You’ve just enrolled your child in a nature-based school. You already know that children who get adequate outdoor time are healthier, happier, and smarter. With the emergence of forest kindergartens, programs such as 1000 Hours Outside, and books like There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather, the message is clear. Children need more time outdoors. Incorporating outside time into the school day is one of the easiest ways to do this.
Now all you need to know is how to dress your child. Especially in Massachusetts, where residents experience a wide variety of temperatures over four intense seasons.
Fitzgerald Community School (commonly called Fitz) is a nature-based school located in Northborough, MA. Fitz kids experience 2-3 hours of outdoor learning per day. Only the most severe weather prevents learners from going outside.
At Fitz, children have several outdoor play and learning areas. The Playscape is a playground-like environment, complete with a mud kitchen, sand pit and climbing structures. The outdoor classroom is a semi-enclosed structure that provides some protection from the elements. The school building abuts a wooded area, where Nature’s Classroom provides space for outdoor learning. Children hike and explore in the woods and wetlands according to what is considered age-appropriate risk-taking. This allows for a truly immersive natural experience.
One of the first questions new families ask is how to dress for this unique education. There are two general rules no matter what the weather is. The first is – don’t wear your nice clothes. Between art projects and outdoor learning, clothes get messy. The second is – wear comfortable clothes. Learners engage in whole body learning and exercise throughout the day, so it’s important to be comfortable.
Beyond that, clothing suggestions are seasonal. Below you will find recommendations for all four seasons.
With Autumn comes colder weather, and more rain. A typical Fall outfit consists of pants and a long-sleeved shirt. On rainy days children should come equipped with breathable rain pants, a waterproof jacket with a hood, and boots. Rain pants come in three variations – pull-up, bib-style or full-body. Bib-style and full-body rain gear prevents puddle-jumping kids from splashing water onto the chest area. However, this style can be more difficult to put on and get off. The pull up style rain pants make for easy dressing. This is helpful for bathroom breaks and learning to dress independently. Brands such as L.L.Bean, Oaki and REI make rain gear for kids.
A medium-warmth jacket is usually appropriate for this time of year. Many parents opt for one or two waterproof, insulated and hooded jackets that can be worn on both rainy and dry days.
Shoes are important so that learners are comfortable during activities and outdoor play. Comfortable sneakers or hiking shoes are appropriate for dry days. On rainy days waterproof boots are needed. Neoprene boots such as Bogs are family favorites. Neoprene is a type of rubber that makes boots waterproof and extremely durable. Manufacturers of neoprene boots for children include Bogs, Muck, and Oaki. These boots are usually waterproof, insulated, and easy to pull on and off. They can be worn as rain boots, snow boots, and even on warm, rainy, summer days. They are the rare piece that could be used all year round.
During winters at Fitz, children sled, play in the snow, and explore things like animal tracks outside. The Playscape stays open and well-used.
The number one suggestion for this time of year is to avoid cotton next to the skin. Cotton is a poor insulator, and holds moisture from sweat close to the skin. Fleece, wool and polyester blends are suitable as a first layer of clothing during cold winters. Snow suits are a necessity. It is important that snow pants and snow jackets are waterproof to keep cold and wet out. As with rain gear, snow pants come in bib style or pull-up. The bib provides an extra layer of warmth to the chest but is more difficult to get on and off.
On winter days, outfits such as fleece lined pants and warm winter top are appropriate. Children should bring in snow pants and heavy jackets for outdoor play. It is important to pay extra attention to hands, feet, and head during the winter. Wool-blend socks are useful for keeping feet warm. Insulated and waterproof boots keep feet warm and dry. Many winter boots are now rated for temperature. Boots that are rated for wear in temperatures below 0 degrees Celsius are recommended. Waterproof gloves and winter hats keep hands and heads warm.
On extremely cold days (when temperature is below freezing) consider adding a base layer. Base layers are typically made of wool or a synthetic material such as polyester or spandex. Base layers provide moisture wicking and warmth from the inside. They are usually form-fitting, and are worn underneath clothes as the first layer. Dressing in layers allows children to add or remove clothing based on their own comfort level. On days below 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit), mittens are recommended over gloves.
Spring at Fitz is a great time to learn outside. Clothing varies depending on the weather. Sometimes winter gear is still appropriate. Eventually the snow starts to melt and there is a lot of mud. Waterproof boots get a lot of use during Spring. Some children even like to bring an umbrella.
Winter jackets are usually worn through March. After that, spring jackets with rain gear when necessary are the norm. Spring is a good time of year to dress in layers. Mornings may be chilly while afternoons are sometimes hot.
School is out for summer, but Fitz offers summer camp programs. Shorts and t-shirts are worn. Learners often engage in water play, so a bathing suit and towel are needed. Some parents pack bug spray, sunscreen, and hats for outdoor play.
To summarize, dress children in comfortable clothes that you don’t mind getting messy. When in doubt, dress kids in layers. Come prepared with rain or snow gear on wet days. Use the graphic below as a guide.
Are you looking for a school with a nature-based curriculum in central Massachusetts? Contact us today for more information!
Fitzgerald Community School is a nature-based school located in Northborough, Massachusetts. Fitz provides accredited education for preschool through grade 6. Fitz serves families from all over central Massachusetts, including Westborough, Grafton, Sutton, Northborough, Marlborough, and Shrewsbury.