When I was a principal, it broke my heart that we had to follow rules and keep children inside when it was "cold" out. School-aged children already spend so little time outside; keeping them indoors just because of winter weather felt like such a shame.
I’ve since learned that being outdoors all year long is important to physical and mental wellness for all of us. As long as children have the right gear, health professionals agree that outdoor time in the winter is not only safe, but also healthy. Getting kids outside in the cold can help them build mental resilience — a skill that can benefit them in all situations throughout life, as well as confidence to step outside of their comfort zone, physically and emotionally. Of course, depending on where you live there could be days that are too cold to be safe, but most winter days are just fine.
In the 1970s and ‘80s, kids spent twice the amount of time outdoors than children do now. That means that our kids today have lost 50 percent of their outdoor time. Even though there seem to be so many reasons to stick inside come winter, can we really allow the winter months to cut that amount by another 25 percent just because it’s cold?
According to Linda McGurk, a journalist and author, as well as the blogger behind Rain or Shine Mamma, we absolutely don’t have to — in fact, it’s wonderful when we commit to outdoor living all year long. McGurk has spent years writing a blog dedicated to connecting kids with nature. Her book, There's No Such Thing as Bad Weather, outlines why it is so important to get our kids outdoors in all climates in a way that makes you laugh out loud. Perhaps most helpful are McGurk’s generous and useful tips on how to weave outdoor play into your child’s life — and your own.
I had a chance to speak with McGurk about her book, philosophy for outdoor time, and advice for parents. Here’s what I learned from her:
For those who do not already know you, how would you describe yourself in a few sentences?
I’m a Swedish-American journalist, author and blogger who lives in rural Indiana with my husband and two daughters, who are 6 and 9 years old. Like most Swedes, I developed a bond with nature early on in life and ever since I became a mother, passing on this appreciation for the outdoors to my two daughters has been one of my biggest passions.
Many members of the Tinkergarten community, including myself, have known you for a long time as “Rain or Shine Mamma.” Can you tell how you started that blog and how your community developed?
I started the blog in 2013 partly because I wanted to share the experiences from my outdoorsy parenting style with others, and partly because I was hoping to connect with like-minded parents. I’ve gotten to know trailblazers in the children and nature movement from all over the world, and tens of thousands of parents, educators and other caregivers now rely on my blog for tips and inspiration.