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Young children, the outdoors and nature
Young children, the outdoors and nature

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2.1 Weather conditions

In their study exploring how settings in England provide opportunities for babies and toddlers to engage with the outdoor environment, Josephidou et al. (2021) found that the weather was the main limitation to babies spending time outdoors. Respondents identified that when the weather was too hot, too cold or too wet this created difficulties. However, they did also acknowledge that the barrier of poor weather could be reduced by, for instance, adapting the outdoor area so it had shade from the sun and cover from the rain. They also talked about how they ensured children were equipped with the right clothes (and spare clothes) for the weather conditions.

A baby sleeping in a pushchair outside
Figure 3 A baby sleeping in a pushchair outside

In Session 1, you were introduced to the tension between bad clothing and bad weather, and now you are going to consider this idea in a little more depth. If you live in the UK, you may have come across the phrase ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing’, which is attributed to Wainwright (1973), a British walking guidebook author. Similarly, if you live in Norway you might be familiar with ‘Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlige klær’. It translates as ‘There is no bad weather, only bad clothing’ and is both a common saying and a mentality – Norway is known for its long, freezing winters and abundant snowfall. Yet despite this, Norwegian children are encouraged to spend time outside, similar to the practice that Elisabeth described in Denmark in Session 1. Abels et al. (2021) suggest that it is the general rule of thumb in Norway that ‘it is ok to let your child sleep outside when the temperature is above −10 °C (14 °F)’.

A toddler wrapped up warm sitting on a slide
Figure 4 A toddler wrapped up warm sitting on a slide

Children sleeping outside isn’t a phenomenon unique to Norway, but common across the rest of Scandinavia as well. A Swedish mother called Linda Åkeson McGurk has written a book with that common quotation mentioned above in its title: There's No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom's Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids (from Friluftsliv to Hygge). She explores how the Scandinavian concept of ‘friluftsliv’ which she describes as ‘open-air life’ plays a part in raising children. She writes about how when taking her children out in cold conditions in America, the playgrounds are deserted, demonstrating the difference in parental attitudes towards weather between US and Scandinavian perspectives. This is something echoed in Josephidou et al.’s (2021) research too; with one participant stating that ‘Parents do not want the children to go outside in colder weathers’.