothing while buckled into a carseat. My mom told me when she was a kid they had a coat room now your lucky if there is a place for your lunch.

  111. Emily February 15, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

    Warren–I just think there’s more to “Free Range” than chucking a kid outside. Shouldn’t “Free Range” be about allowing young people to make (reasonable) decisions for themselves? As for the weather issue, everyone has a different threshold for “too cold,” EVEN with winter clothing (and, when I was in school, wearing snow pants beyond about grade six was grounds for teasing). My threshold may be different from some others, because I’m mildly anemic, but when I was growing up, my dad had a rule that we didn’t go skiing if it was colder than -10 C, so I’d say that that’d be a good cutoff for making outdoor play optional (if the school in question doesn’t already have indoor options for recess on a regular basis), and -15 or -20 C or somewhere thereabouts to keep everyone inside. Of course, there are other variables, such as windchill.

    Anyway, weather isn’t the only consideration. I don’t think kids who are being bullied on the playground should be forced to go outside at recess, obviously, but more than that, I feel that adults get breaks during their work days, and nobody tells them what they “have” to do during those breaks, so why shouldn’t kids’ break time be legitimately theirs as well? If a young person needs a break from noise, crowds, and social interaction during a full day of school, I think they should be allowed that. If they want to spend recess finishing homework because they know they have XYZ activity after school (for example, I had Leader Corps at the YMCA on Wednesdays) then I think that that should be encouraged, because that’s a life skill that’ll serve them well in the long run, so it doesn’t make sense to discourage something at age 12, when in just a few years, there’ll be times when they have to do it.

    In high school, you get an unstructured lunch period, and in the adult world (university and beyond) you get free blocks of several hours, or even entire days, at a time, and you have to discipline yourself to use that time effectively, so that’s why I think it makes sense to start allowing kids to decide how they want to spend their 15-minute recess periods, or 30-60-minute lunch periods, in an environment where the stakes aren’t that high. When I was in my first round of university, I had a flatmate whose cousin lost her year from spending too much time on MSN (a pre-Facebook instant messaging system). In elementary school, if a kid decides to, say, spend the entire lunch hour on the playground instead of eating, then that kid will spend an afternoon hungry, and then learn to set aside time for eating as well as playing. So, I wasn’t just talking about outdoor versus indoor play, but more about the bigger picture.

  112. hineata February 15, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

    @Emily – gee your post gives me the guilts. I am one of those teachers who often tries to force kids to interact, and is always concerned about their ‘social skills’. Which is sort-of weird because I had bugger-all in the way of social skills as a kid, but managed to learn enough to get by when I needed them as an adult.

    About the recess, though,I still think even introverted kids need some time outside. Not the whole lot, maybe a certain period of each day, because introvert or extrovert, exposure to sunshine is a necessity for life. We are having trouble here at the moment with Vitamin D deficiency, because in summer the sun is actually dangerous, much more so than when we were kids. Trying to balance keeping kids under shade with making sure they get a few minutes’ sun a day is not the easiest.

    @Warren – I think Emily is simply expressing different preferences to you. And that is fine. The world needs difference, for both practical and aesthetic reasons.

    Just as an example, if I ever found myself stuck in the wilds somewhere that featured extreme cold and wet, and various kinds of wildlife intent on consuming my fat hide, I would obviously want to hope someone like yourself was around to rescue my useless self. If I needed to run ideas by for an education paper, Emily sounds like the safer bet. If I was lost in the extremely dense wilds of the New Zealand bush, where there is nothing there to eat you but plenty else of concern, (including the stuff that shouldn’t by rights be there at all) I would be safer relying on myself than either of you.

  113. Emily February 15, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    Edited to add: Actually, I think grade five was the “social acceptability” cut-off for snow pants. For some reason, when I was young, ten-year-olds were SORT OF “still kids,” but eleven-year-olds were very much “pre-teens.”

  114. Emily February 15, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

    @Hineata–That’s fine, but in a Canadian winter, there are days when you aren’t going to get much sunlight, whether you’re inside or out. Also, by that logic, kids should be allowed to read/study outside during classes when it’s nice out, which almost never happened. As for learning survival skills, etc., I did all that too–I started volunteering at the YMCA when I was twelve, through the Leader Corps, and I took swimming lessons up to and including Bronze Cross (didn’t finish NLS; long story, instructor sexually harassed all the girls in the class), and First Aid and CPR was part of that. I also learned canoeing, kayaking, etc., at summer camp. So, I did get social interaction and training in “life skills” outside of school, and I was an excellent swimmer, but since the teachers didn’t see that (except for the few weeks each year when we did swimming lessons at the local pool), they didn’t feel it counted.

    So, in the unlikely event that you were to get stuck in the wilderness with me, but not Warren, then I wouldn’t be completely useless. Also, if you were writing a paper on education, I think Warren would be just as good at editing as I was–just because I don’t agree with Warren on forcing kids to play outside, doesn’t mean that I don’t think he’s smart. I like Warren, I think he’s a good person, and a good parent, and we actually do agree on a lot of things. You’re right about the world needing difference for practical and aesthetic reasons, so when that difference happens, it’s not a catastrophe. We agree, or disagree, or agree to disagree, and then Lenore posts the next article, and life moves on. So, Warren…….what do you say we agree to disagree on this?

  115. hineata February 15, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    Oh, dear, dear – didn’t mean to imply you were useless in the bush, or that Warren was thick, but it certainly came out that way I guess! Anyway from posts sounded like you have more experience in ‘academia’, though of course who the heck knows – Warren could hold a doctorate in Lord-knows-what, like my friend’s dad, who was one of our local ag workers. Intellect for Africa, just preferred working outside. And interesting that you have done all that outdoor-type training. That is certainly a problem we teachers sometimes have – we become intent on the little world of school and forget all our kids have rich lives (thank the Good Lord!) outside of them. Probably because some times of the year especially, we certainly don’t!

    So apologies to both of you. About all that I do absolutely know related to my last post is that I would be a waste of space lost in the Canadian wilderness, because I know bugger-all about it. Except that it looks a lot less dense than our bush, and I’m pretty good with direction, so I guess I could set out south and hopefully hit some kind of human settlement before running out of land, or being consumed!

  116. hineata February 15, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

    PS and I should clarify yet again- obviously you don’t need a PhD, or any sort of formal education, to be intelligent. My parents, grandparents etc didn’t do much high school, and were/are very intelligent people. My mum-in-law got two years of primary ed, and speaks at least four languages.

    And now I’ll stop, before I dig any more holes, LOL! Gosh, some of my Maori rellies can speak for days at a time without tripping themselves up, and I can’t even write a few sentences without revealing serious gaps in logic. Time to revise the gene pool, methinks!

  117. Emily February 15, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    Hineata, don’t worry–I know what you meant now that you’ve explained yourself. One more tiny thing, though–I might possibly be (somewhat) okay in the New Zealand bush, because even though I’ve never been to New Zealand, I did live in Australia for two years, and I went on several “bush walk” type excursions while I was living there. That’s another thing that I didn’t mention before–I’m not completely sedentary and indoorsy as an adult; I just choose to exercise outside when it’s nice out, and inside when it isn’t, and I choose to do non-competitive activities like yoga, tae bo, swimming (or body boarding when I lived Down Under), or going for a run with my dog. School didn’t teach me any of that, because phys ed was mostly team sports, which would mean teasing and humiliation, and recess meant being shoved outside against my will, often in freezing cold weather, with the same kids who’d bully and tease me during gym because I wasn’t good at sports, only it’d be worse at recess, because they had less supervision. So, I “rebelled” by moving as little as possible (outside of swimming), and eating junk food, and I became obese. I “saw the light” later as an adult, and started going to the gym, etc., and later earned my yoga instructor certification, and now I’m studying to become certified as a personal trainer as well, but I can’t help but think that things might have turned out differently if I’d been given more options when I was younger, instead of being berated for not being good at basketball, volleyball, soccer, etc.

  118. Warren February 15, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

    All is good, we all have those days.

    It seems that your reservations for what kids should be doing are based on personal experiences that were not very nice.

    Just because you had horrible times, doesn’t mean others need to be protected from them. Like your statements about phys ed being focussed on team sports. Other than at school where are kids going to get free exposure to these sports, that can otherwise be expensive, or almost impossible to find leagues. They are also trying to build on social skills, team building, trust in others and so on.

    As for being outside, shove their butts out there. I don’t care if they are just standing under the tree talking. They are getting a break from their desk, the lights, the teacher, and each other. You don’t have to be active to enjoy an outdoor recess. Hell I can still remember the one girl in gr 7 and 8 that used to sit on the wall and sketch.

  119. Dennis Charles February 15, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    Wow- some horror stories on here! I’m glad my kids go to Sudbury Valley in Framingham. We had 32 ins of snow in the blizzard last weekend, but the kids went right back to school on Monday, a lot of them playing outside in the snow. It is a real pleasure to see them have so much freedom and get to play out whenever they choose!

  120. Donna February 15, 2013 at 5:46 pm #

    @Warren – Why should butts be shoved outside that don’t want to be outside? If you want to be there, great. But I have yet to see a valid explanation as to why kids need to sit under a tree and read when they would personally be more comfortable sitting in the library reading. 20-30 minutes of sitting under a tree is not going to do anything for your vitamin D production that a vitamin cannot do.

    We are not talking about taking away outside recess and stopping kids who want to be outside from being outside. We are talking about forcing kids who don’t want to be outside to be outside. In essence taking the enjoyment of recess away from them because they are unhappy outside.

    Just because you and your kids enjoy being outside in the cold doesn’t mean that everyone else on the planet does or that everyone else on the planet should be forced to do what you enjoy. Personally, I hate being cold because my body doesn’t change temperatures well so when I get cold, it takes me hours to warm up. It is not an excuse as I don’t feel that I need an excuse not to go out into the cold if I don’t want to go out into the cold. I’m a fully competent individual who is able to decide my general enjoyment of being outside without anyone telling me whether I am wrong or right.

    Nor does it stop me when I want to do something in the cold. I hike, sled, ice skate, snow shoe, etc in the winter but I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to just go out into the cold and stand under a tree talking. If it is cold and all I want to do is stand around and talk or read a book, I want to do it inside.

    I also agree with what Emily said about choices. As an adult, I get to choose what I do on my breaks at work. My boss doesn’t throw me out of the office for 30 minutes a day and make me stand in the parking lot and socialize. I can choose to socialize. I can read. I can surf the internet. I can run errands. I can go for a walk outside. Heck, I can walk across the street and go for a swim in the ocean if I want. My choices of what to do on my breaks are endless. Not sure why kids need to be limited to zero choices simply because they are under 18.

  121. hineata February 15, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    @Emily – I remember days like that! Always being picked last for the team, etc, because the teachers always chose the best kids to form the teams, and by the time it got to me I was usually the one being fought over, as in, “Mrs B-, do we really have to have her!” So much fuuuun! These days, I tend to vary who gets to pick the teams, so the experience wasn’t a total waste…

    The difference between the Australia and New Zealand bush, in my understanding, apart from the snakes, is the sheer denseness in parts, which is difficult to convey. You can be walking through parts and step off the side of a cliff, because you can’t see more than a foot or so in front of you. This is of course more likely if you are bushwhacking. That’s why, for ordinary folk, the best bet is to stick firmly to the path DOC has already cut for you. Also the ‘four seasons in one day’ – most of NZ is capable of being much colder than Oz, though it sounds like you there in Canada might experience that too. Even here in the city the kids often pack a raincoat on a sunny day, as it can change in a half hour or less, and over the years many people have died in the bush from hypothermia from simply being caught out in weather changes. And the tracks are seldom flat, (though maybe nowhere’s are) as Maui’s brothers did a darn good job cutting up the fish (ref. to the topography of the North Island, anyway!) so going walking with someone else is also a darn good idea. It’s no fun being caught out in the bush alone with a broken ankle! :-).

  122. Meg February 15, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

    We live in a fairly mild area, though it’s often rainy. Both my boys’ schools general policy is that the kids go out unless it’s a true ark style deluge or there is lightning.

    Now, I have had friends whose kids have been kept in by well meaning teachers because of the coat issue. One of my friends has a son who pretty much dresses in shorts year round. She sent a note to the teacher, basically saying, “If he’s cold, then maybe he’ll start wearing pants! Send him out!” Unless there is a true danger of hypothermia, I’d vote for sending them to play-though I do think it’s wise to be sensitive to children whose parents may not be able to afford new jackets.

  123. Donna February 15, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    My son has been at Sudbury Valley School since he was six years old. He spent many hours outside in the winter at school. One year, he wore snowpants to school every day between Thanksgiving and March.

    Although he still snowboards, he is now 17 and is an indoor kid. However, he recently went snowboarding in NH during two of the coldest days on record.

    I always enjoy seeing the younger kids at Sudbury Valley playing outside. Sleds, snow forts and just playing outside brings so many smiles. Dress them warm. They will survive!

  124. Warren February 15, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

    You know what, I have said my piece, and going to back off, now. With the parting words, becareful what you teach this generation, because when you need them later in life, it will come back to bite you in the ass.

  125. Emily February 15, 2013 at 6:35 pm #

    @Warren–Donna and Hineata pretty much just took the words out of my mouth, but I just wanted to add two things:

    1. About the girl who liked to sit outside and sketch at recess, did the other kids ever tease her? Did she get hit by balls, etc., or get bothered by the noise, or did she have a Walkman or something? Also, what did this girl do in the winter? You said yourself that it can get down to -40 C where you live, and you never mentioned living elsewhere/outside of Canada growing up. Anyway, you know as well as I do that Canadian weather is “mitten weather,” which isn’t conducive to drawing, and of course, the ground would be cold as well, and not pleasant to sit on. I tried to do likewise in elementary school, and I’d sit on the steps and read or play with my Game Boy during recess, but then the teachers would yell at me to get off the steps. They REALLY wanted to force me to actually “play” when I needed alone time, and even when I tried to meet them halfway by being physically outside, that still wasn’t good enough.

    2. About phys ed, I’m not against team sports being included in the curriculum; I’m against team sports comprising the ENTIRE P.E. curriculum. I think that after the primary grades (so, grade three or so), P.E. should be divided into two tracks: regular, and non-competitive. Regular P.E. would be mostly team sports, dodgeball, track and field, etc., and non-competitive P.E. would be things like yoga, tai chi, swimming (if possible), self-defense/martial arts, dance, and maybe hiking in a local park when it’s nice out. Unlike regular P.E., non-competitive P.E. would be graded based on participation rather than skill. I know that sounds like a soft option, but it really isn’t–most adults aren’t professional athletes, and therefore don’t get “graded” on the exercise they do–they simply feel healthier when they move enough, and crummy when they don’t. So, they listen to their bodies, which is a skill that most people have to learn (or re-learn) as adults, because it’s not encouraged in children.

    The only catch with the P.E. options would be, whichever track kids signed up for, they’d have to stick with it for the year/semester/whatever, so they couldn’t be in regular P.E. during the soccer unit because they loved soccer, but then switch to non-competitive once basketball started, because they didn’t like basketball. The only exception would be if someone was injured, and they’d obviously benefit more from doing, say, yoga for a while with the non-competitive kids, than playing football in regular gym. Again, it’s all about giving choices, and making young people accountable for their choices. If this isn’t feasible, then I think the gym classes should be divided 50/50 between team sports, and non-competitive activities, and alternated, so that the non-team-sport-minded students would know that in a few weeks, they’d get to do something in gym class that they they enjoyed. If that was the case, and P.E. had to be a single-track system wtih no choices allowed, then it should be taught by the kind of teacher who would make it clear from the get-go that bullying and teasing aren’t allowed, and also be able to encourage and motivate the kids who are less adept.

  126. Emily February 15, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

    P.S., Despite the recent political action in Ontario, most schools offer extra-curricular sports (among other activities) for those who wish to participate, that are either free, or at least much cheaper than sports teams that exist independently of the school system. So, in most cases, P.E. classes aren’t the “only affordable option” for kids to play team sports.

  127. Donna February 15, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

    I’m not remotely concerned that teaching my child that what she does in her free time should be her choice is going to come back and bite me in the ass. I never said that I never make my child go outside when she doesn’t want to be there. If we need to be outside, we need to be outside and she needs to deal, regardless of the weather and does so extremely well. If PE class or science class is outside, she needs to be outside, I don’t care how cold it is (or hot in our case).

    However, recess is the few minutes that kids get to relax and enjoy themselves during the school day. Not everyone finds being outside in the cold (or heat or rain or at all) relaxing or enjoyable. Being forced to be outside when you are unhappy there, is definitely not relaxing or enjoyable. For those kids, recess is nothing more than another chore to get through to get to the end of the school day, no better (and maybe worse depending on the kid) than math class. It doesn’t have any of the rejuvenating properties that everyone says that kids need to have recess so that they have.

  128. Warren February 16, 2013 at 1:52 am #

    @ Donna

    We could look at it from a different angle. If all the other kids have to go outside for recess, what makes your kid so special that they don’t have to?


    I am sorry your phys ed. life was horrible. I also hate to inform you that being picked last is not teasing and it is not bullying. It is life.

    All these reasons/excuses for going outside, for not wanting to take part in team sports, are just other ways to shield the kids from having to deal with adversity.

    There are times in life kids just have to suck it up, and grow a thicker skin. Life is not always going to be fair, easy or exactly what they want. Some times you just have to do it, whether you like it or not.

    I am already running into people in the workforce, that have this sense of entitlement. Bad weather, we don’t have to work outside. Snow, we don’t have to come to work. To hot, we don’t have to work outside. Too cold same thing.
    In all cases these people are shown the door and told their services or lack thereof are no longer needed.

  129. Donna February 16, 2013 at 2:52 am #

    @Warren – I never said that MY kid should be the only one who doesn’t go outside. Nor do I think for a second that most days my child would choose to be anywhere except outside during recess (I would have preferred to stay in some days but my child is not me). I agreed with Emily that ALL kids should have a choice of what they do on their break time. It should not have to be all or nothing and we should accept that kids, like adults, have different wants and needs. Most of us would not stay in jobs very long if our bosses insisted that we all had to take breaks and the only thing we could do during those breaks is go outside and socialize with our coworkers. We have other things we want and need to do during work breaks.

    People do need to learn to deal with adversity, but recess is supposed to be fun, not an adversity in life to overcome. It should be a time to recharge your batteries for the rest of the day, not a chore you have to struggle through. Good god, if you believe that even your fun time should be an adversity you just have to learn to get through, why not just blow your brains out now because life can’t hold much enjoyment for you?

    To indicate the difference, I agree with you about PE, mostly. I do think that team sports are too emphasized and more diversity is needed but I don’t think there should be different classes for different kids. If you are going to have baseball and yoga, everyone should be stuck doing baseball and yoga. PE is no different from any other class needed to graduate. Everyone has to take math and everyone has to take PE. Recess on the other hand is not supposed to be a class; it is supposed to be fun. Everyone doesn’t find the same things fun.

  130. Donna February 16, 2013 at 3:29 am #

    I also like how learning to overcome adversity is soooooo important … but only one group should have to learn it. This whole thread is all about how kids should not have to suffer the adversity of staying inside in bad weather. Yet an entire winter of indoor recess would be heaven to some kids. I’m not sure why insisting that some kids overcome the adversity of staying indoors is such a travesty but insisting that others overcome the adversity of being outdoors is necessary and character building.

  131. Warren February 16, 2013 at 3:48 am #

    For the simple fact that these are kids, and what they want is not always what is best for them. It is that simple.

    And being indoors all the time during the winter, is not healthy. Being indoors all the time, during any season is not healthy. That is not opinion, it is a medical fact.

    It also tells kids that if you do not like the weather, it is okay to avoid. And like I said, we are seeing it in the workforce already.

    You may be okay with people staying home, or refusing to work because of the weather, but alot of us are not.
    Why? Because it is left up to the rest of us to pick up the slack.

    All these parents that cushion their kids will be the first ones complaining because their Hydro has been out for days. Is it acceptable for the repair crews to say, Nahhh it’s too cold, they can wait. Or for the senior that needs help at the bank to have to come another day, because staff didn’t want to drive into work, because of weather.

    Beware……………it is only going to get worse. Where you are Donna, you may not see this trend, but it is happening, and it is going to get out of hand.

  132. hineata February 16, 2013 at 5:27 am #

    Okay, what is a Hydro? Down here it has the word ‘lake’ attached to it, it’s a dam, a rather large ‘appliance’ roughly the size of a small city.

    I think you all have good points. That competitive/non-competitive PE stream sounds good. Personally I think we should also have remedial classes for the unco-ordinated, just as we do for reading and math. Some of those physical skills are so important if you want to actually have fun playing sport, and they are possible to teach if you have the right person doing so. Last year, at the age of 45, I was taking my 5 year olds through a special ‘movement’ programme, and the instructor actually taught me how to throw a ball properly. It was like magic…All those years ago at sports times we just got given the ball and told to throw it, and if you could you could. If you couldn’t, well, tough titties.

    And yes, Warren, being picked last for teams is certainly not the end of the world. It sucked, but not half as much as the home lives of some of my schoolmates. It helps, of course, if the kids who really suck at some things are really good at others – harder for the kids who struggle at most everything. And in my case, it did cause me to think seriously as a teacher about how ‘un-co’s could get a better deal in team selection, so all positive.

    Though, kids being kids, you make the un-co captain for the day, and who do they pick? (Unless, of course, they are ‘mature’ types). Yep, the best players first! You really can’t win, LOL!

  133. Frau_Mahlzahn February 16, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    I was thinking about Ali’s post about how she picked a bilingual school for her kids, since it promises more advantages.

    It is noticable here in Europe, too, that apparently the local schools just aren’t enough for people anymore — therefore, they rather drive their kids to far away schools because they have better programms or whatever. Since most parents work, many simply pick schools that seem to have better afternoon programs. So far, so good.

    The thing from my point of view is, though, that for the advantages the other schools offer, the kids have to pay a high price: the benefits of being able to walk to school are proven (social, health, concentration ability, being able to find your way around, having friends from your neighborhood go to the same school, and so on).

    So, from my personal point of view I wonder, if better programs really make up for the disadvantages of not going to your local school.

    I’d be interested to read what other people think about that?

    So long,

  134. Emily February 16, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    @Warren–Being picked last may not be teasing, but name-calling, tripping, and hitting someone with balls, HARD, in sensitive places (nose, stomach, developing pubescent chest), is teasing. Also, there are acceptable and unacceptable ways to choose someone last. Simply asking the last person standing to join your team is fine, but fighting over which team HAS to take that person, as Hineata mentioned (which also happened to me), is unacceptable, because it causes humiliation to that person.

    @Donna–You hit the nail squarely on the head. I wasn’t saying that just one kid should get singled out and given preferential treatment for choices of recess activities; I was saying that this option should be available for everyone, because break time should be fun and rejuvenating, not a chore or an adversity.

    As for gym, though, it was never “baseball and yoga”; it was pretty much “baseball, soccer, basketball, football, volleyball, and track and field.” So, all competitive, all the time, I hated it, and since I wasn’t given any other options, I thought I disliked all physical activity. So, if the school’s goal was to get all the students enthusiastic about exercising and living healthy lives, they did the exact opposite with me. If they had to do a single-track system, but it was balanced between competitive and non-competitive activities, that would have been better for me, because instead of “ten months of hell,” it would have been “a few weeks of XYZ sport, and then we get to do something else.”

    @Hineata–You took the words out of my mouth/fingers again. If there are remedial academic classes for kids who struggle in reading, math, etc., why is there no equivalent remedial class for physical education? That’s not to say that non-competitive activities are inferior to competitive activities, but whatever you call it, it’s still a good point. If a student struggles in, say, multiplication, they’re given exercises in repeated addition, etc., until they understand. If a different student, who can multiply just fine, struggles in basketball, then that student is just forced to keep playing, often amid taunts from more-competent classmates, until they either magically “get it,” or another unit starts, and the teacher just gives up on that particular skill. But, I think it’s even MORE important to have more inclusive options for gym classes, because hey, nobody ever got heart disease or Type 2 Diabetes from being bad at math.

  135. pentamom February 16, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    Warren, I don’t think you’re reading Donna very carefully. She has said that she frequently requires her child to be outside and deal with it when there is a good reason for it. She doesn’t just let her child never go out because she doesn’t like being cold.

    What’s being said is that it’s not necessary to force kids to be outside *at recess* in order to teach them that you have to go out and deal *when it’s necessary.* Your cracks about utility repairmen not wanting to out in the cold just don’t apply to her argument.

  136. Keith Rispin February 16, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    Spotted this one and had to comment.

    On the rare occasion that we have snow for winter, I cannot get the kids in the house. They will play from dawn to dusk.

    Unfortunately I live in Vancouver so 90% of our winter(s) are rain and the kids are not big on doing casual play in that.

    They do play soccer in it 3 times a week however and the funny thing is, they HATE playing soccer in bright scorching sun.

    I think it just comes down to what your kid is conditioned to play in or… my kids are just weird?

  137. Emily February 16, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    I agree with Pentamom–“work” and “breaks” are two different things. Also, if you know, as an adult, that you’re not an outdoorsy person, you presumably wouldn’t apply for an outdoorsy job–and, there are indoor and outdoor-type jobs at every level, if you think about it. You could be a teenager working an entry-level job at McDonald’s, which is all indoors, or a world-renowned archaeologist, which of course includes a lot of outdoor field work. With kids, they don’t get a choice about whether or not to go to school, or even which school to go to, and they don’t even really get a choice about what to do during recess–it’s outside, or outside. A child not wanting to go outside at recess when it’s -20 C outside is different from a utility repair person not wanting to go outside to do their job in the same weather, because the repair person voluntarily signed up for that job, and knew the deal going in, whereas the child never had any choice. Also, even repair people get breaks, to spend as they choose, don’t they?

    Another point I forgot to mention–if a gym class, or a day camp group, or a random gaggle of kids, is playing a team sport, there are several other ways to divide the teams than by having two “captains” pick their teammates one by one. There’s numbering off (one, two, one, two…..and you can do it a bit scattered to mitigate kids positioning themselves strategically to be with their BFF’s/fellow clique members), splitting the group down the middle, boys versus girls, birth months, etc. None of these methods involve “teaching the less-adept kids a lesson” by rubbing their noses in the fact that they aren’t good at sports, and a lot of them are more efficient as well. Numbering off only takes a minute, and splitting down the middle, or boys versus girls, takes no time at all. The old-school “picking teams” method can take five or ten minutes at a time, depending on how indecisive the “captains” are, and that five or ten minutes can be pure hell for the kids who have yet to be picked, especially those who know they probably WON’T be picked until last, if at all, and will probably hear about it on the playground later. I know that choosing someone last isn’t bullying in itself, if you don’t make a big to-do about it, but I really don’t think it’s a great idea for the teachers (who are, after all, the adult role models in the situation) to use that method of choosing teams in the first place, because there are so many better alternatives.

  138. Emily February 16, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    Oh, yeah, about the “slim enough for the car seat, but warm enough for recess” winter coat conundrum, this seems like a new thing, because when I was growing up, car seat age and school age never converged. Car seats were for infants and toddlers, and most kids started school at the age of five, so there’d usually be a gap of a year or two between car seat age and school age. I started earlier, but that was because my parents sent me to nursery school–first a private one run through a church, and then a Montessori school. Anyway, I don’t even remember when my parents retired the car seat for me, but it was probably before I started nursery school, and definitely before I started kindergarten. Parents seem to be sending their kids to school, or educational day care programs, at earlier and earlier ages, either because they have to work full-time, they want their kids to have an “academic edge” before they’re even walking and potty-trained, or both. At the same time, we have car seats for kids up to 80 pounds or something insane like that, because of the increased focus on safety. It used to be that seat belts were good enough for kids past toddlerhood, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

    Anyway, I want to think that the “car seats until puberty” thing is just about safety, just like I want to think that the recent availability of Pull-Ups for school age kids is because of increased awareness about bedwetting, and not because some parents just don’t get around to potty-training their kids until they’re four or five. At the same time, though, I can’t help thinking that part of it is just about money. I mean, it makes perfect sense for companies that manufacture baby products, to try to get parents to keep giving them money for as many years as possible.

  139. Warren February 16, 2013 at 11:09 pm #

    Sorry, that you just cannot see past your own childrens dislike for the cold, wet, hot and humid.

    Schools are cancelling recess for weather, cancelling classes for weather, and buses for weather.

    It teaches and validates one thing for the child, that they then carry on later in life, that if the weather is bad……..I can sit at home and just call in. Or no I do not have to take out the garbage in this cold, or the recycling in this heat.
    We are seeing it already in the workforce.

    The latest snowstorm was proof. At my wife’s company, and with my customers in some case half of their staff called in, because the snow would make for a difficult commute. That is no excuse. You asses, adapt and overcome.

  140. Sarah February 16, 2013 at 11:48 pm #

    @Emily- she was in the dentist’s chair within about 45 minutes, and back at school with a built-up tooth that looked as good as new, less than 90 minutes after it happened. (She was extra motivated to get back to school because the 3rd graders were learning to snowshoe in the school’s oak savannah that afternoon.)

  141. Emily February 17, 2013 at 1:40 am #

    @Warren–Cancelling school for a snow day is legitimate, because if the buses can’t get to school in three feet of snow, and the parents can’t drive their kids to school in three feet of snow, and it’s clearly not possible to WALK to school in three feet of snow, then school can’t happen that day. I never took the school bus to school, because I always lived close by, so I did go to school on a few “snow days” when the buses were cancelled, but the school was still open, and I don’t remember learning anything earth-shattering on those days. Mostly, we’d just do crafts, have computer time, and possibly play in the snow, after the worst of it had stopped.

    However, the teachers made it clear that this wasn’t a precedent, and that on “normal” school days, we wouldn’t usually get to do cool stuff, like making snowstorm pictures with laundry-powder snow, or going crazy carpeting (which was more fun for me than regular recess or gym, because we had a specific, non-competitive activity to do, and with fewer people there, there was less bullying). So, those who could get to school, went to school, and were rewarded with a low-key and fun day. Those who couldn’t make it weren’t penalized, because hey, grade school kids don’t drive, and nobody can control the weather.

    In any case, I don’t think that icy, snowy roads and poor visibility are an “adapt and overcome” situation, or that someone not feeling safe driving in a blizzard is an “ass.” A missed day of work or school is one day, but a flipped car on a slippery road could be game over.

    As for recess, that’s also different from class time, or work, or chores that have to be done–recess is BREAK time for students, and it shouldn’t be an adversity, or a “lesson,” or something they HAVE to do. As myself and others have said, adults get to choose what they do during their break time at work, and so the same should apply to kids, within reason. You say that “everyone has to do things they don’t want to do,” but that’s what you tell a kid who doesn’t want to go to school at all. Recess is supposed to be a break, a reward for getting through a big chunk of a school day, and it’s no reward, no incentive at all, for a child who’s forced outside against their will, when they’d rather be reading in the library. I was one of those kids, and I didn’t learn resilience from that–I learned that my wishes, feelings, and even NEEDS (because, as an introvert, alone time has always been a need for me), simply didn’t matter. Maybe that wasn’t the message that my teachers intended, but it was the one I received, loud and clear.

    @Sarah–That’s wonderful about your daughter; both about the dentist being so accommodating as to be able to fix your daughter’s tooth and have her back at school in time for snowshoeing, and about your daughter being such a trooper about breaking her tooth, and still WANTING to go snowshoeing. Also, I think it’s cool that your daughter’s school took the kids snowshoeing–that’s exactly the kind of non-competitive physical activity that I think the schools should promote (assuming it’s not unreasonably cold when they do it), because you can’t “win” or “lose” at snowshoeing, but everyone still has fun and gets some healthy exercise out of the deal.

  142. Kelly Coyle DiNorcia February 17, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    Never mind recess – we just got a note home from school that children are being sent to school dressed so inappropriately for the weather – i.e., shorts and a t-shirt when it is 6 degrees outside – that there is a problem with doing fire drills! Seriously?

  143. Caleb February 17, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    I run a small childcare in NH based out outside activity. Getting the kids dressed, and getting the wet clothes off at lunch, and dry clothing back on after “quiet time,” is a major part of my day. I describe a very cold day, and dealing with unwilling kids, in this story called, “Tracking Bobcat.”

    And describe the clothing issue on a day when temperatures dropped from sixty to thirty in “Why Fog Hates The Snow.”

    Then just last night I was writing about how children love snow, but inspectors likely would call snow “dangerous,” in a humorous work called “OSHA Snow.”

    I just found this site, and think I’ll be a regular visitor.

  144. Emily February 17, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

    Caleb–Wow, I love your blog. You’re an amazing writer; honest, insightful, articulate, and above all, funny. Anyway, when I was in grade seven, we went on a three-day outdoor education trip to the Leslie M. Frost Centre, to learn about animals in nature through survival games, etc. We also went hiking, and snowshoeing, and built forts, and played broomball, and surprisingly, I had a blast, because for all of those activities, we had to work together and learn things that we hadn’t experienced back at school. Even broomball, which is a competitive game, was fun for me, because we were all learning it for the first time, together, so we were starting on equal footing. Also, we knew that if we misbehaved and fought with each other, the trip would be aborted, and we wouldn’t get to do any more fun things for the rest of the year. So, grade seven was probably one of my better years of school, but that was because I had a good teacher, who took us on field trips, but also, he was willing to accept me as I was. You still couldn’t pay me enough to do grade seven again, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as grade six or grade eight.

    However, after the trip, everything started to drift back to the way it was, and by grade eight, it was like it had never happened, and it was back to more of the same. But, I still remember that trip, and I even remember getting a small “award” (just a souvenir Frost Centre pin, but still), because my roommate got homesick a lot, and I just kept reminding her that she’d get to see her parents again in three more days, then two more days, then one more day, and in the meantime, we had XYZ to look forward to, and wasn’t that going to be fun? The only thing I really didn’t like about that trip was watching one of the guys at the Centre skin and dissect a dead beaver–that was gross.

    So anyway, Caleb, I’m not against doing outdoor education that way, and actually taking kids outside (in any season) and teaching them something about the natural world–I think that’s great. However, I am against sending introverted, unathletic kids outside, against their will, into a poorly-supervised environment where they get teased and bullied, and pass it off as a “break time” for their benefit. In that case, it’s probably more beneficial for the kids in question to have some down time reading or drawing in the library, etc. Besides, those kids are usually the ones who, like me, don’t need much supervision, and aren’t going to get into any trouble inside, because they just want some peace and quiet.

  145. Amy February 17, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

    For those wondering about carseats for school age children. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has created a simulation video of a child in an accident without a booster seat. Please take time to watch it. Seatbelts are designed to fit an adult, not a child.

  146. pentamom February 18, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    ” if the weather is bad……..I can sit at home and just call in. ”

    Actually, yes, if the weather is so bad that people (whether yourself or someone else) is put at a significant risk of death or injury, you SHOULD just sit at home and call in. And school should be cancelled if that’s actually an issue.

    Bearing up to your responsibilities is important, but life is not just a contest about who is toughest and never misses out on anything that gets called a “responsibility,” no matter how trivial the responsibility in comparison to the risk entailed. If your job is not critical to other people’s lives, then you should not put lives at significant risk just to show up to your job.

  147. Caleb February 18, 2013 at 1:00 pm #


    Regarding introverted, unathletic kids.

    I recognize you need different strokes for different folks. We do get a few very shy and quiet kids, and they do tend to sometimes sit under trees like small yogis.

    My wife, during the summer, has had some surprising results by having all the children pick their own place, and sit on a blanket quietly after lunch for a while, drawing or reading.

    I knew how rowdy some of the boys were, and thought they would scoff and scorn, but to my surprise my wife’s idea worked. Not only did it work, but the children were eager to show us the spot they had chosen, and point out all the things they liked about it.

    It is harder in the winter, because the cold demands kids be active to stay warm. However one child’s mother bought him an amazingly warm one-piece snowsuit, and he simply never gets cold. I see that fellow lieing on his back in the snow, dreaming at the clouds, when I myself am hopping up and down to stay warm.

    I suppose parents know whether or not their children fit our Childcare, so we don’t see the quietest children.

    However we did get a charming little girl who had spent her entire childhood in New York City, walking on flat sidewalks, attending the opera and so on and so forth, and at first she couldn’t even walk in the woods without tripping and falling down. She fell down five times while I walked with her mother as her mother checked out the grounds, before signing her daughter up. I was thinking to myself, “This will never work.” However within a month she had learned to walk in the woods, and even to hop along the top of a stonewall with other kids, so in that case I felt we had done some good.

    However in the end, every child is an individual, with needs all their own.

  148. Caleb February 18, 2013 at 1:31 pm #


    Your words here are important: “However, I am against sending introverted, unathletic kids outside, against their will, into a poorly-supervised environment where they get teased and bullied, and pass it off as a “break time” for their benefit.”

    Supervision is very important. Most “bad apples” are kids who are angry, and I am pretty good at getting into their heads and “reforming” them. I have to, or they will spoil everything for everyone else.

    I myself started school a year early, and for a couple years was smallest in my class, so I do know what it is like to be picked on, especially during adolescence. No fun at all, lots of pain, and it took me years to get over it. Supervision by adults with some degree of wisdom can make a huge difference.

  149. Warren February 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    That’s funny, because nowadays it doesn’t take 3 feet of snow, about 6 inches is enough to call off school. And when you live in an enviroment that has winters, you have grown up with winters, you get your ass out of bed early, drive slowly and get your sorry ass into work.

    My grandfather never missed work for snow, neither of my parents have and my wife and I haven’t. As a matter of fact I have set the alarm three hours early, just to shovel the vehicles out. So we can leave early. It is called work ethics and meeting your responsibilities. Something that is sorely lacking in soceity these days.

    If you live in Cuba, I can see calling in because of six inches of snow, because it never happens. In Canada, suck it up and pull your weight.

  150. Emily February 18, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    @Warren–I guess I just said three feet of snow as a random number, to give you an idea. I’ve never seen anything here in Canada cancelled for six inches of snow either (and I didn’t see snow for the two years I was in Australia), but YMMV. But, even if you did set your own alarm early to clear your driveway, by shovel or by snowblower, that still wouldn’t change the fact that the roads haven’t been plowed. So, you’d drive out of your driveway, and hit…..more snow. Even if you successfully drove to work (at the risk of your safety, if the roads are slippery, and visibility is bad), you might be the only one there. So, like I said before, missing a day of work is missing a day of work, but if you put “work ethic” before safety, and run into trouble driving in hazardous conditions, you could miss the rest of your life. I don’t think that’s worth it.

    Also, as for the “work ethic” issue, again, I think we’re derailing a bit. I never said that kids shouldn’t be taught about the concept of “work ethic,” but that doesn’t have to negate also teaching them that their break time is theirs to use as they please. So, you could tell your child, “No video games until you finish your chores and homework,” but still allow them to spend their recess at school in the library if the choose to do so. You won’t raise a spoiled brat by giving them SOME options in life, only if you let them do whatever they want, all the time. Giving the kids a reasonable range of options for recess (as in, outdoor play, library, or computers), for the small fraction of the school day that’s designated as “free time” will give them the sense that they have control over something, and not feel so micromanaged. I don’t see it as any different from giving a toddler a choice between “red shirt or blue shirt” getting dressed in the morning, because either way, the child gets dressed for the day. Besides, I don’t know any kids who NEVER move around or play outside. For all you know, the child who chooses to draw or play computer games at recess, goes skiing every weekend, or takes swimming or gymnastics after school, and simply doesn’t like outdoor recess because of noise, or crowds, or bullying, or maybe just feels like drawing that day. I was that kid–outside of school, I swam, skied, volunteered at the Y, and rode my bike and Rollerbladed around the neighbourhood when I could. I wasn’t by any means undisciplined, and I always finished my homework on time, fed the dog, took out the garbage when it was my turn, etc., but I was just an introverted, unathletic kid who didn’t like outdoor recess or team sports. Forcing me to participate in those things didn’t change anything, either–as an adult, I still don’t play team sports, and I avoid crowded situations, such as clubbing, or Boxing Day sales, but because I’m no longer ten years old, that’s okay. I didn’t grow up to be unfit or socially stunted either, but it was only because I had to unlearn everything I learned in elementary school about exercise being all team sports, humiliation, and pain, and socializization being all about conformity, which is what the teachers are essentially saying, as in, “If you don’t want to spend recess the way everyone else does, then you have Poor Social Skills, which need to be Corrected.”

    Anyway, today, I helped with a family yoga class at the YMCA, for Family Day, and everyone (kids and adults) seemed to be having so much fun, and stretching/exercising their muscles without even realizing it. It was done in a really upbeat way, acting through a story with movements, and then doing the “alphabet of yoga poses,”,and nobody was made to feel inferior for not doing everything perfectly. Instead, the focus was on participation. So, I’m happy that people seem to be figuring out how to get kids who aren’t athletic involved in physical activity, but I really wish that this collective epiphany could have happened when I was a kid.

  151. Emily February 18, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

    Oh, yeah, Warren, before you ask where I learned teamwork and co-operation and all that good stuff, I did participate in group activities that weren’t sports. So, I had Leader Corps from age 12-14 or 15, and then in high school, it was band, band executive, student government, peer assisting, morning show, and in my final year, I co-directed a play I’d written as a creative way to raise awareness about homophobia. In university, I did choir, several chamber ensembes, orchestra, wind ensemble, student government for the first two years, and I was also involved in the feminist groups at both Bishop’s and Western. All of these activities required some degree of accountability, and working together. So, team sports aren’t the be all end all magical solution for raising socially competent adults. There are plenty of other activities available so that the non-athletes of the world can be a part of something meaningful too, if they so desire.

  152. hineata February 18, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

    The other factor with rushing out in exceptionally bad weather is the bother rescue crews are put to.

    As someone else pointed out too, exceptionally bad weather is different in different places. I have heard places issues gale force wind warnings and cancel things for wind that we in the Wellington region would consider not much more than a light breeze, LOL, but as I said above, we cancelled school and many people did not go into work for a couple of days because of snow conditions that many of you would find totally laughable. I doubt that we had more than a couple of inches of snow the whole day. Simply because it is way out of the experience of most of us, and the number of minor accidents likely to ensue from our inability to drive in the conditions, the hassle to rescue services, the lack of ability of buildings to cope with icy pipes etc made it uneconomic.

    Plus the snow was so much fun!!

  153. Caleb February 22, 2013 at 4:42 am #

    This post got me thinking about the fun children miss when they are not dressed warmly, and inspired me to write a brief piece called, “Underdressed.”

    At the end of my post I left a link to this post.

  154. Kara March 6, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

    I found this post today after a disappointing interaction with my daycare this week. My 18 month old loves to be outside, so I’ve been dropping her off in daycare this winter with warm coat/boots/mittens/hat etc. A couple of weeks ago I asked my child’s teacher how much she goes outside, and she said almost never in this weather, because it’s too cold for the kids. However, I guessed that this teacher thought that the “too cold” line wasn’t really her idea, so after that, at drop off and pick up when the teacher and I would chat and ask about our weekend, I’d tell her about the outside things that we’d done. And I directly let her know that I, as the parent, was fine with cold weather playtime.

    So yesterday was a gorgeous late winter day. Big heavy snowflakes but it was warm (for a snow day). My child’s teacher bundled up my daughter and one other child and took them outside for a few minutes. My daughter and the other child loved the time outside. She showed me a photo–kids laughing at the big wet flakes. The kids were a little wet afterwards, but they were on a playground with a clean rubber surface with an awning, so they even stayed mostly dry. I thought this was totally reasonable, both weather- and age-appropriate. My child was dry by the time I picked her up that night and so far has suffered no ill effects.

    The disappointing part: my child’s teacher was reprimanded by the daycare’s management for taking my child and the other child outside while it was snowing. I’m just so frustrated with this. My child’s teacher was *responsive* to what I have told her that my child likes to do, and I didn’t ask her to do something that was dangerous or even inconvenient to the daycare, the other children (I didn’t even ask her to do this: I just told her that I support her efforts to let the kids play outside). I just don’t get this.


  1. UNDERDRESSED | Sunrise's Swansong - February 22, 2013

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