Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Monthly Archives: November 2014

It’s the season I pull out the kid’s all-weather gear. Stripped off wool socks, rain boots, and insulated hooded rain jackets become common litter around our house. Keeping the kids well layered for the cold and wet weather is key in keeping them happy and appreciating nature when we go outside to play.

My father grew up in Southeastern Alaska and always tells me, “If we waited for it to stop raining to play, we’d never get outside!” Portland’s 40 inches of yearly rain pales in comparison to the 110 inches from his childhood town of Petersburg. “We grew up making time to get outdoors no matter what the elements hurled at us, especially when it was “nasty” outside.”

I want my kids to learn to weather any storm in life and there’s no one teaches this better than nature herself. Plus, there’s lots of great play to be had on rainy days. From puddle-jumping to rescuing worms, kids who adventure in every weather become adults who can appreciate and even revel in the stormier days of life.

pirate-weather

A couple things I consider when dressing my family for the wind, rain, and cold…

Layer, Layer, Layer Many layers can be as good as one big coat. They can be removed as needed. Things may not soak through as quickly. And all those layers can trap in the heat. A base layer of thermal underwear should form the foundations—options include wool and synthetics. Some wool can be itchy but Merino wool is soft, with cost-effective options outside of the more expensive brands.

Wool Over Cotton The right kind of wool can still insulate even wet—while cotton has little warming value when soaked. If you choose wool socks, they are often oversized, make sure they fit well to prevent blisters. Also, we like the army surplus wool pants—they can be scratchy but thermal underwear of softer wool helps this. Unfortunately such pants don’t come in little person sizes, but people (including me) have had luck shrinking them*.

Wind & Rain Proof Keeping the rain out with a proper rain jacket, pants and boots can go a long way towards keeping the kids outside. Not lonely does a rainproof layer let them stay dry, it also stops the chilling wind from whisking away important body heat.

Play On The goal is to always “Play On” even when a kid’s a little cold. Of course you want watch kids for any signs of shivering and getting overly chilled. But it’s an okay lesson to let our kids know they can still have fun even when a little uncomfortable. In fact, advanced training at Trackers includes learning to embrace cold and other discomforts as part of the adventure. Ironically, younger kids can be better at this than adults, especially with the right encouragement.

*Calling all pattern makers and sewers out there. If someone wants to develop kid friendly wool pants, I bet Trackers can help create an entire cottage industry.

Occasionally people ask why we root many of our camps in story and role-playing. Even some other outdoor educators have asked why don’t we just “focus on skills, STEM, or nature arts and crafts” (all good stuff) rather than the next “Disney fad” (which we don’t necessarily do).

For example, Realms of Cascadia is a role-playing adventure camp with dragons, elves, and Rangers. Zombie Survival Camp features, well, the apocalypse of the undead. While we know some of our themes might rely on a specific taste, I feel adventure through story opens up possibilities to connect more kids to nature. If becoming a wizard is the inspiration for a kid to journey outside, then they can join our School of Magic! If they love pirates, they might join our scurvy crew in the Pirates of Cascadia.

Even the story-lines for our “serious” skills camps (ha: “serious”) prove just as important. I remember as a kid how certain books sparked my passion for homesteading. Or how Hatchet inspired me to build survival shelters and explore the creek in my backyard. Story drew me out of my comfort zone, and beyond reading the pages of a book it inspired me to get outside and get into nature.

Honestly, sometimes I have a hard time encouraging my own kids to ditch the (somewhat messy) playroom and head into the great outdoors. At that point I read a bit of Lord of the Rings to Robin, Annie, and Maxine which adds a power-up for elves exploring the real forest or Hobbits harvesting chestnuts on a rainy day in Fall. So, to return to the question posed by our outdoor educator colleague(s), I feel the answer is simple: Trackers tells stories because that’s how a lot of kids, and most of us, play and learn.

As for those folks who still wonder if we’re catering to the next “Disney fad” I might recommend they just Let It Go.

Sincerely,

Molly Deis
Trackers Earth
Founder & Mom