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Outdoor Gear Recommendations From the Occupational Therapist: Get Out And Play This Winter

It’s incredibly important for kids to play outside, even in the winter.

So much value lies in unstructured outdoor play. Experts recommend three hours of outdoor play per day but that can be so hard for us here in New England. For one, it’s freezing and for another, it gets dark at 4:00! As a pediatric occupational therapist, I know that kids kids at school are not getting enough outdoor play as they have recess once a day for a half hour or less. 

I have fond memories of my own childhood, playing down by the beach in the reeds and on the rock jetty with friends. The only curfews were the streetlights or the dinner bell during the school week. Even though my kids aren’t in grade school yet, I mourn the loss of those types of experiences for them. 

I know the importance of outdoor play for the developing mind, body, and childhood spirit. As a mom, it shapes my parenting choices for my children in their schooling and extracurriculars. Being outdoors is a huge part of what we do as a family and it’s necessary to dress for the occasion. Keeping your little ones warm and dry will keep them (and you) going outside. Bonus: I always anticipate hearty appetites and good sleeps following all that fresh air!

Get Kids Outside and Dress the Part

No matter what season, here in New England, Mother Nature is often unpredictable. Layering is a good rule of thumb. Start with a base layer that is moisture wicking, like wool/silk, but not cotton. Next, add a middle layer like fleece or a sweater before outerwear.

My Top Picks for Outdoor Gear this Season

For the Rain:

  • Boots – Make sure they are waterproof. I love the Crocs brand, or any style that have those cute pull-on handles!
  • Rain pants – anything to protect their clothes from kneeling in a puddle to make mudpies! This year, we bought overall-style ones, which come up higher on the torso and saves their shirts when they’re carrying the mud bucket across the playground.
  • Coat with a hood – my boys have a light rain jacket and an insulated one. If you’re not sure something is waterproof  try holding your mouth up to the material and blowing through it!
  • One-piece rain suit – My son’s class all appear to wear “uniforms” of Oakiwear. They protect their whole bodies from the mud and are generous to accommodate some layers underneath. These things are seriously the bee’s knees. They have saved me from so much laundry mid-week, and I give it a rinse if it’s really bad on the weekend. 

For the Snow/Cold

  • Boots – They need to be  insulated and temperature rated for our area. Make sure they have a waterproof coating on the foot bed. Bogs and Kamik are brands that typically do the job. While good boots are pricey, they do hold their value for resale and ours have been passed down through many children. Baby Bogs are great for new walkers and toddlers. The boot shaft is short, and doesn’t come up to their knee, which can make it hard to move. Unfortunately, Baby Bogs are not waterproof, so once snow begins to melt, little feet can get soaked.
  • Winter coat/snow pants – Coats end up being such a dilemma for me. They can’t have any bulk to/from school for carseat safety, but you’ll need kids well-bundled for the elements when they get there. At our house, we separate “car coats” from “snow coats.” Sometimes we just have to do a quick change in the warm car upon arrival to the sledding hill. L.L. Bean and Lands End make “grow” seams, that allow you to add some length to the arms/legs to get through a growth spurt without buying new mid-season. For toddlers, I love one pieces – these were a lifesaver but they tend to top out at 4T. Don’t your remember the snow-bunny suits from the 80s? Can we go back to the good old days?
  • Head/neck cover – A balacava or a hat and a neck warmer is the best. Scarves are great for keeping our necks warm as adults, but are dangerous to kids on the move.
  • Mittens – I buy a multi-set pack of knit ones every season, which get left behind or fall out of the car. There is a basket of lonely singletons next to my front door, hoping to someday be reunited with their mates. Now I label everything and have instituted mitten clips to attach them to coat cuffs. Polarn O’Pyret makes waterproof shells that go over a wool or knit layer. These can also double as rain mittens.

 

 

My late night shovel assistant – sporting a balacava!

This winter, embrace the snow and cold and venture outside for some valuable vitamin D. It will help those long dark winter days go by faster to bring some more temperate weather our way. Outdoor play is a great gift that is good for our kids in the long run!

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