Welcome to Joyful Toddlers!

This space is about increasing our enjoyment of the young children in our lives through concrete action and by adjusting the lens through which we view them. My work comes out of LifeWays, which is inspired by Waldorf education. I welcome your comments, and questions about increasing your enjoyment of the children in YOUR life.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Dressing for Snow


With snowy weather on the horizon or outside your door, the idea of getting kids dressed to play outside can be daunting. “Is it really worth it?” you wonder to yourself. “We'll probably end up spending more time dressing and undressing than we will outside. Maybe we'll just stay in today.”

Well, take it from me: IT'S WORTH IT!!!! If you think dressing one child, or even two children, to go outside it more than it's worth, just remember that I spent my first three years of teaching at Boulder Waldorf Kindergarten with EIGHT toddlers and one assistant. And going outside was always worth it. Even when it didn't seem like it would be worth it, it was always worth it. Even when it meant dressing eight 1- and 2-year-olds in a row, it was still worth it (although we'd usually split them up, and do four outside before lunch, and four outside after lunch).

Why do I think it's worth it? Here are my reasons:
  1.    Children thrive on being outside. Although it can take them awhile to get used to cold or snowy weather, if you do it every day, they will get used to it and really learn to enjoy it.
  2.    Being outdoors in the cold takes lots of energy. Using that energy has the dual benefit of helping a child grow hale and hearty, and it uses up a big portion of energy so they can be calm when they come in. When children have had the chance to play outside for a significant portion of time in the morning, the rest of the day goes so much more smoothly!
So, how did I have the patience to dress so many children for outside play in snowy weather each day? Well, a turning point came to me when I stopped viewing dressing for snow as a means to an end (getting outside), and started looking at it as an activity that could be a useful and even enjoyable; an activity in its own right. That new lens completely transformed my experience of getting ready to go outside. I stopped rushing and I slowed down. I looked at children learning to dress themselves as a real skill that was worth taking the time to learn. Look at all the gross-motor skills involved in putting on snowpants or a jacket! Look at all the fine-motor skills involved in zipping up a coat or putting on mittens. Look at how proud a child is when she is finally able to get her boots on all by herself!

If it takes twenty minutes to get ready to go outside, who cares? You don't mind if it takes twenty minutes to do an arts-and-crafts project, or to bake a cake. In fact, twenty minutes is a great amount of time for an activity! And children love it just as much as an arts-and-crafts activity, if you put the same sort of fun and delighted energy into it that you do into arts-and-crafts. They love all of the direct attention that you're giving them if you're watching and helping just as little as is needed to help them get to the next point. They love your encouragement as you watch them struggle to put on a boot and you say, “You can do it!” and they love the feeling of accomplishment when they can. So if it takes twenty minutes to dress for going outside, and then it's so chilly you can only play outside for fifteen minutes, that's OK, because while dressing warmly is necessary for going outside, it was a great activity in its own right.

There are a few things that can help dressing for snow become an enjoyable activity. The first one I already mentioned: Slow Down! In order to be able to slow down enough, make sure that you have a comfortable place to sit, on a stool or a cushion, or even a piece of carpet. Also, if you're going slowly, be sure to put your child's jacket on last (after boots and hats and even mittens, depending on the style) so they don't overheat. Another tip: as you change your attitude towards dressing for snow, and you're viewing it as a chance to let your child develop her gross-motor and fine-motor skills and to bond with you, consider putting your child's clothes on in the same order, and the same way, each time. Children learn through imitation, and when you do things in the same order and the same way each time, they can start to pick up each piece for themselves. My suggestion is for snowpants first, then boots, then hat, then mittens, then jacket. A way to make this routine fun can be to sing a little song or say a little rhyme for each part. For instance, one LifeWays provider I know tells a story of a train going through a tunnel for each leg going into a pair of snowpants. Each leg chug-chug-chugs as it goes through, then a triumphant Toot-toot! When it appears out the other side. And another teacher I know has a sweet yet informative song for putting on mittens: “Thumb in the thumb-hole, fingers all together. That's how we dress in cold and snowy weather,” she'll sing.

In fact, after you start dressing in this new way, your main problem may be that your child always wants to dress in this style, leading to upsets when you're in a rush and don't have twenty minutes to spend getting out the door. My suggestion for this is to have two styles of getting ready to go outside: the fun way, and the fast way. Let your child know which they can expect as you go over to the door. “Normally you love getting ready to go out the fun way, but today we're going to the doctor, so we'll get ready the fast way instead. You'll sit down on your little changing chair and I'll zip-zip-zip you right into everything.” Then, when you're dressing them as fast as you can, make fast zip-zip-zipping sounds with each movement, stopping every once in awhile to smile at them or give them a kiss.

So, give it a try, and do your best to get outside for at least a little while each day. If you get into this habit, you'll be amazed at the end of the winter how competent your little one can be.

Warmly (no pun intended!),
Miss Faith

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  1. This is funny that I am reading this now because we just came in from playing in the snow! We took our one year old twins to see snow for the first time and yes it did take a while to get out the door (it always does anyway!) but they loved it! Now they are kinda mad though because they didn't want to come in but they are at the tail end of a cold so we only allowed them 10 minutes to play. I definitely agree that playing in the snow is worth the effort!

  2. this is illuminating! i look forward to shifting my attitude and 'goals' for our outside time. thanks for the spin on what can be difficult sometimes! The posts on this blog are really helpful. thank you!

  3. Do you have any tips for going for walks with 1-2yr olds? We live in town, so we try and take a walk around the block, staying on the sidewalks. I take care of 2-3 toddlers at a time and lately (as they have all become determined walkers) it's difficult to keep them all safely together when we go for a walk. None of them want to be in the stroller or wagon, so I'm trying to figure out how I can make this work. For now, we've been staying in the yard, but I miss our walks!

  4. One thing you could try is to attach thick colored ribbons about 18 inches long (or whatever's appropriate) with loops on the ends to your wagon, spaced out along the sides. Each child has a special ribbon of a certain color that he or she must hold on to. If he forgets to keep holding the ribbon, he'll have to go in the wagon for a little bit. After about 30 seconds, ask if he's ready to walk again, holding the ribbon. They should get the hang of it pretty quickly. If you have one child who takes a little longer to learn, have her sit in the wagon a little bit longer each time she forgets, or she even might have to stay in the wagon for the rest of the ride. She'll get another chance to walk next time.

    Here's another idea that's a little advanced for ones and twos, but with twos and threes you can do a game called Star Child: you walk along together, and randomly you call out, "Star Child!" and all of the children make a 'star' with their bodies: feet apart and arms out to their sides. They have to stay in this position until you say, "Star Children may walk." Play this a LOT in your yard till they really get the hang of it, then you can use it on your walks as a way to get children to stop where they are and wait for everyone to catch up.

    Another thing you might be able to do with ones and twos, depending on the children, is to say, "You may all go to the big tree." They can run to the big tree and wait for you (and any very tiny ones) to catch up. Then you get there and touch each child on the head to 'release' them, then say, "Now, you may all go to the fire hydrant." Again, this is a game that you can play in your yard to practice. Then at snack one day, use the method I describe in the post "using imagery" to describe how things will go when you talk your walk. And maybe the first day you only go to the end of the block and back, instead of all the way around.

    Good luck! You'll be happy to get your walks back!

  5. We don't have snow here in Melbourne where I live so going outside in winter doesn't take us nearly as long to get ready. BUT we do have a similar thing happen in reverse. In sumer we need to slop on plenty of sunscreen every time we go outside, which with small children can certainly be a time consuming operation.
    Donna :) :)

  6. More thoughts on snow @www.TheMotorStory.com: http://www.themotorstory.com/The_Motor_Story/Blog/Entries/2011/1/12_Family_Activity_of_the_Week__Sledding.html

  7. That was a fun article! Thanks, Jill. I'll post it on the Joyful Toddlers Facebook page, too.

  8. Thank you for the reminder that getting ready to go outside can be a fun time together and not a chore. We live in central Ontario Canada and our winters are long, cold and snowy. We go outside almost every day unless it is below -15 and I have been starting to dread this time each day........tomorrow I am looking forward to making it more fun and making sure I allow lots of time for it. Thank you for such an encouraging blog.

    Blessings, Sharon
    Tree House Preschool Daycare