Because the Children’s Farm students spend much time outside, this question become more complex. Here are some clothing considerations and suggestions which parents and teachers have found successful in the past to promote fun, safe, happy and healthy outdoor education.
YOU DECIDE: Preschool age children are beginning to want to help in some decision-making. Your child is not yet able to look at a thermometer or listen to the weather report and know whether he’ll need a raincoat or if she should wear pants. These decisions are rightfully the parents at this age. If your child needs to make a decision that morning of his/her dressing, deciding WHICH sweater or WHAT COLOR pants to wear may be a more appropriate choice to offer.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF:
HOW COLD IS IT? Check the forecast or step outside for a few seconds. A good question to ask is “what would I wear for an hour or so of yard work?” Although we keep warm with running and climbing, we also kneel in the grass, sit in the sandbox and roll down the hill. As the day warms up, the teachers may suggest the children take off a layer.
CAN MY CHILD PLAY COMFORTABLY IN THIS? Tight boots, loose shoes, skirts, bulky jackets and ill-fitting jean (too tight, too low etc.) can lead to less active involvement or frustration in outdoor activities.
CAN MY CHILD GET THIS DIRTY? Or will anyone be upset if this outfit gets paint, mud or grass stains on it?
CAN MY CHILD TAKE THIS OFF AND PUT IT ON THEMSELF? At this age, many children need help with zippers and buttons. Teachers are available to help at dressing and undressing time, however, the children are expected to begin these tasks themselves and ask for help when needed. The fewer hindrances there are, the less frustration for your child as they begin to do these things and become more independent. There’s great satisfaction and freedom that comes with being able to take care of dressing oneself and being in that first group outside; this is a goal reached in the preschool years.
IS THIS CLOTHING IN STYLE/PRETTY? Children at this age are not observant of “being stylish”. We believe that self-esteem and self-help skills are NOT enhanced by providing your child with the latest fashion. Telling a child that they need this pretty sweater or action figure shirt to be tough or brave can send the message that the child alone is not enough to handle school. Reminding your child how friendly their smile is or how strong and helpful they seem is a much more effective and age appropriate approach.
SO……. KEEP IT SIMPLE! Avoid extra laces, clips, belts, buttons and snaps that aren’t necessary. Headbands and sunglasses fall in this category as well.
CLOTHES FOR EARLY FALL AND LATE SPRING:
- Shorts are fine. If your child is unused to long grass and bareback horse riding, they might be more comfortable in light pants
- T-shirts and tank-tops are great for hot days. Send a second layer if in doubt.
- Sunscreen and bug spray need to be applied BEFORE arriving
- Shoes should be comfortable and sturdy. No Crocs, sandals or flip-flops. Shoes like close-toed Keens are fine with socks. Velcro is a good idea at this age.
- The AM classes have dew to deal with. Boots or waterproof shoes are recommended after it rains for all classes.
- Please have your child wear socks EVERYDAY. When the children go inside, we remove shoes and play in stocking feet, licensing requires no bare feet.
*Rain Gear. Please send your child in waterproof boots the day after it rains or if it’s predicted that day. Always send a raincoat and rain pants if it looks like rain- we have lots of hooks for unwanted clothes. Many boots and coats are the same so continue to label their stuff. No umbrellas, please.
*Hats and caps with a visor are a good idea on sunny days.
CLOTHES FOR LATE FALL AND EARLY SPRING:
Fall weather complicates dressing decisions because the weather can change so much between drop off and pick up. Try these suggestions:
- The LAYERED LOOK. We have hooks inside and out for jackets, sweatshirts, hats and mittens. PLEASE LABEL EVERYTHING!
- A second layer on the legs often gets overlooked. Below 50 degrees put tights, pajama pants, leggings, rainpants/windpants or sweats over or under jeans or pants on your child, AM AND PM classes.
- After a chilly, damp start the second layer can be peeled off to play indoors or as the sun warms us up outdoors.
- We will often send a reminder “it’s a 2 pant kind of weather week!”
- When in doubt……. LAYER!
- Lightweight mittens may feel good at the start of class. Be sure your child can get their fingers in all the holes of gloves before sending those stretchy gloves-they can be frustrating.
There’s a wide selection of winter clothes in children’s department stores and online which are sturdy, comfortable, warm and WATERPROOF. Stores like Fleet Farm, Play it Again Kids, Dick’s, REI, Lands End and LL Bean offer a great children’s selection (also for rain gear) for children who will be playing, rolling, sitting and sliding. Some clothes and mittens may appear warm but one snow angel or slide down the hill and they’re soaking wet.
- A company called POLARN O. PYRET based in Edina has outdoor clothes. (20% off code – LABORDAYPOP).
We’ve found the warmest and best protection comes from over the shoulder snow pants vs. the kind that pull on to just the waist like pants.
- One-piece snowsuits work well too; only one zipper to start.
- Waterproof mittens are a must. Mittens are warmer and easier to put on than gloves for 3 and 4 year old’s.
- Elbow mittens are too frustrating to pull on. The idea to keep snow out seems good but very tricky for little hands. Zippers are also hard to do for children and teachers.
- Hats should fit snuggly but not too tight or loose.
- Neck warmers/gaiters or scarves are great, especially on windy days. Again, the teachers will advise the children when it’s warm enough to shed the scarf on a hike and remind them to put it on if the temperature drops.
- Boots that don’t need to be adjusted each time are best. They go on last at Farm so they can be ready to go after they push their WOOL socked foot in and they’re out the door!
- Please leave ankle socks for fall and spring. Even with the best snow pants and boots, some snow occasionally sneaks in. Mid-calf wool socks are best.
IT’S ALL ABOUT BALANCE:
Balancing the above considerations, the available clothes for children at stores and your budget is at best a compromise. Try to choose clothes that balance the best.
Protection & Ease of Comfort vs. Putting On
- Jeans and overalls are warm and offer protection but can be tricky and frustrating to unfasten and snap when a child wishes to use the toilet themselves.
- Slip on shoes/boots are easy for the child to put on but fall off easily when running and climbing.