Did you know Scandinavians have a saying, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing?” Yesterday, we had our first snow in Chicago, and the zoo was filled with mixed emotions. Some coworkers forgot how long it took to defrost their windshields. Pavel, the Amur tiger, was THRILLED to lie out in the snow and catch flakes on his whiskers. “Bad” weather is subjective, but when it comes to nature play, we definitely agree with the Scandinavians: There is no bad weather, only bad clothing!
How many times have you gotten ready to leave the house only to realize you were not prepared for the weather outside? It happens to me all the time! I often walk to work and realize that I am not bundled up or rain-proofed enough. It takes a lot of work and a lot of layering to head outdoors when the sun is missing and the temperatures have dropped. Add little ones into the mix, and you’re in for double the preparation! It can feel like too much effort is required, but the easiest way to have fun outdoors is to be prepared.
Put aside all those preparation thoughts for a moment, and think back to when you were growing up. Snow days were full of excitement and exploration! School would be cancelled, snow pants would go on, and you’d stay outdoors for hours, building forts and tossing snowballs at friends. Rainy days offered all sorts of new sights! There were puddles to hop in, worms to hold, and leaves drenched in cold, refreshing water. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to experience those moments with your toddler?
At LEAP, we always take the weather into consideration. There have been multiple classes where we’ve rushed our stations inside because the rain picked up. While we’d love to stay outdoors all the time, your comfort is our first priority. Having class in the Children’s Zoo is our favorite, because we can have indoor AND outdoor stations, allowing LEAPers to play where they feel most cozy!
We’d like to challenge you to step outside of your weather comfort zone. Here are a few tips and tricks for making the most of Chicago’s unpredictable weather:
- Steer clear of cotton socks. Cotton traps water, making wet feet feel miserable for longer.
- Bring out some old pots, pans, and whisks to create your very own mud kitchen!
Extreme cold or snow?
- Thermal socks and a hat! It sounds simple, but we often forget that most of our body heat escapes through the top of our head and the soles of our feet. Making sure these areas are toasty will help extend your outdoor time.
- Bring black construction paper outside to collect snowflakes. Grab a magnifying glass to explore the unique patterns!
- Blow bubbles outside in the cold. They’ll last longer and you might even see some crystals form!
- Drench a few bandanas in water and leave them in the freezer. When you’re ready to play outdoors, bring your frozen bandanas in a Ziploc bag. Drape them over your little one’s neck for a quick cool down.
- Water painting! This is especially fun when the temperatures are high. Your designs will begin to evaporate as you work, changing right before your eyes and providing a new, clean palette for painting.
- Bring a scarf along to block the breeze! Scarves can be wrapped and tucked in so many ways. Plus, it’s nice to have something to cover little ones’ noses and mouths when the winds pick up.
- Make your own wind chime with materials you have lying around the house. Explore different sounds made by different materials!
- Have a treat on hand, like juicy popsicles for the heat or tomato soup for the cold. Enjoying a treat together is the perfect follow-up to an outdoor adventure.
Want to learn more about nature-centric life in Scandinavia?
- Check out Lina Akeson McGurk’s book, There's No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom’s Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids.
Now, put on your jacket, grab a scarf, and head outdoors with your little one!
Written by Nicole Filippone