The air temperature today in South Dakota is -18⁰ F. The wind chill makes it feel closer to -30⁰ F. It can be challenging to maintain a harmonious classroom when children are frozen into kid-sicles every time they step outside. Travel becomes more stressful and dangerous, outdoor recess times may be eliminated completely, and some families may lack appropriate Winter clothing to keep their children safe. Regardless of where you live, we are all at the mercy of poor weather, and need a game plan to adjust accordingly. These six tips will help you beat Winter blues in the early childhood education classroom.
Plan physically active curriculum: It is recommended that children engage in active play for at least one hour each day. This can become difficult when the weather won’t cooperate. You can fit more exercise time into a child’s day in many ways. Utilize active music time such as the work of Dr. Jean Feldman. Dr. Jean uses music to teach important concepts, as well as get children up and moving. “Chair Can-Can” from the album Let’s Get Moving is extremely active, teaches directional concepts, and can be completed from student’s chairs.
Stay flexible: Children thrive on routine but it is important to be aware of the children in your classroom. Poor weather days may be a time to assess changing up the daily schedule rather than just pushing through mechanically.
Bring in visitors: If weather prevents your students from leaving the building for field trips, bring special visitors to your classroom. This will be an exciting time to break up the monotony of having to stay in the same space.
Help provide clothing: Consider asking families for weather appropriate donations. Remind families when their child is old enough to leave your program that you always accept donations and would be happy to take their hand-me-downs. This way you can always be sure to have extra hats, coats, mittens, and even snow boots on hand for a child who might otherwise go without. If your classroom has many at risk students, consider holding a coat drive. Second hand stores are also a good resource for inexpensive items to help your students.
Be prepared: It is a good idea to have a “rainy-day box” filled with activities for students to do. Many of our rainy-day ideas come in the form of theatre games, a free resource that I have written which you can download here.
A breath of fresh air: When practical, get outside even for a little while. Our guidelines state that students won’t be taken outside unless it is above 30⁰ Fahrenheit, but bundling up for a brisk walk around the playground has many health benefits. Walking in the cold can increase your energy, help you sleep better, and give a little dose of vitamin D. It also literally gives you cleaner air to breathe, as ozone levels are lower in the Winter, and it gets students out of the buildings which might not be getting aired out due to cold temperatures. Additionally, breathing cold air will help fight infections. “Cells that fight infection in the body actually increase if you go out into the cold.” Rachel C. Vreeman, MD, co-author of Don’t Swallow Your Gum! Myths, Half-Truths, and Outright Lies About Your Body and Health.
Hope is on the horizon here in South Dakota as the forecast for tomorrow shows a balmy 20⁰F. The challenge then is to keep our students from ripping off coats and running onto the playground!