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Dressing for The Weather: Play Outside, Every Day

Now that are fully settled in Maine, I am going to share what has been the toughest part. I know my answer sounds like an old lady, but it has been the weather! Seriously, we arrived in June and experienced many wet/cold summer days. I was very surprised. For some reason, I was expecting moderate 70-80 degrees through at least August. Fall is here now, we are having cool to cold mornings, lovely afternoons and lower evening temperatures. Before we know it winter will be here.

I NEED outside. I start to crumble a bit if I do not get out. Fresh air, sunshine, the breeze– all of it restores and grounds me. I will NOT be able to hibernate for months. I only a Floridian for 6 years, and sometimes the lack of seasons was a bit discombobulating, but we only had days of cooler weather, not seasons. We rarely needed anything more than closed-toed shoes, socks, and a hoodie to stay comfortable.

Luckily, early in my motherhood journey I heard my Scandinavian-born family say “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”. Now that I am prepping our wardrobe for the coming seasons; I thought I would share a little bit about how we will continue our days outside following that Scandinavian wisdom I learned many years ago.

Temperature Regulation

The younger kids are the ones I am focusing on in this post. As adults we have more awareness of what our bodies are doing. We know if we run hot or cold. Younger children are still developing their inner temperature gauge. Remember when you brought your newborn baby home and was told to dress them a layer warmer than you would yourself? This still matters well into younger childhood. They lack the awareness of their temperature and dressing appropriately allows them to play without exerting energy toward temperature regulation.

If you are the type that is hesitant to opt-outside in cooler weather, have no fear. It is pretty easy following a general guideline for layering and staying dry!

Must-Haves:

  • Base Layer: Long-johns, or long underwear. This is the layer that sits next to the skin, so it needs to be breathable, soft, and moisture-wicking. I prefer natural fibers, although there are some higher-quality synthetics that serve this purpose. I like wool, or wool-silk blends. Many people think of wool as itchy or uncomfortable. It is the kind of wool you choose and wool is wonderful because it is naturally antimicrobial, it regulates temperature, is moisture-wicking and super soft next to sensitive skin. One of my favorite brands is Engel, which is a German-made product that is virgin, organic wool and hasn’t been dyed with synthetics. My kids LOVE them. I will link some other brands/shops at the end of this post.
  • Mid Layer: This is your regular, every-day clothing. Pants, long-sleeved tees, short-sleeved tees, dresses, leggings, socks, etc. Again, I prefer soft, comfortable, natural fabrics like cotton, bamboo, hemp, wool, etc. I find my kids have less sensory-type issues when dressed in comfortable, natural fabrics. I still have a memory of being uncomfortable in church and school wearing synthetic tights and I think I have vowed to keep my kids from ever experiencing that level of discomfort, lol.
  • Extra Layer: This is a layer to wear on top of your regular clothing, but is still thin enough to wear under a heavier coat/outerwear. When dressing the younger kids, think about less bulk for less restricted movement. For this layer you’ll need a light coat, vest, sweater, or fleece. Wool is great for not adding bulk, however there are some good quality fleece extra layers on the market. We are looking again for moisture-wicking, breathability so the kids do not sweat and cause them to chill. Other staples are thick wool socks (we want to avoid layering socks), hat that covers ears, mittens, a scarf or something that covers their neck. Hoods are great as are balaclavas made of wool or wool/silk blends.
  • Outer Layer : (rain/wet/mud) The gear necessary for this type of weather are waterproof boots/wellies, rain pants or bibs, a raincoat with a hood, or you can purchase full one-piece rain suits. Oaki, Kite, and Polarn O. Pyret all sell these types of waterproof suits. For hands, wool mittens and waterproof mittens are necessary. Wool mittens keep hands warm, even while damp.
  • (waterproof/snow) Winter weather requires a bit more. For this season, waterproof snow boots, snow bibs, an insulated, waterproof coat with a hood and waterproof mittens will do the trick. There are so many options and price points for winter gear. My personal preferences are Gore-Tex and high-loft down fill.

Layer, layer, layer

Now, I am going to share a general guideline for layering based on temperature. All kids are different, some run warmer than others. My daughter tends to run on the colder side, and my boys are typically a little warmer so I see them shed layers much faster. The key really is to layer and make sure the layers are easy to shed for the littles as they play and move through the day. A good rule of thumb for checking a child’s temperature is to feel their neck first, then their backs and lastly their hands.

Above 60 degrees—- mid/main layer

60-50 degrees—- base + mid or mid+extra

50-40 degrees—- base + mid + extra

40-25 degrees—- base + mid + outer

below 25 degrees—- base + mid + extra + outer

A Note on Costs

It is easy to find great quality, gently used kids gear online or in your town. I recommend higher quality brands but RARELY do I ever buy new or pay full-price. I also work in a gently-used children’s store on the weekends so I have the perk of finding these items. Kids grow so quickly and barely have time to really do damage to their seasonal wear. If you have multiple children, these items can easily be passed down through several children with normal wear and tear.

Links

Nova Natural— wool baselayers

Patagonia— down filled outerwear, synthetic base layers

LL Bean— down, Gore-tex

Bogs— winter boots and rain boots

Polarn O Pyret— a mix of all winter gear

Kidizen— online source for used children’s clothing

Mercari— another site for used children’s clothing

Patagonia Worn Wear— Patagonia’s resell site

and again your local children’s consignment store, used gear store, or even thrift stores are wonderful resources to outfit your children with all of their seasonal layers!

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A Change of Scenery

This past week has been the toughest one for us (so far) with the pandemic. In my last post, I wrote that we have kept a rhythm and worked to stay positive and uplifted, dealing with emotions, dealing with our health and keeping our family moving along.

Things shifted this week with my oldest having shorter school days. My husband is starting to go a little stir-crazy and feeling down about not being at work. Ezra needs structured activity and is rough with his sister. The walks around our suburban neighborhood are getting boring. We were losing our creative juices and were stumbling with the kids.

I’m glad that life has been virtual, but again the double-edged sword is the amount of time we’ve been spending in front of a screen. Last night Gus and I decided that something had to change. Everyone was on edge and we couldn’t quite move out of it.

When we start stumbling, my mind wants to check out. I feel guilty for not being grateful enough. We have a nice home, we have everything we need, we are safe. Instead, my mind wants to think of what I should be doing, how we should be living. Maybe it’s a farm, maybe we need to be more sustainable, maybe we need to be millionaires, we definitely need to change something major as soon as this dissipates. This is a glimpse of my stressed-out thoughts. Really all we needed was a simple change of scenery.

This morning we packed up the kids and drove 5 minutes to a 12-mile conservation area (and the trail was completely empty).

This is exactly the change of scenery we needed. I can’t believe how refreshing a few hours outside can be! We spent our time on the trail looking at wildflowers and collecting some to press and identify. We watched the birds, the butterflies and just walked and talked. Ezra ran free, got dirty and peed outside. Mira napped, and suddenly all was right with our circumstances.

Getting outdoors is one of the quickest ways to change your frequency. Getting in tune with nature can wipe out so much negativity and improve your mood. Vitamin D is necessary for immunity and health and is easiest absorbed in natural sunlight. For us, it changed our entire outlook and pace and made the rest of the day enjoyable.

Gus and I were able to recalibrate and come up with a plan to tackle this next week of quarantine. We definitely added some new trails to explore and nature schooling for these kids of ours.

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Taking a Pause: The Art of Convalescence

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Cough, cough, sniff, sniff. Those are the sounds that have been traveling through our house the past few days. I have had 2 kids down with a virus, Ezra taking the brunt of it. He has entered preschool a few hours a week this year, and it seems each Friday he comes home with something. This time, the illness truly got my attention and required me to switch my mindset a bit. Recently my focus has been on what to do to care for my sick child when the importance was truly just caring for my sick child.

I’m a great caregiver, in theory. I will calmly make sure all of the logistics are taken care of, however, truly taking time to notice intuitively what my kids needed was missing. My mind fluctuated on everyone’s¬†basic needs, the work I needed to do, and our recent sleep deprivation. Immediately, I went into “fix” mode with them. Fix the symptoms… you know, we have things to do!

I had a little ah-ha when the only thing that could console Ezra was me. I took the time to observe him, both physically and intuitively. What I realized at that moment was that he truly needed time to convalesce. Historically, this was something that was a standard for illnesses. We live in a society now where suppressing symptoms and getting back to “real life” is marketed heavily. We have “quick fixes” for everything. Yes, I believe in being comfortable and will not forgo medical care when necessary. But truly, just riding it out (even if it takes weeks) is often what we really require.

When our bodies are down, and especially when a child is ill, it is important to give space and time to truly heal. Symptoms may subside, but moving back into a hurried pace can keep the immune system weak and allow other illnesses to creep in easily. I have noticed with my kids that very often following a virus, they will have a physical or developmental leap.

The prescription I find the most helpful when we have sick kiddos is quiet time, less stimulation, and TLC. The definition of vitality is the state of being strong and active; energy. The power giving continuance of life, present in all living things. Overstimulation robs children of their vital energy. The very nature of screen time is vitality depleting, so that is something I am very cautious about allowing during illness. If I do allow screen time, we watch very gentle, calming shows. However, quiet play, books, mama cuddles, eucalyptus baths, etc are what I gravitate toward.

For me to nurture and tune into a time of convalescence, I had to release the expectations I have of myself and others and truly invite in a sense of stillness. The slower pace is necessary so the kids can replenish their vitality and do their inner work to heal. These moments are a great time to reevaluate our family rhythm and see what is serving us well and what needs adjusting so that we can all live together harmoniously and with minimal chaos.

The funny thing is, that when I spent a different kind of time with the kids I realized I was way off the mark in recognizing their needs. Ezra needed mama time, Mira needed me to loosen the reigns, and Keenan was squared away (he’s taken a lot of my brainpower lately). Every day is an opportunity to learn and grow and find new awarenesses for sure!

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Simplified Childhood Play

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The holidays are fast approaching and this time of year always makes me evaluate our clutter situation. I am one of those people who react to clutter with anxiety. I’ve been this way since I was a child and always valued order in my space.

No matter how much I try to keep up on it, stuff always accumulates and my kids are tremendous culprits of accumulation. I have always been drawn to Waldorf or Montessori type education and play environments. I really like the idea of a simplistic play area, with a few, good quality, open-ended toys.

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I truly believe children are here to play, they develop key life skills through play. They establish emotional health, intellectual health, problem-solving and social connections. I think about myself and my “clutter-anxiety” and realize that when a kid is overwhelmed in their play area they are unable to decide what to do and essentially can’t tap their natural creativity and exploration.

In today’s society, we are bombarded with advertisements and toys that are “educational” and claim to “develop” your child.  In our home, the majority (not all– we do have some noisy plastic ones) of our toys are open-ended, classic, simple toys.

I also rotate them every few months to keep the variety engaging. My kids tend are less likely to stay focused and calm when overwhelmed with things, noises, or overstimulation. I find the classic toys are the ones that are used the most and never seem to end up lost in the house, and are wonderful for teaching.

I’ve mentioned in other posts, we have a pretty nice rhythm in our home for how the days go, we also fit in time for outdoor play and take our time during the day for exploration. We try to limit the “rush-rush” feeling when going from point A to point B and we also limit screens, although they do have their place from time to time.

I know I thrive in a simplified space, if my desk is cluttered, I can’t produce optimally so I just think about how my ideal environment looks and try to bring that in for my kid’s play area.

Before I pull out the holiday decor, so I will do my winter inventory and rotation to see what is best serving the kids in their current phases. I’ll share a few of our favorite toys in the links below. Everything I am sharing is non-toxic and eco-friendly.

  1. Balance Board– This is a great one for our toddler. He can use it in many ways– to get his energy out, to make ramps for his cars or even a slide from his bed.
  2. Grimm’s Rainbow– This is a beautiful toy and handmade in Germany. It stimulates creatively, and visually and really triggers the imagination.
  3. Uncle Goose Classic Blocks– These are played with daily. They are a great size, we’ve used them to teach letters, colors, numbers, animals, or open-ended building and playing. As the baby starts to explore her world more, I’m seeing her gravitate toward these blocks.
  4. Manhattan Toy Skwish Classic– This is another that is played with daily by both the toddler and the baby. It is a teether, a rattle, teaches colors, is a ball. It covers many bases and is very sturdy.
  5. Waldorf Doll– These are wonderful first cuddle toys. They are soft, open-ended because the face is basic and not “telling” the child what the face looks like. My oldest son had a doll similar to this that was his friend for many years, and I’m glad to buy one for the youngest this holiday season.

I work to keep our toys organized in 3 baskets in a shelving unit and my rotations are at least seasonally (sometimes more often) and we have a basket of books in both the bedroom and play area that I change every month or so. These things keep our overwhelm at a minimum, and the kids active and engaged.