Mcrainboots crop

Gearing up for outdoor play in the rain

Our best tips and techniques

Part 1: The Right Approach

The right gear really helps, especially when temperatures are cool and rain gets heavy. But, a parent’s attitude goes a long way to keeping the whole family happy when wet.

To start, you need to know that there are some days when too much rain is just too much rain. When there is driving rain, rain that is accompanied by high winds, or rain with temperatures below 45 degrees, it just may not be worth staying outdoors for a long time with little ones. That said, a light or moderate rain in temperatures over 45 degrees can be downright delightful, if you are dressed for it.

Parents can help ensure that kids delight in wet conditions by modeling various ways to fall in love with wet rainy days—Go puddle jumping, close your eyes and let the rain fall on your face, collect some rain in a container and pour it out, draw bright pictures with soaked sidewalk chalk...the list is virtually endless. We've also found that many of us resist getting wet, but once we are wet, there is only joy on the other side. So, suspend doubt and let yourself and your little one(s) get really wet.

Part 2: Gear up (what you really need)

Layer up

winter babies wear layers

If kids wear layers, body heat stays in, air circulates and water can “wick away,” keeping kids drier and warmer. Plus, kids can shed or add layers to release or retain heat as they run around, rest, repeat.

To really do it right, you need the following 2 layers:

  • Base Layer (cotton or wool long underwear or regular clothes)
  • Outer Layer (waterproof raincoat with a hood + waterproof rain pants + rain boots)

As the temperature drops (especially if it drops below 40 degrees), the second and outer layers should get thicker and more substantial to keep kids warm.

Waterproof outer layer=the key!

  • Waterproof rain pants and rain jackets make playing in the rain endless fun. If you have a body of water nearby, waders are extra fun and allow kids to explore waterways with ease. For little ones, we love one-piece suits for rain. There are lots of brands out there, but we especially love the quality and value of Oakiwear (not to mention that they are another company started by a mom...a fabulous story!) Plus, Tinkergarten parents can use the code outdoorschool to receive 15% off when you shop at Oakiwear!
  • Good rain boots are a must. We have had great luck with Bogs (super easy for kids to put on and off) and several brands of rubber boots (“Wellies” as my UK friends call them). Our friends at Oakiwear have great choices for boots too!
  • We have not had great luck with rain hats, but find that a good hood is all you really need.

Oakiwear logo

Mittens still really help—Even if you have temperatures warmer than those up in the cold North half of the country, mittens can help little hands manage cool, wet days. A light waterproof mitten or fleece can work well, even on a rainy day.

Part 3: Learn some ways to play like the worms

floating boats

There are wonderful ways to play and learn outdoors in the rain. We’ll share a bunch of them on the site and in our winter classes. Some of our favorite examples are Friends in Low Places, What Floats your Boat and Mud Kitchen.

A few favorite FAQs and tips…

Take a lesson from Piggie and Gerald—One of our favorite books by Mo Willems is Are You Ready to Play Outside from his Elephant and Piggie series—A fun read that helps even the most reluctant explorer embrace a rainy day.

What if they get soaked, then get cold when it’s time to stop moving around?—Pack an extra pair of clothes in a ziplock or other waterproof container. As soon as the play winds down, you can go in the car, the local coffee shop or anywhere under shelter and change into dry clothes. Ahhh...

Warm them from the inside—Bring a warm, yummy drink like hot chocolate or blueberry tea (a favorite in our classes) and something tasty to enjoy outdoors. Or, make it a ritual to enjoy a warm and yummy treat when you come back indoors.

Take good care of hands—If the temperature is below 50, bring mittens or gloves for the hands, making sure they are waterproof for cold rain. If such low temperatures are so rare that you don’t have gloves, use socks! You can use them as puppets at the same time, making them super fun.

Know any place to get quality gear at a bargain?—We've had great luck with using the classifieds on our local parent listserv as well as second-hand kids clothing stores. There are also sites out there like with deals.

Please share! What tips and techniques keep you and yours comfy outdoors in the rain? Contact us to let us know what keeps you and your kids happy outside in the the wet weather.

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