We’ve all heard the phrase, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,” or something else along those lines. It’s heard most on rainy or especially chilly days and it is true. With the right clothing and equipment we can all get outside and be comfortable no matter what the weather and time of year.
However, it’s not that straightforward for most educators in most schools where children arrive at school each dressed differently. Some children will arrive with exactly what they need to learn and play outside in the extreme cold, heat, wind or rain. And others won’t. There are a few different reasons for this, and while they are all valid it still makes it hard to plan on taking children outside on a tough weather day.
“Where’s your coat?” Why aren’t pupils dressed for the outdoors at school?
There are three main reason why your pupils might not come to school with the kit you asked them to:
- They (or their parents/carers) forgot. It’s easily done and we have all been there. Parents and children have a lot on their minds and might not remember that it’s outdoor activity day on Wednesday for example. Some schools ask pupils to leave a set of wellies and waterproofs at school so they are always ready to go. However, this can be a big ask for many families to have to buy duplicate sets of clothes for home and school.
- Not every family can afford to buy special outdoor clothing. It’s another thing to add to the never ending to-buy list.
- Alternatively, families may buy ineffective waterproofs or warm layers that don’t do the job. While they are bringing in clothing for your programme these pupils are still getting cold and wet.
Regardless of the reason that children don’t have the clothing they need, it is frustrating for you as an educator. You want children to experience outdoor learning to the fullest and without the right clothing to be outside they often get cold, wet or uncomfortable way sooner than you’d like.
In addition, children are more likely to enjoy themselves outdoors when they are warm and dry in the winter and cool in the summer. For a child who is not used to spending time outdoors, this transition to a new space is an adjustment in itself. We want them to want to go outside, again and again. A positive experience will have a lasting impact and encourage them to keep getting out there!
Create an outdoor clothing wardrobe
The ideal solution is to get your hands on a stash of outdoor clothing for your school. That way, the stuff is right there when you need it and families that can’t afford it don’t need to buy additional items. In your school, this might translate to half a dozen sets to use when children forget something. Or it could mean a full set of outdoor clothing to kit out a whole class of children.
Here’s our (non-exhaustive) list of suggestions to fund your outdoor closet:
- Talk to your PTA or PTFA about fundraising for outdoor clothing. It’s been done before and has worked well for lots of schools.
- Apply for a grant or start a crowdfunding campaign. Have a look at our blog from a few months ago for more ideas. It’s worth bookmarking this page too from Juliet at Creative Star Learning Ltd. It is regularly updated and has an extensive list of grants across the UK for outdoor learning and play.
- Reach out to outdoor companies and ask about discounts for clothing for schools. If you have a budget or have raised enough funds to buy some gear this is a good way to make the most of the money. Lots of companies offer bulk discounts for schools and nurseries. Some companies are even willing to make a donation, especially if they are local to your area.
What do you need?
Every school is different and each site looks different too. Think about the school trips that take place. Consider what clothing could benefit trips and outdoor learning as you decide on the items you want. Here are some general ideas that work well across the age range of school-aged children.
Early Years and Foundation Stage, KS1 and KS2
- Wellington boots (or waders if you have a pond, river or lake nearby to use) to keep feet dry. Even if your site doesn’t get muddy it will get wet!
- Puddle suits: All in one puddle suits are great for young children because there are no gaps around the waist for water or mud to sneak in. They can usually go right over children’s regular coats or jackets too to keep them warm as well as dry.
- Hats: A good winter hat goes a long way. Many children will wear a warm hat to school but just in case they forget it is a good idea to have a few spares to hand.
- Gloves: Some spare, dry sets of gloves are helpful.
- Spare socks: There is always one (or two or three) children who will do an extra big jump and end up with puddle water in their boots! A clean, dry pair of socks will be just what they need at the end of the session.
KS3 and beyond
- Wellington boots (or waders): No matter how old we get, a good pair of wellies make being outside on rainy days a lot better!
- Walking boots: Depending on the trips and activities that your pupils undertake you may find sturdy walking shoes to be helpful.
- Waterproof jackets: Good quality rain jackets will enhance your pupils’ outdoor learning experiences.
- Fleece or insulated jackets: Not all children will have a warm winter coat or jacket and it is often useful to have some on standby particularly in the depths of winter.
- Waterproof trousers: In heavier rain and/or during physical activities in nature there is a lot of value in having a set of good quality, heavy duty waterproof trousers. Pupils can get down on the ground and sit on wet logs for starters. They also protect school uniforms.
- Gloves and hats: If you are planning to be out for a long time in the winter it is a good idea to keep spare hats and gloves nearby.
- Spare socks: Keep a couple of spare pairs to hand for the pupil who gets water in their waders or gets chilled through.
Storing and looking after your outdoor learning outerwear
Space is typically limited in schools so you may have to get creative to store your outdoor clothing properly. Consider a dry, warm place so that wet clothing can completely dry out. Anything stored in a damp room or that gets put away before it is dry will get mouldy and may become unusable.
Lots of schools keep their wellies outside and under cover. They are stored upside down on a rack so they can air out, plus this prevents mud being dragged into the school. That being said, wellies that are wet on the inside will need to come in to fully dry out in the winter time.
The right outdoor clothing will make outdoor learning enjoyable and more plentiful throughout the year. As we move into this autumn and winter and approach the colder months you will notice the difference when children are comfortable in the elements. There are ways to apply for funding and support to stock your school with the right equipment. Take a minute to have a look and send us a message with any questions. We might just be able to signpost you in the right direction.