Cancel Recess If Some Kids Are Shivering?

Hi Readers — As a gal who is ALWAYS shivering, and wears a million layers, and did not particularly love recess back in my Chicago youth — but who has come to wholeheartedly endorse outdoor time now — I feel bad for the kids in this county:

Dear Free-Range Kids: Question for you about outdoor/indoor recess policies.

I live in Montgomery County, Maryland, where it is rarely below 25 degrees by the middle of the day. And yet, there are many days when the elementary school kids have “indoor recess” (which means that they sit in their classrooms). A friend of mine started a petition  (see: http://www.facebook.com/pages/MCPS-Parents-Support-Outdoor-Recess-in-the-Cold/164312570280330 and http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/MCPS-Parents-Support-Outdoor-Recess/) to encourage the County to send kids out even when it’s cold.  (Let’s be clear: this is Maryland: we’re talking about days when it is in the upper 20s/low 30s and sunny–or even overcast).

Last night at a PTA meeting we brought up the subject with the principal and got into a surreal discussion in which a few parents noted that “perhaps boys need to go out for recess, but when my daughter goes outside in the cold, she shivers.” It occurs to me that we’ve reached a really strange place where “shivering” is considered remarkable (and upsetting) enough to note in a public meeting. And the implications that only boys need exercise/run-around/non-programmed educational time during the day is simply appalling to me. The principal noted that her para-educators (who staff recess) go outside in the morning to make sure it is “comfortable” (her word). When I asked why they couldn’t still go outside even if it wasn’t “comfortable,” she said it was her job to keep the children safe. She was not able to articulate (at least to my satisfaction) what was “unsafe” about going outside when it’s cold outside, given that the children are wearing coats and hats (or they could be, if they actually went outside).

So here’s my question: Do you have (or know where I could find) any data showing what school systems around the country have in terms of “go outside for recess in the cold” policies? I think it will be helpful as we pursue this conversation to have some information that isn’t simply anecdotal (i.e. I’m from Wisconsin and we went outside all the time).

Thanks for any insights you & your readers might have. All best, Sarah

Sarah — Someone did send me this USA Today piece on the differing policies about temperature and recess. But maybe some readers have other good ideas on how make your county (and principal) understand that recess is important. Let us know what transpires! I am shivering (per usual) in anticipation. — L

 

 

 

 

Hooray for recess! (But put some pants on, kid!)

 

 

 

 

 

164 Responses

  1. In Madison, WI, they send them outside as long as it’s above 0 (including wind chill). If they don’t have snow pants, they aren’t allowed to play on the snow mountain, though, b/c (my guess) the teachers don’t want to have to deal w/ miserable kids w/ wet pants for the rest of the day.

    I wouldn’t either, of course!

  2. My school district (Rochester N.Y.) is not the one to talk to — it is a battle just to get some teachers to take the kids outside in NICE weather, let alone in (admittedly cold) winter.
    But I visited State College, Pa. recently and was told the kids go outside almost all winter; so maybe you can check with them!
    Good luck

  3. I think this is the time to introduce the concept of the polar-bear mom – just as a contrast to what’s written above:
    http://www.activekidsclub.com/fresh-air-living/feature/tiger-moms-vs-polar-bear-moms.html

  4. Here in Fairbanks, Alaska they go outside unless it’s below -20. That’s 20 degrees below zero. Your warned to simply dress kids appropriately. We have no cut off temp for canceling school. In the six years I’ve lived here I’ve never seen school cancelled for weather reasons.

  5. When I taught, and where my kids go to school now, (South Jersey) the general rule is usually, they go outside until it dips below freezing. Don’t know if that is what you are looking for, but that is what the schools do around here.

  6. Montgomery County is home to one of the country’s best girl’s Ice Hockey teams ( http://www.pridehockey.com/ ) with one of their players also on the USA U-18 team that recently won the world championships in Sweden. Maybe they can put on clinics at the local schools to show what girls are capable of when they tough out the cold😉

  7. Oo-oo-oo-ooh! shivering. Dangerous.

    It’s a lot more dangerous to be indoors on cold days, with the heating running and all the germs happily incubating…

    I am a super cold person, very nesh, as we say here. But I have a coat, and a hat, and some gloves. When I was in school they had two large shelters, (3 walls and a roof) if it was raining very heavily or there was a blizzard going on, we could play in there. When we complained about the cold, the teachers would say, “run around, jump up and down!”
    I can only remember one overweight kid at my primary school…

  8. My daughter’s school (private, MA) sends them outside unless it is below 20 (which seems perfectly reasonable to me). If you didn’t send your kid with appropriate clothing for the weather, they will keep her inside and tell you to send better clothes next time (which also seems reasonable to me).

  9. Here is the exact policy from my elementary school’s 2009-2010 handbook. I think it speaks for itself (for background, my hometown is in extremely Northern Minnesota)

    Weather Policy

    Listen to local radio stations in Roseau for information pertaining to the closing of school on stormy days during the winter. Emergency closings of any kind will always be announced over the radio. We also have some operating guidelines we follow when taking students outside for recess during the winter or during rainy days in the spring or fall of the school year.. If the combination of temperature and wind chill is at or exceeds -15 Degrees we keep the students in for recess on that particular day. An example would be a day where the outside temperature is 0 Degrees and there is a wind chill of -15 would indicate that we would be in on that day. Another example would be the following: 15 Degrees above zero and -30 wind chill would equal a -15 degree condition and we would stay in. Conversely, if the temperature was 20 degrees with no wind chill we would go outside at recess on that day. When all is said and done we end up keeping the students in approximately 8 to 12 days per school year at recess for either severe winter or extremely wet and/or rainy days. Within reason, we try to get our students outside when the conditions are appropriate in terms of temperature, wind chill, and precipitation conditions.

  10. Oh, I forgot–they *don’t* send them out if it’s raining. I can kind of see that–too hard to make sure kids have rain pants–but it annoys me nonetheless.

  11. I hated being forced to go outside as a child, especially when it was cold, and loved it when we had wet break and got to stay indoors. Children shouldn’t be STOPPED from going outside when it’s cold if they want to, but *especially* when it’s cold, they should be given the choice.

  12. I’ve taught in various places around the country. When I lived in Texas kids weren’t allowed to go out if it was below 40 (which rarely happened) , In Colorado and here in MI the rule is 20 degrees with wind chil, and the rule is flexible based on how it actually feels that day. I’ve seen kids cheer indoor recess, because they don’t want to be out in the cold. In all places they of course are not allowed to go outside if it’s wet. In all of the schools I’ve worked at the kids still get some sort of free time to play even if they don’t get to go out for recess and provided the kids get PE more than once a week that’s fine. It’s when the kids only have gym once a week and they’re expected to be quiet at lunch and indoor recess that you get a proble,.

    The actual temperature guidelines are going to vary based on where in the country you live. Kids in South Texas aren’t as prepared for or as acclimated to the cold weather (and don’t have heavy coats and boots and sweaters ect. . . ) as kids are that live in northern regions. It also doesn’t get as cold so the number of days they’re kept inside is small.

  13. I don’t know about policy statistics, but at my son’s daycare & preschool, even the INFANTS go out if it’s above 20 degrees and not pouring rain.

    Then again, we live in Minnesota. “Cold” has a different meaning here, and the cold season lasts a whole lot longer.

    And anyway, how are kids supposed to take part in winter sports if they can’t go out in below freezing weather? Seriously! Hockey, skiing, ice-skating, etc. all require cold temps, and here at least, very young children participate in those sports.

  14. There are a couple of really freerange schools in Washington State (on an island but I forget the name). Do some research on that – they are pre-schools, early ed, and the kids do almost ALL of their lessons out door, rain or shine!

  15. I am not up to date on recess rules here (in the snow belt), but last I checked, kids went outside most every day.

    My kids’ preschool does not usually take the kids out if it’s very cold or snowy. They schedule some snow play days, but mostly they just stay inside because the parents don’t all bring the required outerware. But, they have a play area indoors with climbing equipment, balls, etc., which isn’t that much different from the outside play area (except for the “fresh air”). So they still get to blow off some steam just as often.

    I would not mind “indoor recess” during inclement weather if it meant playing in a gym or some other large-muscle activity.

  16. Hereabouts (near Anchorage, AK), policy is recess goes on until -10F. Or if it’s too icy out.

  17. Our kids haven’t had a proper recess in weeks. I wouldn’t mind if the kids at least had some activity in the gym, but it sounds like they are mostly drawing at their desks.

  18. At my son’s elementary school in Minnesota, the kids go outside as long as the temperature (including wind chill) is above zero.

  19. http://www.idph.state.ia.us/hcci/common/pdf/weatherwatch.pdf

    I work in childcare in Illinois. We use this chart as a guide. & i log online to check weather.com

  20. From Olathe, KS The policy at our school which I think is the same for the whole district.

    “Recess times are scheduled during the day for learners’ enjoyment and physical activity. It is expected that all students will participate. At the beginning of each school year, teachers review safety procedures and rules of conduct for the playground.

    Temperature: The temperature of the air, wind speed, relative humidity, and amount of sunshine all effect whether the normal recess schedule is maintained. The following wind chill index is used:

    Outdoor recess ——14 degrees or above
    Limited recess———9 degrees or above
    Indoor recess———-8 degrees or below

    Condition of the Playground Area: Due to children’s safety, the amount of snow and ice may prohibit the use of the playground even when the temperature warrants outside or limited outside recess.

    Appropriate Student Dress: Attire is another factor that affects the normal recess schedule. Particularly during cold weather, gloves/mittens, hats and boots are encouraged. If a student should come to school without clothing appropriate for the weather, the building staff will determine the appropriate course of action, dependent upon the conditions. “

  21. Outside for a full recess @ 10 degrees and higher.
    9 and below…inside gym.
    Northern Indiana in the mid 80’s early 90’s

  22. My child attends school in Howard County, MD and they are going outside for recess. The official policy is that they go out as long as it’s 20 and above (windchill is factored in as well) and every child must wear the coat/gloves/hat they wore to school that morning. They only stay inside when there’s a storm, or the forecast says one is coming due to the dangers of lightning.

    I find it to be a reasonable policy, and yet some parents here complain about the school “making” their children go out. Sad thing is, in most cases the complainers children want to be outside as much as their classmates.

  23. At my kids’ school in central Indiana, they go outside if it’s not raining and the wind chill is above 20F. If there’s snow on the playground they have “blacktop only” recess, which just forces the kids to figure out other things to do (they bring out chalk, balls, and jump ropes). They (the administrators) are pretty wimpy though, about the temperature. Teachers don’t like recess duty in the winter. We generally drop kids off outside with the same guidelines so they can run around before school, but I’ve noticed that it’s been indoor drop-off almost every day since before winter break.

    At the preschool where I work, we take everyone who can walk outside if it’s above 20 with the wind chill. I warn my parents to bring rain gear and appropriate winter gear. We have extras in the classroom. I’ve found that most kids don’t get to puddle jump anymore, so I take the kids out if it’s not thundering. How will they learn to remember their coats if they don’t know what being cold or wet feels like? At our school we don’t even force them to wear coats if it’s above 45 degrees (though we will go back in to get the coats if someone decides they made an unfortunate choice).

    Some schools with high free/reduced lunch statistics don’t go outside as much because those students may not actually own a coat. Most schools try to provide them, but that’s not always possible. Rather than making it obvious who can’t go out, no one does on questionable weather days.

    I’m pretty sure there are several good studies that show that kids who get movement during the day retain what they learn better. Maybe someone has some links tucked away they could share?

  24. At my elementary school, there was a plowed blacktop area and an unplowed area where the soccer fields were. The rules were different for kids who had snowpants than those who didn’t; no proper gear, no going in the snow. Also, any students who felt cold were allowed to ask a teacher to let them in.

    Why not make a new policy: students sent to school with hats, gloves, etc. are allowed the choice of playing outside?

  25. Oh my word…I live in a very cold and wintery Canadian city. Our typical winter weather could range anywhere from -20 to -40 degrees celsius, and we rarely got kept in at recess. I *think* the line was drawn around -30 degrees. Haha, and as I write this comment there’s a commercial on TV talking about how we, as Canadians, do everything in the cold.

  26. Our school in Minneapolis has the same policy as Anne’s: kids go outside unless the thermometer is below 0F. Everyone, K-8, plays outside before school til the bell rings (that’s as much as 25 minutes, depending on when their bus arrives). After lunch the elementary kids have to go outside and they let the 6-8th graders decide whether to go out or play in the gym.

    I hope that if my kids complained about shivering, a teacher would advise them to dress more appropriately.

  27. Check out policies in Colorado. When we lived there, kids of all ages went outside for recess almost all the time (as long as they had proper cold weather gear with them).

  28. Here in Grand Rapids, MI, indoor recess is implemented if it is at or below 0 degrees. At our preschool, they suggest two pair of snowpants, one to leave at school, and one for home, and a pair of shoes for school, so you take your kid in boots, jacket and mittens, and they change into shoes for inside.
    I have never not been able to find secondhand snowpants for $5 or under. Thrift stores in early spring/late fall. Awesome! You know they’re only gonna fit one winter anyway…

    The town we’re moving to this summer has no listed policy. Anywhere. But, it’s in Montana, where the whole culture revolves around the outdoors. So, I take this as a sign that they go outside. Lots. The district also encourages walking and biking. So. Yeah.

    What really ticks me off is the thought that somehow little girl ones are less hardy than little boy ones. What freaking century is this?!

  29. We live in the upper peninsula of Michigan where my husband is an elementary teacher. Our cutoff for recess is 0 degrees, including wind chill. I have never known a child to suffer from hypothermia or frostbite, although there may be occasional undocumented cases of “shivering”.

  30. *eyeroll* Some girls shiver regardless of where they are – I don’t know how often my classmates yelled at me to ‘close the window, it’s COLD!’

    (I’m Austrian, and we never went outside during recess. I think that practise doesn’t exist at all here… I wish it did. Esp. since – see above – they won’t even let you open the windows.)

  31. Does this school not have a gym?

    Basketball, volleyball, and dodgeball. Oh yeah, no more dodgeball huh?

    I loved dodgeball. it was divided by gender, so we got to hit the girls (and they got to hit us in return). If we were one of the final dozen or so, we were mixed in with the girls while they boys threw the dodgeballs at us. I only lasted that long one time. I found out rather quickly the boys show no mercy LOL

  32. My son’s Catholic school has a policy that states they go outside as long as temps are above 0 F. I don’t know if they include windchill in that factor.

    Parents should make sure kids are dressed appropriately. If the kids don’t have snow shoes, they are not allowed off the paved area (which means a much colder recess since all the activity is going on in the snow covered areas).

    The school suggests packing along an extra pair of socks and gloves for kids if their own get wet during recess.

    My kid is the LAST one to want to go outside, but he has never complained that it’s too cold once he does. He just gets so busy having fun, they don’t notice. It’s a lot like the cold swimming pool in summer. Parents get in and their arms are raised over the water in effort to keep any part of their body dry that they can, but little kids? Once they get moving and wet, they start bragging about how warm the water is!

  33. You might suggest they watch this awesome documentary about an outdoor preschool – in NORWAY. If the winter cold and all-day darkness doesn’t keep them inside, why should a little below freezing weather do so in the mid-Atlantic region of the US?!

  34. My son is only in preschool but it’s a very “outdoorsy” place and they go outside pretty much whatever the weather (the ice has kept them inside this week).

    HOWEVER, I know that they can’t go outside unless all the kids have the appropriate snowpants, hats, boots, etc. If one child is missing gloves, they all have to stay inside.

    (They do have a lost and found that they’ll “borrow” from if necessary, but they can’t do it for everyone).

    So, even if kids do get permission to go outside, I could see parents being passive agressive and “forgetting” to send the appropriate outdoor clothing.

  35. We are on NY/NJ border. My son’s Montessori school goes outside if it’s above 20.

  36. You know, I grew up in Montgomery County, and went to the public schools there in the 1970s and early 80s. I remember going out for recess in everything but rain (recess was moved to the gym once we had one, and the cafeteria before that). I also remember in junior high, we had to run the cross-country course even when puddles of water were still covered with ice. And we were wearing shorts.

    I can’t believe that kids in Montgomery County are less hardy than we were, but it sounds like some of the parents are.

  37. The largest school district in Colorado has a policy of kids play outside as long as temps are above 20 degrees. Rain or heavy snow means the kids stay inside.

    I couldn’t find the actual document on the website however.

    Best of luck. I find the written policy with a specific temperature listed makes it much easier to know whether the kids will need snow boot/jackets/pants when they go to school. If it’s going to be really cold, I don’t pack the extra stuff.

  38. Sign of the times and also place. In Minnesota (where I used to be a teacher) the kids went out everyday unless it was below 0 or actively snowing/raining. Kids HAD to wear snow pants everyday. Now in Ohio, they have indoor recess and no school for the slightest things. My daughter’s friends rarely dress appropriately for the weather when they come over cuz it’s ‘cold’ they can’t play outside. And I can’t get the teacher or the principal to get my kid to put on her snow pants (only on the few really snowy days) to walk home from school. They tell me – they will ‘try’. In MN we got those kids bundled.
    As far as recess, I am with you. They should go outside most days. My daughter would really like it. I think it’s the lazy staff that don’t want to stand out there. My daughter says they will have outdoor recess in the Spring.

  39. Noone seems to think about the kids immune system. Being outside in the cold when properly dressed is healthy and sets up the immune system for later in life.

  40. It would be a little more time consuming than finding a master-list, but you can always look up the website for school districts in different areas – especially those with a similar general climate, where other factors (i.e. what clothing kids tend to own, and so forth) might be in line with your area. Many have it listed, and if not, they have email links where you can ask about policies.

    Out here, our schools have simply been closed all week, which is going to be a serious pain in the sit-upon come the end of the year, when these days will need to be made up (ahh… around the time the temps jump up over 100). Actually, the whole metroplex has shut down, with the few available resources going towards getting things ready for the Superbowl.

    Of course, the funny thing is that while the schools tend to decide somewhere around the 40’s that it is too cold outside for the kids (the kids all hate it when they are forced indoors and think it silly), as soon as there is a snow day, guess where they all are! (Yes, these *are* the same children who will try to convince you it is too cold to walk to school as soon as it is 60 or below, and it is miraculous how much more tolerable the cold gets the moment they hear “no school”. LOL)

    I believe children should be out in all sorts of weather. It bothers me when my daughter comes home and says “we didn’t have recess again today.” I usually, at that point, send her right back outside to play, telling her she can do her homework afterwards. Otherwise, she’s not going to be able to concentrate much, anyway. I grew up in South Florida, and unfortunately that meant we had a lot of rainy days, but we always had actual *physical* indoor activities to make up for it, even if it was just the teachers getting us up and having us stretch and jump and “shake-it-out”. (At home, we did of course just play in the rain, as long as there was no lightening, and I keep that same policy with my daughter.)

    I think that schools should send a letter home, explaining the proper clothing needed for outdoor activities for different weather. I know that in the schools we’ve dealt with, they have addressed when a student’s family could not afford some of the needed items. They work with the local organization that collects and distributes such things, keep on hand things left from previous years’ lost-and-found (or donated) for use when needed, and have had (or at least one of the schools did) donations of gift cards and such for shoes and outerwear.

    I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of kids being able to “opt out”, though. I think kids are getting used to too much individualized, special treatment. So many of them are exposed, already, to things such as the attitude of the mother of the hothouse flower “shiverer”, and I don’t think that’s healthy. Is it always pleasant outside? No. But so long as they have adequate clothing for *actual* safety, I don’t think a little discomfort is going to truly hurt them. I do think that learning that you sometimes have to just deal with it *is* a valuable lesson in life, though. After spending quite a bit of time volunteering at the elementary school, I really believe that there are a lot of kids who need to learn that they cannot just do or not do whatever they want, whenever they want, and that they are not the “special snowflake” (or hothouse flower) exception to everything.

  41. I live in Baltimore. And I’m convinced it is just a Maryland cultural thing. We think we’re in the South where the weather is always nice. But we’re not. It snows significant amounts every winter and everyone is surprised and disoriented. My kids go to a Catholic school in the city with no playground. So they block off the street for recess. Yes you heard me right, they play in the street! But not if it is too cold, which pretty much means below freezing.

  42. Heh. Earlier this year it was full out raining, and I went to go get my daughter from Kindergarten. Where did I find the school? The Yard Duties out with umbrellas and the kids playing in the rain, that even I batted an eye and asked the Principal, .. “It’s only drizzling” was the response. (Like hell! :P) Even when it snowed, where were the kids out? Outside in the snow. They have an option when the rain is bad, to stay in and watch a movie in the Caffitera or go outside, most opt to go play in the snow or rain. My son regularly comes home with grass and mud stains on his jeans.

    I think perhaps we’re one of the last few places that allow things like that, hugging is just fine, (As one of the Yard duties told a child earlier this week, however pick up hugs are not, someone could get hurt), But with that said, I live in a mountain town in the high Sierra Nevada Mountains, there are maybe 500 kids in all if that from K – 8th at their school. My daughter has 15 people or so in her classroom, and there are two Kindergarten classes, so I feel that we really lucked out moving here.

  43. I worked at a preschool in Kent County, MD, when I was going to college. According to the director, the LAW was that the kids HAD to go outside a certain amount each day unless the weather was colder than 20 F. Yes, we told the kids to run around if they were cold, and the time outside was about a half hour at at time. (Optional longer time when the after school kids came.)

    You may want to see if this law is still on the books and if it applies to elementary public schools.

    I am now in Richland, WA. We do an ALE, so the school stuff doesn’t really apply to us, but, when my son was doing occupational therapy at the school during a cold snap last year they announced that kids were not doing recess outside because the temperature was too cold. It was not forecasted to be above 10 F that day. I am going to guess (because I can’t find it on their website with no search engine) that 20 F, taking into account wind chill is the temp that they cut off.

    They also don’t let the kids go out during dust/wind storms either. But then, since I have one with asthma, I don’t let mine go out except for chores either. Fortunately, the wind/dust storms don’t happen too often.

  44. I can spell. Honest. cafeteria* Weather is bad*

  45. Considering all our schools shut down today merely because it was below freezing with a chance of precipitation, I’m no help:). Houston is funny like that

  46. Indoor recess drives me insane. Here the kids haven’t had outdoor recess since November. Most days it’s 20-30F midday, warm enough if you have a coat, hat, and gloves on.

    I don’t buy that it’s a safety concern. The school has no issue leaving the bigger kids on the playground outside before school no matter the weather (K-2nd are inside). I think it’s convenience- getting kids into coats and gloves can be labor intensive and time consuming, the school doesn’t want to deal with it.

  47. funny enough I had a conversation with my daughter who was so red faced and sweating when I picked her up from school I questioned whether the teacher should be letting them run around in this HEAT! lol. It wasnt recess just class outdoors time. She said they have to play a game or if they wont run around they HAVE to walk around the oval (school field) And nothing bad happened to my daughter so I have to agree even though at first I was worried..

    Our playgrounds in australia have covering, shadecloth etc to cover them from the hot sun… maybe you all need indoor/covered playgrounds.. lol… I’m shivering thinking about your commments… dont think I could be that tough when the average winter temp here is 15 C (= 55 F)

  48. I live in Minneapolis. My older daughter goes out unless it’s below 0F / below -10 windchill. The limits are slightly higher at my younger daughter’s school — they may stay in for a 0F windchill. You need snowpants and boots to leave the asphalt and play in the snow.

    To be fair — EVERYONE in Minnesota has a coat and mittens or gloves. These are basic necessities. Schools try to provide boots and snowpants for kids whose families can’t afford them. A family in Houston, Texas probably does not invest in high-quality coats, boots, snowpants, and mittens for their kids — also, with generally warmer temperatures you just don’t acclimate. It was 30 here today and sunny and it felt incredibly warm to me, whereas in October a 30 degree day would have me digging out my warmer coat and cursing the coming of winter. If I were setting policy for a school in the south I would NOT say “go out if it’s above 0F.” I see absolutely no reason to set a limit that’s above 32F, though. My older daughter has a really high tolerance for cold and when she persisted in leaving the house in short sleeves as the temperatures dropped one fall, I looked up frostbite risk. If you’re dry, frostbite risk doesn’t even start to become a factor until the temperature and/or windchill drops below 17F, IIRC.

    (Also, to be fair — around here we have days when summer camps cancel all their physically intense activities because it’s considered “dangerously hot.” I’m sure Texans would look at temperatures we consider unacceptably hot and would laugh and laugh and laugh. But I’m sure they have a set of coping behaviors as the temperature goes up that they don’t think about any more than we think about our fleece gloves, wool socks, etc. It really does matter what you’re used to.)

  49. Jennifer, I’m in Houston, too. I’m a teacher who has playground duty. It was really cold (for here) this week, but I came prepared to go outside for recess. However we kept the kids inside for the same reason there was no school on Friday. We are simply not prepared for freezing weather and it’s not cost effective to be prepared. Very few kids at our school own heavy coats or winter clothes that would keep them warm in below freezing weather. School was closed on Friday because our communities don’t have the equipment to make icy roads safe to drive on. Since freezing temperatures during the day are a rare occurrence it doesn’t make sense to spend money preparing for it.

  50. I don’t know about temperature requirements from when I was a kid (no kids for me yet), but at the very least when it was raining and we were kept in we played in the gym. No Omer was ever expected to stay in the classrooms during recess!

  51. Hey, you’ll love this–really. I live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. My friend’s daughter goes to a really excellent Montessori school where they really push self-reliance at a very young age. From the age of 5, the children have to be able to dress themselves to go outside. Nobody helps them and no matter how cold it gets, the children go outside. Even in -30C, the children are outside for 45 minutes after lunch. The children are responsible for having warm enough clothes at school and getting them on. Of course, I’m sure their parents make sure they have appropriate clothing, but the children have to put them on themselves. I love it.

  52. Here in Montana at both the public schools and the Montessori school that my daughter attends the policy is that they go outside unless it below zero. We never have “snow days” and parents are expected to send children with appropriate clothing for cold weather – snow pants, gloves, hats, etc. The kids are used to it and love playing outside especially in the snow.

  53. Thank you for posting this. I originally grew up in Minnesota and remember being outside ALL THE TIME in Elementary school. We had outdoor recess and outdoor gym activites EVERY DAY! Oh yes even when OH MY GOD it was below 32 degrees. and there was 10 inches of snow on the ground. Guess what I l survived to have a beautiful child of my own who is now 4 years old. I now live in NY and my son has not been outside ONCE since the start of the school year. Granted the Pre-K play yard is under construction, so recess on the school grounds is difficult as the yard is used by the older kids. I suggested perhaps they could take the kids for a walk around the block or go to the playground 2 blocks away. I was told NO by both the principal and the school teacher saying those were field trips and required permission slips and not to worry as they were getting phyiscal activity once a week in the gym. SAD!

  54. My child hasn’t been out for recess in weeks — and it seems the kids are all going batty as a result. I have no idea what our school policy is with regard to outdoor recess, but this bears investigating. (Today was perfectly okay to go out, being a sunny, relatively balmy 32 or so degrees in Northern NJ.) And considering that the recess period is about 30 minutes (usually after lunch), it’d be ideal for everyone to get some fresh air and exercise.

    I think the main reason for indoor recess has to do with all the snow that’s accumulated since after Christmas. Apparently, school policy dictates that children are NOT allowed to play in/with the snow on school property, and any child caught doing so during school hours will be sent to the prinicipal’s office. (Even the “safety monitors” will bark at kids to leave the snow alone.) I find this to be silly, butI guess there’s been instances where snowballs/ice were thrown and someone’s child was injured, only to ruin it for other kids. Or am I missing something here?

  55. Hilary… When I read that you were from Rochester, I thought – oh good! Someone else whose kids are outside all the time! I’m sorry to hear that’s not the way it is in your school district – not cool!

    In our district (Pittsford – 10 mins from downtown Rochester), the kids are outside every day for recess, unless it’s VERY cold (like, under 10 degrees). All of the students who are interested in going outside bring their snow gear with them to school each day and then whoop it up on the playground.

    I’m sure some of them get cold, to be sure… but then, the next day, they bring warmer winter duds! Isn’t that how kids learn – by actually experiencing??

  56. I should add that they’re whooping it up in the snow on the playground… we have snow on the ground for at least 3 straight months every year… Maybe it’s the prevalence of the snow in our area, but there just doesn’t seem to be a problem with kids “messing” with it and ruining things for everyone else. I would imagine some kids are nasty and whack others with ice-packed snowballs, but they’re probably the same kids who’d be throwing mud-balls in the spring – the snow has nothing to do with it!

    Our kids love being able to play on the (snowy) playground equipment in their snow gear – makes it more fun, somehow.🙂

  57. Our school was featured in this local article about this topic. I am happy to say that our kids know to take the necessary items to school so they can avoid standing outside in the cold — indoor recess only happens during the rain and extreme cold, and although they have fun, the kids would rather be outside getting soaked!

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-cold-school-recess-20110130,0,7320525.story?track=rss

  58. I believe our policy is to have the kids outside if it is above zero degrees Fahrenheit. Once the windchill or regular temp dips below 0, they’re kept in. However…

    Our school has two gyms, so if one is open, indoor recess is usually spent in there, running around and being fools.

    “Sledding Parties” are often used as a reward for the kids (this is a parochial grade school. Covers grades Preschool-eight). Several weeks ago, my son’s first grade class finished their “Marble Jar”, meaning that they had earned enough good behavior to fill the jar. Their reward, I kid you not, was to be allowed to bring their SLEDS to school, and go sledding for a half hour during the school day on the hill next to the playground. Their teacher and the Principal joined in on the fun.

    I *heart* our school!

  59. Oh, yeah – they generally don’t go out in the rain, but that’s for practicality’s sake. Very few things smell worse than a bunch of wet children…. And often, the kids don’t have a change of clothes, and we’ve pretty much agreed that it’s “cruel and unusual” to make a kid sit through an entire day of school in wet clothing. Because no matter how hard you try to keep them dry………

  60. Staying in for recess because it’s under 20 degrees??LMAO, I guess we’re just tougher in the Midwest. I believe the policy in my WI town is outside recess unless the air temp or the wind chill is -10 or colder. All the kids (starting at age4) are expected to dress themselves appropriately, ie snowpants, boots, mittens etc. In fact my daughter’s 2nd grade class just had a walking field trip to the post office, -about a 3block walk- last week. It was about 15degrees out and snowing when they went—oooh the horror!!
    I suppose I understand in southern climates they may not have appropriate clothing but still.

  61. PS I just looked up our school policy and it includes the line”In Spring we ask that students wear coats until the weather is above 50 degrees.” I guess everthings relative🙂

  62. I don’t have references to suggest, but this conversation did remind me of a press conference President Obama gave his first winter in the White House. He expressed his shock that his daughters’ school was closed for a snow day when, as his younger daughter pointed out, in Chicago they not only would still have had school, but they would even have gone out for recess! Perhaps bringing this up might help other parents and teachers consider a more reasonable perspective.

  63. As others have mentioned, what’s a reasonable temperature to go out in will depend a lot on what “normal” winter temperatures in your area are. I think rather than looking for a blanket approach, a good idea would be to look at what the normal winter low temperatures are for your region, and base it on that. (Average January daytime lows are x, we’ll stay inside if temps are x minus y, including wind chill.)

    To those who are commenting about why not let kids choose, or why not use gyms, etc – remember that most schools have limited resources. Lunch/recess is often the teacher’s lunch break, which means that you have a limited number of teachers aides available to supervise the students. Just being able to cover indoor recess can be a stretch for many schools if kids have indoor recess in the classroom, much less letting some outside. Or it means the teachers giving up part of their lunch break so the kids can be supervised during indoor recess.

    As for “why aren’t the kids in the gym”… in many schools, lunch is served in the gym – folding tables are set up that are taken down for gym classes. Lunch is served in shifts – half the kids go to recess while the other half eat, then they switch. That’s the way things were when I was in school, and it’s still that way at the school where my mother works.

    On the other hand, growing up in Maine, it was pretty rare for recess to be canceled due to cold. There was a set temperature it had to drop below, but I don’t recall what it was – probably something like 20 degrees. Those who had snow pants and boots could play on the field as long as the recess monitors judged conditions were ok (if it was too wet/slushy when it started melting in the spring, it would become off limits.) Everyone else had to play on the blacktop areas.

  64. As far as “go outside for recess in the cold” policies? Students need their recess time, to release steam and get thier wiggles out. However one has to look at the degree and wind chill of the weather to see if it is adequate enough for the students to be outside. The way the students are dressed is also a vital point. If my students are not adequately dressed then I would not take them outside. Recess is vital but one has to use thier common sense and know what is best for the students.

  65. Here in Canada the kids go out for 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes in the afternoon, and 40 minutes at lunch, unless it is below -30 celsius (-22 F?) or raining. They are required to have snow pants, boots, mitts, and hats. The only way they may opt out is if they have a doctors note. They have lots of snow to play in! If it is below -45 c school busses stop running, but schools remain open.

  66. The question I have, though, is have you ever tried to find a new winter coat for a child in February? If they have outgrown their current coat?
    Try it.
    Even goodwill seems to be full of swimsuits. Target has sold all their winter clothes. I can order online, but can’t have the kid try it on first. It’s like trying to buy a new swimsuit in August.

    I send my kids outside in all kinds of weather, but I see so many children in clothes designed in California (I suppose). Let’s have a movement for locally appropriate fashions too. Maybe girls would be more willing to be outside, and warmer, if they could be convinced not to wear tank tops in January.

  67. I teach at a middle school in MIAMI FLORIDA and they keep the kids in an auditorium if its 65ish or cooler. Gimme a break…the kids will FAR from freeze!!!!

  68. […] Read more: Cancel Recess If Some Kids Are Shivering? […]

  69. Good grief. I hate “indoor recess” because it typically just means the kids are all going to have the flu a week later. Here in Edmonton, Alberta, the kids go outside unless it is colder than -20 Celsius. Which is about -2 Farenheit I think. If we worried about shivering we wouldn’t be able to leave the house for a good 5 months of the year!

  70. I did find this: http://www.olivebloss.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=33150&type=d&termREC_ID=&pREC_ID=127543
    They seemed to have put some thought into it.

    Loved the comment about the kids being out even in the rain! That’s some fun times!!!

  71. Marcy, I totally agree on appropriate clothing for the place! A couple of weeks ago we were a bit early for an appointment, so I took my kids to the park. It was about 25 F. While waiting, the school bus stopped and let off a bunch of middle and high school kids.

    Not one of the girls had a coat on – all were carrying them, and only two out of the 10 were wearing anything with sleeves – the rest had on tank tops! Granted,these were teens, and the boys I am sure though the effect was great -but all I could think was “not my daughter!”

  72. I live in ARizona where it is rarely cold enough to necessitate a decision like this, HOWEVER, this week we have experienced unusually cold temperatures (mid to high 40’s as a high). While it is cold outside, if one were properly dressed in pants, long sleeves, and a jacket it isn’t bad at all. All week my daughter’s school cancelled recess. In fact Thursday, I was on the campus still when the morning announcements came on and informed the teachers they were on “rainy day” schedule and kids were to be kept inside. I was pretty incredulous and even said to the teacher that I thought it was ridiculous they were being kept inside when simply putting on a coat and sending them outside for their 20 minute recess wouldn’t kill them or cause anyone to freeze to death. I don’t know why people are so overly cautious that it borders on the ridiculous.

  73. What if you suggest to give it a trial run. Let the kids who WANT to go out (including girls) do so, and the ones who WANT to stay in do that. Then they can see what the majority is.

    When I was in elementary, we LOVED going out in the snow. We’d play on the 10 foot ice mounds from the plows, and roll up our pants so we could pack snow into the cuff and then throw it at the chalk board. Ahhh, those were the days!

  74. While I would prefer the kids play outside, it’s not something I would really get too upset about. Knowing my DD 8 she if she’s cold she would just stand around with some friends and talk for 20 minutes about how cold they were! She loves to play outside, especially in the snow. But at school they obviously will not be allowed to get wet. There isn’t much to do with the play equipment off limits with ice and teachers constantly telling kids to get out of the snow piled up by the plows. At my kids school indoor recess means playing with toys in the classroom. She has come home telling me of great games she and some friends have made up. I would like to see them get some fresh air but I can understand the teachers hesitation. My kids were just off school for 3 days for snow/ice and I saw how wet and sloppy they were when they came in, I can’t imagine having 25 wet kids come back after 20 minutes outside🙂

  75. Also they do have gym class, so they are getting time to run around during the day. That is usually 30 minutes of a high activity game, they even still do dodgeball🙂

  76. In Fort Nelson, BC, 50 minutes from the Arctic Circle, they send them outside at -40 unless the wind chill drops it further. Then again, the parents there MUST dress their kids in snowsuits from October to April. They need all the outside time they can get.

  77. Around here, everyone goes outside, no matter what, unless it’s colder than -15F (-25C). Even then, we sometimes make the kids run around the playground once and then come back in.

    Worried about shivering. How ridiculous. I remember my toes actually hurting with cold at recess. And guess what. I survived. Staying in at 20F… Good grief. You’d have to be laying down in a snowbank with nothing but a t-shirt to actually have a problem in that temperature.

  78. In Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, the kids are at school and out for recess right down to -50 (at those temps, Celsius and Fahrenheit start to equate.).

    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/north/story/2008/01/31/yk-schools.html

    We lived there 8 years, and it was common to see children outside at -30C weather. In fact, I often took my babies out in the stroller at that temperature, very warmly bundled. Here’s the type of stroller common to the North (notice that you can convert it for use with cross-country skis):

    http://www.chariotcarriers.com/english/html/cougar.php

  79. In my kids school in Iowa the rule is above 0 including wind chill it’s outside recess. Unless it is actively raining or snowing hard – not just a sprinkle or flurry.

  80. Chicago saying: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”

    I’ve now moved to Sacramento, and as it’s unheard of for the temperature to get to freezing, I certainly kids get recess all the time!

  81. Actually, keep kids away from the cold, in truth, is far more damaging than the need to keep them “safe”. I wrote in once before about the summer I ended without A/C in VIrginia during a heatwave that put us over 110. At first, it was just plain unbearable, until my body realized that the temp was a constant, and adapted.

    It is the same with children. By depriving them of any instance of real cold, they are unintentionally crippling children’s ability to adapt to that environment, setting them up for greater difficulty later on should they end up stuck outside in cold weather later on.

  82. Another Calgary, Canada observer here. The public school policy is -20 ºC (with wind chill) or -4 ºF. More than one newsletter that popped up under the newsletter archives stated that they do not have supervision for both outdoor and indoor supervision so everybody is outside if the temperature permits.

  83. My husbands memories in the UK are of public school (read ‘shorts in winter’) and playing rugby on the ice! its all just so crazy! lets protect ’em from every bit of discomfort we can think of. No wonder we’re globally warming!

  84. As a child, in Texas, I used to bundle up and shy away from all of the cold, never going outside if it was too rainy. When I was an adult, before I had a car, I had to walk everywhere, even if it rained or snowed. I learned how to layer up and wear sensible shoes in the cold and rain (but eventually I just gave up my umbrella as a hassle on the long walks, and only one time did I ever need my spare change of clothes in my bag because it was too rainy). After I got my car, I rarely went out in the cold, though my one concession to my glory days was wearing sandals year round.

    None of that prepared me for my first REALLY COLD OH MY GOSH THE SNOW STAYS ON THE GROUND Danish winter when I moved here with my husband. I tried all of the tricks that I knew – bundling up, wearing sensible shoes and extra coats, but none of that helped me out against the bitter sea cold.

    So I gave it up!

    Now I go outside in my crocs and one pair of pants and a hoodie; my body is learning how to adjust for the warmth.

    They let all the Danish babies and children play and sleep outside, all year round (and they are so CUTE!) in the cold and snow. There are FEWER of them, because this is perfect, prime hygge (Cozy) weather, but we still see new forts erected when we go take our walks in the woods out here.

    The bonus with the lesser clothes, as I adjust to the weather, is that I’m losing weight with the greater effort my body has to exert to generate body heat.

    But really, it’s just a matter of getting out and moving more to fight off the shivers (: Your body adjusts quickly no matter how many layers you wear (as long as it’s not below stupid levels).

  85. In southeastern Germany the kids go outside in all weather conditions except for pouring rain or hail. Even in kindergarten (preschool) kids go outside when it is cold and snowy. Parents know that they have to bring appropriate clothing for their kids. The parents also know to bring extra gloves, hats, and clothing for preschoolers when there is snow. In secondary schools (starting in 5th grade) the kids have the choice to go outside or stay inside during their breaks. When there’s snow, the kids prefer to go outside and play (American) football in the snow or have snowball fights. Some of the kids even build snowmen or forts. In my son’s time in the German school system (3 years in kindergarten, currently in 6th grade), school has never been closed for snow. Teachers don’t penalize the kids for coming to school late when there has been a heavy snowfall the previous night. But cancel school? Never!

    Elementary and secondary schools here have special winter sports days, where the kids in each class vote for an activity (sledding, skiing, ice skating) and spend that day doing it. During those days the kids bring backpacks to school with a change of clothing. If they get wet during the activity, they simply change into their dry clothes afterward.

    Sometimes being cold for a short time is a good lesson. Last year my son and a friend rode their bikes to the local toy store. It was damp and about 5 C (41 F). My son was in such a hurry to go to the store with his friend, he forgot to put his jacket on. I was in another room when the boys left, so I didn’t notice that my son forgot his jacket until I saw it hanging on its hook in the entrance hall. When my son came back, I just said, “I bet you were cold.” He said that he was. After that he always remembered to wear his jacket.

    By the way my son (age almost 12) read the original post and thinks that people in the States are wimps because they don’t let their kids go outside in the cold. He even said that if kids here couldn’t go outside when it’s cold, they’d be indoors 9 months of the year.

  86. It’s being increasingly recognised in the UK that outdoor experiences, in *all* weathers, are vital for children’s health and education… it’s still not a mainstream idea, but it has strong currency in nursery education. Government inspectors judging nurseries, and maybe older settings as well, are very keen to see evidence that kids go outside in all sorts of conditions. Our nursery was criticised for not doing enough, and ever since they’ve been really good at making sure the kids get time outside, rain, shine or snow.

    http://www.forestschools.com/ is an interesting movement that explains the importance of outdoor learning.

  87. I have always scoffed at stories involving the hardships of people dealing with temps below 40 and clearing two inches of snow. I would sit back and smirk knowing that here in Michigan not so wimpy. I’m still not very sympathetic to those who close school in anticipation of what I would call a dusting, but beginning to come around to the notion of context.

    Elementary schools here warn parents they go outside in all kinds of weather, and to dress children accordingly. Here it’s a reasonable expectation for children to have heavy coats and boots. But if you don’t normally get a 100 or more inches of snow a year, and can understand the economic necessity of not having arctic circle rated gear on hand.

    I still think staying inside when the temp get below 40 is wimpy, but I am getting off my high horse about it.

  88. In small town Minnesota, my girls are outside unless it’s below 0*F (windchill or otherwise). The kids need that time outside and my kids LOVE it! They are always disappointed when they inside recess.

    The kids are expected to have proper clothing, snowpants, hats, gloves, boots, etc. If they do not, they are not allowed off the blacktop area into the snow (where the real fun happens, of course!).

  89. There was only one type of weather that could stop recess at my elementary school. With heavy rain we were kept inside, but I still treasured those bits of recess, because we were not restricted to our seats. We were allowed to roam the classroom, sit anywhere we wanted and play card and board games.

    Where I live, we have pretty cold winters, but that didn’t mean we didn’t get to go outside. In fact, outdoor recess in winter resulted in plenty of snowmen and snowball fights. Yes, it was cold, and by the end of recess my hands were freezing, but it was the most fun I remember having in my then short life.

    There is nothing unsafe about outdoor recess in the cold unless the kid in question is ill already.

  90. o lord – I’m shivering in disbelief…

    I recall 10:15am explosions where 500 crazed kids burst from every academic orifice…could they keep us inside? Hardly.
    Out there was where the fun was, and by definition, a break from “in here.”
    Any self-respecting kid just had that down.
    Had they attempted to remove the privilege, they would have had daily revolutions and no doubt spit ball wars of independence to contend with.

    And that business of gender-specific shivering….
    (educators do sometimes show their true colors, don’t they?) [wink]

    Reasonably normal weather is now become added to that ever-growing list of stuff to ah, “protect” the wee darlings from.

    Ah – I remember playing outdoor hockey in 50 below.
    And that was so cold, that EVERY apendage got frostbit (emphasis on the every) – but that was just part of the fun of it.
    Anyhow, they won’t be happy until they dome all the cities, don’tcha know.

    – and dress all the kids up in moonsuits……….

  91. I too have come over the years to agree with Mike H.

    Sure we get a LOT of snow here (there is currently about 4 feet of it on my lawn, and more where I’ve shovelled the driveway onto the lawn too!) and sure it gets REALLY COLD here, but we are used to it. Even the teenagers wear warm coats, mitts and boots in this weather!

    My friend who lives in a much warmer climate has a winter coat that I would consider barely warm enough for the fall, certainly not for winter here. When it snows there the roads shut down (no plows), the schools shut down (no way to get there) and no one goes outside if they can help it. Wimpy? Or just unprepared for something that rarely happens? Same when it gets cold… her little jacket, even with a sweater under it would leave her shivering(!) in minutes and risking hypothermia in half an hour. She simply isn’t prepared to deal with the cold – because she doesn’t have to be!

  92. This issue drives me NUTS. Our district has a policy that kids can’t go out under 20 degrees ( here in New England) and I’m fine with that. HOWEVER, all winter thus far, my kids have come home and reported that they haven’t have recess even though it is well over 20 degrees. The excuses from the administration have been: “It’s too wet”, “It’s too snowy”, “It’s too icy”. My three year old laments to me EVERY day after preschool: “No recess today” and the teachers sheepishly say: “Oh, we don’t like the cold.” What’s the point in having a policy if they never bother to follow it?

    Thankfully, as soon as my three boys get home from school, they go out in the back yard and play until dark so they get their exercise for the day (and their internal thermometers have no trouble dealing with temperatures under 20 degrees).

  93. Even as we speak, there are countries, such as Finland, where children in the elementary schools and middle schools get a 15 minute recess every 45 minutes. They can stay inside with a special permit or if the weather is extremely cold; say -15 Celsius.(~10F?) When i was going to elementary school -15C was also the temperature when we didn’t have to bring our skis and skates to school. If it was any warmer than that automatically skis or skates were the required gear. Sometimes we skied around the school building during recess. That fresh air and recess outside was great great exercise for the whole body; including our developing brains.
    So, having two or even one recess a day shouldn’t be such a BIG DEAL!!!

  94. I don’t have time to check to see if anyone else from our school district has posted. The policy in our district (Fairbanks Alaska) is outdoor recess if the temperature is about -20 F. Unfortunately, we still have weeks where the kids don’t go outside at all.

    When the temperature drops below -20 I think most school have students walking the halls. We call it “walking club,” although it isn’t a club at all. At many schools one grade level gets to use the gym.

    I think most elementary school kids in Fairbanks get two recesses, for a total of 45 minutes of recess time.

  95. I live in So Cal so we don’t have the cold issue. We do have days when the principal makes the judgment call to keep kids indoors during lunch/recess if it’s too hot. Usually if it’s in the 100s+ she’ll make the call.

    I was kind of upset the hear that they didn’t bring the kids indoors at our school during a lightning storm. I know someone who was struck by lightning (happened when I was in HS) and she had a very difficult recovery. I know it can be serious.

  96. In my county (I’m in northern Virginia), the public school policy is that kids are not supposed to play outside when there is a “wind chill advisory” (whatever that means). When it’s cold but without a “wind child advisory,” it’s entirely up to the principal of each school to determine whether or not the kids can play outside, so I’m sure the experience varies widely from school to school. In my experience, however, when my daughter was in public school, they rarely played outside unless the temperature was at least 45 degrees. I was constantly being told she had “indoor recess,” which did not mean running around in the gym, but staying in the classroom, playing with toys or coloring, and getting in trouble if you ran at all.

  97. My kids attend a school that sends out the following at the beginning of the cold weather season:

    “There is no inappropriate weather, only inappropriate dress. All children will go outside for recess whether they are dressed appropriately or not. Please send your child with the correct clothes for the weather including coats, snow pants, hats, gloves, and boots. Thank you”

    It gets cold here (like in the single digits) and teachers sometimes let them stay in if it is miserable, like heavy rain or wind advisory warnings, but the teachers pointed out that keeping them indoors all day just sets them up to fail.

  98. Not sure why schools need a “policy” and it can’t be left up to the discretion of the teachers. I’m relatively sure that’s what they did in the Buffalo-metro area when I was growing up. We typically did not go outside for recess during the winter because there was no point. The playground was buried under snow, and you had to walk across a field to get to it, so there was no way for anyone to plow it out or anything. Sometimes, we had free play indoors, other times the teacher organized a game like “Mumball”.

    I think it’s crap to force kids to be outside in the kind of weather adults avoid. There are alternatives. What would be ideal is if a group of teachers could coordinate to give kids a choice. Despite where I grew up, I hate the cold and still do. I’d pick indoor recess throughout the winter, but I also know people who love the cold and would spend the entire school day outside if they could. It’d be nice if one teacher could hold an indoor recess and another could take the polar bear cubs outside to play.

  99. I’m a teacher and I get sick of being asked if I’m cold. Our school was built in the late 60’s each grade has a pod of 4 classrooms. Each pod opens onto a garden that is the heart of the school. It is surrounded by the building on 4 sides (with a gate that goes out to the playground and doors to the main building. The bathrooms for our grade are outside of the garden and don’t have heat or ac.

    Our kids don’t have heavy winter coats. We are the in the subtropics day time temps below 50’s are unusual the average low in Houston Dec – Feb is mid 40’s and that is nighttime.

    So Wednesday we had indoor recess because the kids didn’t have coats. We were standing outside at the bathrooms getting ready to go to lunch. One little girl dressed in long sleeves, polo shirt over that, and cloth hoody was shivering to beat the band. I handed her my proper winter jacket.

    When we went in one of the teachers chided me for setting a bad example – just then the girl came running back to me from the line and handed me back my jacket.

    I often get scolded for not wearing a coat. To me it is more trouble to put it one for the 90 second walk into the building, then have to carry the blasted thing around inside. If I wear it inside – I get overheated.

    I want to scream I’m an adult and know if I’m cold or not. (I have worn the coat in from my car because it is raining and damp clothes are not fun.) Umbrellas are useless for me because of wind and the gear I carry back and forth to school.

  100. Here’s the policy for my child’s preschool. We live in WI, so it’s cold here, but almost every time we pick him up, the kids are playing outside. They love it!

    All children play outdoors at their scheduled time each day, weather permitting. A parent’s request to keep their child inside is difficult, if not impossible, to accommodate, because staff are not always available to provide supervision to an individual child. In this case, the parent may choose to keep the child home on days of concern.

    Occasionally a weather advisory or warning indicates the weather may be too severe to be outdoors.Weather advisory information is available on line from the National Weather Service , Air Now, and Channel3000. This would include:

    * Heavy rains or snow
    * Temperatures at or above 90 degrees F
    * Temperature at or below 0 degrees F (20 degrees F for Infants and Young Toddlers) including wind-chill.
    * An air quality advisory level of “orange” or above.

    If a weather advisory is issued:

    1. The Administrator or most senior teacher in the building will alert teachers and monitor the situation via the web site or weather radio.
    2. The teachers will use the advisory information and above stated guidelines to determine if and when to adjust outdoor activity for children. Options may include having the children play outside at a time of day when the weather is predicted to be better, limiting the length of time outdoors, changing the level of or kind of activity, or deciding to remain indoors for the day.

  101. I live in central Ontario – and my children’s school follows the Canadian Pediatric Society’s guidelines. Recess is only cancelled when is it colder than -25. And that is before the wind chill factor.🙂

  102. I live in Winnipeg, MB in Canada. Kids go out for recess unless its colder than -28 celcius. School has yet to be cancelled. Buses don’t run if it’s -40C. Dress your children accordingly and parents, kids & teachers need to “toughen up” a little.

  103. This came home with my kids (RI) just after winter break:

    The School Improvement Team developed Winter Recess Guidelines at their December meeting. Beginning Monday, January 10th, the following guidelines were shared with the students:

    – Outdoor recess occurs during the winter on all days when the wind chill temperature is above 20 degrees. Please make certain that your children are dressed appropriately for outdoor play.
    -Children will be allowed to play in the snow as long as they are wearing appropriate winter gear: snow boots, gloves, hats, coats and snow pants. If they are not dressed with snow play gear they will have “blacktop” recess.
    – Students will be reminded that snow is not to be thrown.

    Lastly, please be clear with your child on what is an appropriate boot. For example: You may not want your child playing in the snow with Ugg-type boots. At the school level, staff will not be making determinations on what is an appropriate boot. Please make certain you discuss this with your child.”

    I am THRILLED to have not only a policy that encourages outdoor play, but also SNOW PLAY! and to have a school that uses common sense and personal responsibility rather than administrative parenting – how great that they say the parents need to determine what snow boots are, rather than making up some arcane definition for what encompasses appropriate footwear for the snow.

  104. I used to teach at a Christian school in San Antonio. Their dress policy was such that children were only allowed to wear their light school uniform jackets to school… even if weather warrented something a bit heavier. To help with the situation of it being too cold to play in light jackets, we were not allowed to take the children outside if it were below 50!

    Top that with the fact that the school had at one point been a grocery store and therefore there were no outside windows in classrooms and that the school offered a latchkey program, that left some kids and teachers without ever seeing the light of day during the winter months. Talk about dangerous for one’s health!

  105. I think that kids should decide for themselves if its too cold for them. Why do we feel our adult opinions are more valid than our children’s.

  106. Because while children are – and should be treated as – human beings, they are not *fully formed* human beings. They are not adults, they do not have the same experience and knowledge to draw on, and they lack the ability just yet to grasp the bigger picture. Children’s opinions and decisions are often based on whim and do not take into account longer term consequences or benefits.

    A child may decide they do not want to be a little uncomfortable right now, overlooking the fact that it is good for them to acclimate to different temperatures (as others here have pointed out), that forgoing exercise will cause them to have trouble concentrating or settling down later in the day, and other such reasons for pushing them to go outside. I know that most of the time I override my daughter’s inclinations and send her out, anyways, she ends up enjoying herself so much she then does not want to come in (true for cold or hot weather).

    And, to be blunt, children need to learn that the world is not going to hand them everything they want, when they want it. It is not going to always cater to their whims, and sometimes they will be required to put up with things… cold temperatures being the least of them. It is our job, as parents, to help them learn these lessons as they grow into fully-developed adults.

    We do our children no good turn by catering to their whims or ignoring their lack of experience and learned wisdom and allowing them to dictate what they do or do not deal with in life. Just like very few small children would voluntarily take a nap (or eat their veggies, or go to bed on time), though we, as adults know they need to, so there are many other areas where we *do* know what is better for them. And that is as it should be. Too many people these days cast their children in the role of small adult -placing too much responsibility for the decisions in their lives on them – thinking they are “respecting” their children, when what they are really doing is setting them up for a world of disappointment and frustration, and leaving them ill-prepared for dealing with the real world.

    So, yes. I do think mu opinion is more valid than my child’s, when it comes to her over-all well being and long term benefit. I listen to her opinions, I discuss my reasoning with her, and I explain my decisions where appropriate; but ultimately, those decisions are mine to make, because I *am* the adult here, and that’s my job.

  107. Here in Ottawa Canada the limit is somewhere around -20C. I also coach our Peewee XC ski team (9 to 11 years old). They aren’t allowed to race or train hard if it’s below -15C because it can damage their lungs (it’s temporary but it can take a while to recover). We still go for easy skis down to as cold as it gets here. Usually that’s around -25C or -30.

  108. Here’s the Toronto District School Board’s policy, from their website:

    When temperature and wind chill measure -28C or lower, students are kept indoors. Recess and lunch may be shortened or cancelled by the school principal if the temperature and wind chill reading is between -20C and -28C.

    (-20°C = -4°F, and -28°C = -18.4°F.)

    Presumably they have some corollary policy for kids who come to school without adequate winter gear. When I was a kid out in Alberta, the policy was “grab something from the lost and found.”

  109. Oh… having gotten a chance to ask my daughter about her school’s *official* policy (we’re in North Texas, at ground zero for Superbowl Madness), it seems that the winter they don’t go out if it is under 40F, and the rest of the year they don’t go out if it is over 90F (which is a lot of the time). This week, we got a few inches of snow and ice (high temps in the 20’s) so the whole city just shut down, due to a lack of equipment to deal with those conditions, a lack of driving experience for said conditions amongst the locals, and fun things like rolling blackouts because the power grid couldn’t handle the extra surge of everyone being home trying to keep themselves entertained (on top of the weather-related blowouts).

  110. Sadly, we have family members who are always griping about it being “too cold” for the children they watched to be outdoors any at all.

    They even did this on one particular day when it was about 64°F, and other kids were outdoors playing with short-sleeves on.

    Good freaking grief!

    LRH

  111. KLY exactly right, with regards to things like “children need to learn that the world is not going to hand them everything they want, when they want it. It is not going to always cater to their whims, and sometimes they will be required to put up with things… cold temperatures being the least of them.”

    Exactly right. Today, in fact, with it about 40°F and left-over snow starting to melt, I booted the 2 kids (3½ and 1½) while we straightened up the house a little. The 1½ year-old, who normally plays outside with joy, was protesting–but was made to spend a good 30 minutes outdoors anyway. I even physically disciplined him when he protested too much.

    LRH

  112. @KLY For Texas that policy sounds pretty soft to me. Granted the Dallas average low only goes below 40 in January, but 90 for the upper end is silly for Texas. In Houston the heat index breaks that in August and September and again in May/June. (School starts last week of August ends 1st week of June).

    We just encourage kids to bring water bottles to reduce lines a the 2 water fountains. As long as we don’t have air quality warnings we go outside. I wish we had some type of covering/shade but we lost our two good shade trees to old age and storms this year.

  113. As a DC-area educator I can tell you I dread indoor recess days because my kids are extra wiggly and have more discipline problems. They need to be able to run around and play and let off some steam! I’m fine with flexible recess on cold days to allow students to stay inside if it’s too cold for them but why punish the whole group?

  114. Another Minnesotan here.

    From our school handbook:

    Recess
    Appropriate cold weather attire should be worn.
    Students will play outside if the wind chill is -10º or
    above and it is not raining. Discretion will be used
    when it is precipitating. Please be sure your child is
    appropriately dressed to play outside.

    http://www.orono.k12.mn.us/school355/FCK/File/2%20IS/IS%20Office/Handbook10-11.pdf

  115. @kherbert
    It is extremely soft, imo. Around these parts, they tend to treat all weather (not just the unusual stuff like this week) as if they have never seen it before.

    Annoyingly, they will cut it for temps that are standard for the season, but ignore air quality all together. I’m not keep on too much exposure on an orange or higher sort of day.

    It makes me batty that they will keep the kids inside and crank the air as soon as it starts warming up at the end of the school year, because then we get them dumped on us for the summer with *no* tolerance built up, having not acclimated enough.

    A good part of the problem, though, is that the adults who have to supervise them simply do not want to “deal” with the weather, themselves. Apparently, this year my daughter has someone who is “not [her] favorite, but fair” in charge of them at recess, but I know past years there have been times they didn’t go out – or it got cut short – because the one in charge didn’t want to stand outside for 20 minutes. (Yes, 20 minutes. That is what they get, if everything is on time and running smoothly.)

    But that’s how it seems to be around here. People avoid going outside if they can manage it. Nobody really opens their windows, no matter how awesome the weather, and everyone goes from climate controlled house, to cc’d vehicle to cc’d job/school, lather-rinse-repeat. There aren’t even sidewalks around most areas, and no one walks anywhere. (They look at me like I am crazy, at the grocery store, when I ask them to bag things a certain way because I am carrying it home… and I literally live on the other side of the fence that runs behind the store.)
    Of course, with this complete shunning of the outdoors, everyone then acts surprised that they have a bazillion allergies.😛

  116. I know this is somewhat off topic, but I’m glad to say that my girls and I have finally gotten outside tobogganing today. Santa brought the toboggans when they were 2, but we have only been able to use them a few times each year – what with us being so busy and the sun going down so darn early. Today one of my daughters & I really didn’t feel like going out in the cold, but I dragged us out anyway, and we all had a blast.

    It reminded me how actually “playing” outside keeps kids (and adults) quite warm.

  117. Let me toss in a comment from a different angle: when I was a kid, I *liked* indoor recess, because I was a nerd, and looked forward to the opportunity to read or write or draw outside of the confines of school lessons. So what is the point of recess? Is it exercise? Social interaction? Or simply a chance to have some time to oneself outside the strictures of the day?

  118. I find it interesting that some here are all about kids being able to do things and take care of themselves but only when that doesn’t contradict what the parents want them to do. Then the parents know better. That attitude of “only trust your own instincts when I as, your parent, agree with them,” is no better than helicopter parenting.

    The fact is that it’s miserable to be outside when you are too cold/hot and don’t want to be out there. I don’t enjoy being out when I’m uncomfortably cold so I don’t expect my child to enjoy being out when she’s uncomfortably cold. And since she is actually the only person on the planet who knows when she is uncomfortably cold, I let HER make the decision not me or the temperature on the thermostat. I don’t let my child veg in front of the tv but if she doesn’t want to go outside and is happily occupying herself inside, I don’t see a point of forcing her to go outside because I think that it’s time she go and that she must stay out there for a certain period of time whether she wants to or not or face punishment. How do we expect our children to grow up and have enough sense to come in out of the cold if we never let them decide when it is too cold for them?

    While I don’t think that being outside is necessary every day for recess, I’d be upset if my kid was just sitting at her desk or watching a movie for recess. The kids can get downtime and physical activity inside with a little creativity. My daughter and I frequently run around the house when one or the other doesn’t feel like going outside. I even let her roller skate in the house (hardwood floors). The kids can go to the gym if the school has one. If not, move the desks and play Simon says or some other game that has them moving around the classroom.

    The rule should be: Kids are required to have ___ minutes of physical activity a day. Leave it up to the teachers and the particular students they have that year as to how they get that physical activity and where. That makes the teachers get the kids moving but gives them the authority to say “regardless of what the temperature says, the kids are all standing around looking miserable, let’s go in.” Frankly, most teachers would probably opt for outside whenever possible since the kids them play themselves without having teacher participation.

  119. Here in northern IL, we get extreme temps during the school year. In the 6 years I’ve been employed with my district, we’ve never kept the kids in when it’s been over 90…we do have a district policy that states if the temperature is below 10F (including wind chill), that the children stay in. This usually isn’t a huge concern, but every few years we get a couple-week stretch where we’re all inside, going stir-crazy. Administration make decisions on other issues, such as when the playground is so icy that it’s a safety issue to be outside. Several parents went on Facebook to bash our “lazy” staff for not wanting to be outside in the cold (had they bothered to check they would have known it was actually about the fact that we couldn’t have kids cracking their skulls on the icy blacktop), but I have yet to see any of those parents volunteer to supervise recess. And if “indoors for days on end” bothers them, they could certainly send their kids outside when they get home! We’d rather have the kids outdoors than not, because we see first-hand what happens when they don’t get that fresh air and exercise.

    Sadly, not every family can afford proper winter gear, and even those that CAN don’t always send it…you’d be amazed at how many kids don’t have snow pants or snow boots…cutesy UGG boots and fake leather boots with 1-1/2″ heels are NOT snow boots where 7-year-olds are concerned. Nor are those “skinny” cheap, stretchy gloves you buy at Target for $1 a pair..We have some kids who come to school with a hoodie for winter wear not because it’s stylish but because it’s what they have. Our school started a fund to make “on the sly” donations of coats, etc. to families in need, which has helped–but we can’t provide it to everyone who needs it, and there are some who are too proud to accept it.

    Bottom line: Kids need good winter jackets that keep them warm enough for the conditions experienced where they live, and those jackets need hoods AND functioning zippers that they can manage on their own; they need snow pants, snow boots that are insulated, heavy mittens or gloves, perhaps a hat and a scarf…AND a pair of shoes to put on when they’re in the school!

  120. Donna I agree overall with what you’re saying, the thing is though, while we do need to trust kids & not helicopter them, at the same time kids are kind of flaky sometimes. We have nieces-nephews who have, at times, shown a tendency to want to go back & forth inside and outside every 2 minutes (seriously, every 2 minutes) and slam the nuts out of the door every time–or not shut it at all, and all the air-conditioned air goes out the door. I probably did likewise when I was little. As the parent, you have the right to override them anytime you feel like it, even if it’s for your own good more than theirs.

    In my case, when we booted our kids outdoors yesterday for awhile, I will admit–it was because we wanted the indoors to ourselves for awhile, their feelings be damned. The 3½ year-old wanted to play outside anyway, the 1½ was okay with it until he saw the snow, then all of a sudden wanted back in. I’m all for respecting their feelings up to a point, but at that time both of us were rather badly feeling the need for them to release their energy outside, away from us, not go schizoid inside with us.

    As an adult I recall that being done to me on occasion; while I was one to like the outdoors, I also would on occasion get sort of in the mood for wanting to stay inside nearly the entire day, even if the weather was nice, and my mother didn’t want that, and MADE me go outside anyway. I hated it then, but I now understand why–she wanted me to get some exercise & wanted some sanity indoors for herself.

    It’s a balancing act, to be sure–letting the child have fun without squashing it due to excessive fear, letting them experience life even if you don’t feel like dealing with it right then–but not totally neglecting yourself along the way. So I’ve let them run loose when I’d rather they sit still, because kids want to play and childhood should be fun–but once my “needs deficit” is running to a certain point, I call timeout & take care of me (and us as a couple) again, whether the kids like it or not.

    LRH

  121. Beaumont Real Estate commented, “I think that kids should decide for themselves if its too cold for them. Why do we feel our adult opinions are more valid than our children’s.”

    I agree in principle, but the devil is in the details. When we had freezing daytime temps last week (an incredibly rare occurrence here as you know if you are in Beaumont, TX) I was looking forward to going outside for recess duty. Cold weather is a novelty and I was prepared to enjoy it.

    Only a few students had proper clothing, though. Many were wearing shorts and tee shirts with no jackets or only light hoodies. While I would have loved to go outside with them we don’t have the staffing to do that. Teacher’s are required to have a 30 minute duty-free lunch. We only have enough staff available in our schedule to be either inside the cafeteria/gym or outside for recess. Not both. Therefore we have to decide what’s best for the entire group of students instead of letting them choose.

    We do go outside in what most places would consider really hot weather, though. I think we only stay inside when it’s over 100. Temps and humidity in the 90’s are normal weather and we are acclimated to that. When I was a kid the schools weren’t air conditioned and I don’t ever remember being concerned about the heat. We were just used to it. But we closed school for freezing precip because we didn’t have the resources to deal with that.

    I think it’s important for kids to go outside when it’s at all possible, but each location is going to have different ideas about what extreme weather is.

  122. Yikes! Teachers, not teacher’s. Oops.

  123. where I am in SW Michigan, most schools don’t allow the kids out unless it’s above 20 degrees. About the only way they stay in (over 20 degrees anwyay) is if the wind is really bad or it’s raining/snowing really bad. Other than that, they’re outside. If they don’t have boots or snowpants, they have to stay on the paved area of the playground. Amazing though, they send home oodles of notes saying “it’s winter. dress the kids warm. that includes, snowpants, hats, boots, mittens and/or gloves.” and people STILL don’t send their kids to school dressed for the weather.

  124. At the two elementary schools my children have attended in Prince George, BC, it’s considered to be an “in day” if the temperature is below -20 celcius. I believe that is -4 Fahrenheit.

    They do sometimes keep them in for other reasons – for example, if it’s extremely slushy and muddy, they keep them inside to save on the cleaning bills (both for clothing and for the school).🙂

  125. I taught in 3 different districts in Massachusetts–Boston, Newton and Cambridge. All had the same policy…below freezing on a thermometer meant indoor recess. It sucked for everyone involved.

  126. I just saw this today as I was out winter camping with a group of grade 6 students this last week. I live in the middle of Saskatchewan, Canada. It is below 0C from mid-October to mid-March usually. I am a parent lunch supervisor at our local school. The policy in our district is everyone outside for recess and lunch until -10C(green light), between -10C and -27C is yellow light: everyone is expected to dress for the weather and go outside. Students are allowed to go inside to warm up for 1 to 2 minutes every 10 to 15 minutes. below -27C red light: indoor recess. This past week we had -45C wind chills so the buses did not run but school was not canceled. (I do not know all the conversion points but 0C=32F and -40F=-40C) As a parent I have taken my kids out at -35C but it is different with one adult for 2 kids than 1 adult for 50 kids. Safety (frostbite, hypothermia, etc) is an issue when the temperatures get that cold although when I was growing up the cutoff point was -30C not -27C. At -35C the hydrolics on garbage trucks don’t work and brakes freeze on buses and semis.

  127. Larry – I’m not opposed to parents taking care of themselves sometimes at the expense of the kid’s happiness, but I’m not going to force my child to do something I wouldn’t do. If I think it’s too cold/hot for me to be outside, I’m not going to force my child to be outside. I’ll try to get her to go out, but if she’s cold and I agree that it’s cold (and she’s not just whining to get her way), then I’m not going to insist. If she’s driving me crazy, I just have to deal. Dealing with annoying kids occasionally is part of being a parent. And if she’s happily playing by herself, I see no reason to interrupt regardless if she’s been inside all day and it’s beautiful out.

  128. Ottawa, Canada: Kids here are kept in if it goes below -20C (about -4F), though I think it’s a bit of a judgment call. Even -20 doesn’t feel all that cold if there’s no wind!

  129. If it isn’t below zero (windchill can count as below zero) they go out. We use a windchill chart put out by NOAA, and compare it to the amount of time the kids are out, 15 min. for 1st and last recess, 30 min for lunch recess. Since we have a number of kids with financial needs, we also have an assortment of extra coats, hats, gloves, boots, and snowpants the kids may borrow from. There are also days where kids may stay in to read or play chess during certain recesses if they would prefer to do that.

  130. I went to elementary school in Alaska. Most days we went outside. In the winter, we were provided with ice skates. When it got super duper cold (think 60 below zero) we had indoor recess, but 20 degrees was definitely outdoor time. If kids are not in physical danger due to being unprepared (as kids in the Texas Desert were last week when temps hit 20) or due to extreme (for the region) temps – toss ’em out the door!

  131. Donna, declaring that holding one’s own opinion as a parent above a child’s is as bad as helicopter parenting is, to be blunt, patently ridiculous. It requires huge leaps of assumption and a fair amount of judgmental thinking.

    One of the basic principles in Free Range Parenting is that we, as parents, know our children and know what they are (or are not) capable of managing for themselves. This includes assessing their own judgement in assessing *their* needs, as compared to their wants and whims. We don’t just allow children to do whatever they think they should be able to do, unless we agree they are ready and that it is for their greater good.

    Children can, with much conviction, tell you that they are miserable and far too uncomfortable to stand in line at the grocery store for five minutes, when in truth they are just bored. They can tell you that they are *starving* and try to convince you that you need to buy something to eat, instead of waiting the ten minutes it will take to get home. No matter how convinced they are, though, or even how “uncomfortable”, we – as parents – know that dealing with it is not going to cause them any permanent damage or trauma… and, in fact, might teach them a lesson in patience if you do it right.

    Going back to the cold weather issue, it is just as common for kids to decide they “don’t need a coat” (or hat/socks/gloves/any-of-these-things), even to go play outside when it is wet or snowy. They are convinced they know what they need or don’t need… and we, as parents, know better.

    I know my child. I know her better than anyone, including herself. I know better what she is capable of dealing with, and I know the way her whims and moods work. Yes, absolutely, I am going to put this knowledge to use by sometimes vetoing her opinions. That does not mean I do not listen to her, or that I discount her thoughts and feelings entirely; it just means that I am better at seeing the bigger picture and sometimes that means holding to my own judgement and overriding hers.

    Yes, especially at the beginning of winter, she complains about the cold. At the start of summer, she also complains about the heat. I simply make sure she’s properly dressed for the weather (and properly hydrated in the heat) and nudge her out the door and tell her “You’ll live.” This helps her adjust to the seasonal weather, and makes sure she is less miserable for the remainder of it. It works, too, and before too long it is hard to keep her indoors at all, even as the weather gets more severe. If I let her avoid it, she’d end up keeping herself cooped up, inside, for most of the year, avoiding conditions she never gave herself a chance to get used to. Adults these days tend to spend less time out of doors when the weather is “too hot” or “too cold”, and never really adjust. I make sure I also spend a good bit of time acclimating when the seasons change (necessary, as I walk everywhere). It’s actually easier for kids in winter, because they tend to run around and be more physical, which negates a lot of the cold, anyway. The added bonus to making sure the household adjusts to the climate is that I save money on heating and cooling the house, since I don’t have to keep the a/c or heater cranked as high as some.
    Kids sometimes just have moments where they are feeling lazy, or when they suffer from a bout of “Oooh, Shiny!” over something else. They just don’t want to bother with getting on all their warm clothing, or they’ve gotten sucked into doing something else (which is why the computer and such have time limits to counteract this). “It’s too cold” is an easy excuse, and it is not one that will automatically make me change my mind about the fact that she *needs* that physical activity every day she can possibly get it (not to mention the fresh air, because I don’t really feel like dealing with a growing list of allergies like most of the people I know out here), just to make sure she can focus on what she needs to, that she can settle down later in the evening, and that she will sleep well. Physical activity in the house is *very* limited, because I just don’t have that kind of space (and she’s nearly as big as I am, officially tallest in her class now).

    She is, btw, perfectly capable of telling when she is *truly* too cold/wet/hot and needs to come in, and good at communicating that. In fact, because I tell her to go ahead and go out when she’s too quick to assume/claim it is too cold, she’s getting better at realistically assessing that, because common sense is something that needs to be modeled in a way that *isn’t* whim-based.

    Unfortunately, sitting at their desks is precisely what happens in our school and many others, when they do not go outside. This makes for kids who are stir-crazy and have difficulty concentrating, and can lead to being too wound up in the evening to sleep like they should.

    As my daughter gets older, I use things like this discussion here to talk with her about different ideas and how she feels about them. Today we had a talk about adults making decisions vs. leaving things up to the kids. My daughter has it a bit of both ways, as my ex is trying to make up for some past stuff by “empowering” her by leaving a lot of choices up to her about their plans and what she wants to do.
    She hates it. She feels overwhelmed and anxious about making the wrong choice, and does not feel ready to be responsible for so many decisions. She likes the way I handle things, and tells me straight out that it makes her feel more secure knowing I am going to ask her what she thinks, but correct the course where I think there is a better way. Heh… she did say she hates that I am always right, but told me that she also knew it made things better. Free Ranging doesn’t mean just letting the child run their own life, it means guiding them through the decision making process and letting them take over in different areas as they are ready.

    My daughter also tells me about kids she knows who do think they should get to do whatever they want, because their parents never make them do anything. Those children, she finds “extremely irritating”. Frankly, so do I. One of the things I have seen going along with the “new parenting” ideas (and paranoias) that have led to helicoptering is this idea of catering to and coddling children – and their every whim – out of some fear of oppressing them or hurting their feelings and causing some lifelong trauma. The idea that sometimes children should do something “because I said so” is seen as tantamount to abuse and the notion that parents *do* often know what is truly best for their child is seen as damaging to their little psyches. I’m not sure where this concept that our kids are delicate little snowflakes who cannot handle being *parented* came from, but I have seen some of the results and they scare me a little bit. I have friends who teach high school… they spend all day fighting an uphill battle against kids who were never taught that sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do, and not everything you have to do in life is pleasant. I’m not sure what their parents thought they were protecting them from, but all they did was make sure the kids have no concept of authority or respect for anyone with experience/expertise, and that they are incredibly ill-prepared for the real world.

    I actually believe strongly that *more* parents should remember that they are, in fact, the parents and that the kids are *kids*. Free Ranging doesn’t mean allowing children to dictate everything in their lives and ours. It is up to us to have the confidence in our judgement as parents to know that *we* are the best at determining what are children are capable of and ready for, and this means that *yes* we should believe that our decisions/opinions/assessments do carry more weight.

  132. Update on Ottawa: I and at least one other poster said above that the limit here is -20C but apparently we were mistaken. I heard a brief comment on the radio this morning that the school boards here have all set the cutoff at -35C but that the childrens’ hospital wants them to change it to -25C. Thus is in line with what the person from central Ontario mentioned is recommended by the Canadian Pediatric Society and I find it sensible. It’s really not cold enough at -20C to insist people stay in unless it’s incredibly windy.

    All that said, I agree with those posters who said it’s a matter of acclimatization and preparation. In Ottawa, everyone is expected to have proper winter clothing – we have winter clothing drives for families that can’t afford it – and we have a whole system of plows and salters to keep the roads and sidewalks safe. Many communities in the more southern areas simply aren’t prepared for what we deal with. Temperatures that would be considered deep cold in those places barely register as autumn here.

    On the other hand, there are places I wouldn’t dare go to in the summer. I run for cover when the temperature gets above about 30C (86F) which barely registers as summer in some areas.

  133. Heh… Gail, we’ve had temps up into the 80’s during this *winter* (one of the reasons this late freeze w/snow has thrown everyone so much). Man, we could have used a little plow/salting action this past week… since we have no equipment, it shut the whole city down for a week.

    But yeah… when people tell us we are wimps for not being able to handle “real cold”, I invite them back for the summer… when it can be 110*F in the shade (literally).
    (Of course, that doesn’t mean the schools aren’t just as silly about the heat, keeping kids inside if it gets to 90… uhg.)

  134. I live in Saskatchewan, and we have some pretty crazy winter weather over here. One of the schools I provide consultative services to has a club called “The Polar Bear Club”. Kids in the Polar Bear Club need to have a permission form signed by parents in order to go out for recess when it’s colder than -25 degrees Celcius. They don’t have to, though; they can stay inside if they like. A lot of the boys like to go outside and play hockey, and they get rambunctious if they stay inside forever.

  135. Unfortunately, some parents are either too ignorant to know what constitutes cold weather gear, too poor to purchase it, or too apathetic to insist their child has the appropriate apparel for chilly weather. I used to work at a elementary school as a lunchtime/recess playground monitor and kids would often wear shoes with no socks, windbreakers or no jackets at all, and gloves and hats? Please. So again, lowest common denominator rears its ugly head. Make everyone stay inside because some kids are not dressed for the weather.

  136. Shoot, I remember when I was in elementary school (early to mid 1990s), we HAD to go outside, even in the cold, snow, or light rain. About the only thing that kept us in was a thunderstorm, and I can only recall two or three occasions where we had indoor recess. I tried to think of every excuse possible to be allowed to stay inside, as I hated (and still hate) being cold. In less-than-ideal conditions, our recesses usually consisted of the teachers forcing all the kids outside, where we’d huddle together until we could go back in.

  137. At my school the rule was when it hit -30 C without windchill, we got indoor recess. At that point, you can make a case for it being a safety issue – little kids won’t always notice the signs of frostbite. Needless to say, this made most of the school populations hate the days where it was -27 degrees out, but that’s life. If you had tried to keep us in when it was -7 degrees (a bit below 20 F) we’d have laughed in your face.

  138. @KLY – I just don’t see going outside as such a big deal that I need to override my kid’s statement that she is too cold and force the issue. For that matter, I try to avoid discounting my daughter’s viewpoint on her own body and comfort. I don’t care if it is just a momentary whim. I think that the one thing my daughter should have in her control is decisions about her body and her physical comfort.

    This does not mean that I allow my child to dictate every decision. There is just a difference to me between decisions about personal comfort and other decisions. For example, I control the food my child eats. I make healthy choices available and limit treats. However, I let her decide if she’s hungry and when she’s full. I don’t force her to eat or clean her plate. I respect her opinion on her level of hunger. I feel the same about temperature. She can decide if she is hot or cold and I will respect that decision.

    Maybe if I had a child who was lazy, I would feel differently. My kid likes to go outside. We also never have too long a period of time of cold. Our winter temps vary from below freezing to 75 on a daily basis so we might stay in for one weekend but be out and about the next two. Summer heat is much more consistent but pools and lakes take care of that.

  139. This in today’s Children in Nature Network newsletter:

    “The Children Must Play”
    Here’s an excerpt from an excellent article, “The Children Must Play, What the US could learn from Finland about education reform” in The New Republic by Samuel Abrams:
    While observing recess outside the Kallahti Comprehensive School on the eastern edge of Helsinki on a chilly day in April 2009, I asked Principal Timo Heikkinen if students go out when it’s very cold. Heikkinen said they do. I then asked if they go out when it’s very, very cold. Heikkinen smiled and said, “If minus 15 (Celsius) and windy, maybe not, but otherwise, yes. The children can’t learn if they don’t play. The children must play.”

  140. Growing up in Wyoming in the 1970s, the only time I can remember recess being held indoors was during heavy rain (about once per academic year). Snow & wind–especially wind, you can’t escape the wind if you live in Wyoming–were just part of recess in the winter. They did occasionally let us in early from lunch, if the wind chill was somewhere between -20 and -40 F.

    I was one of the many kids who walked home for lunch every day.

  141. My kids both went to the same school/preschool building here in central Minnesota. Written school policy dictates that recess is held outdoors unless the AIR TEMPERATURE is colder than NEGATIVE TEN degrees and/or windchill at colder than negative 15. Kids are hearty, and if teachers keep a few extra hats and mitts around, we all know they NEED that time outside.

  142. Donna, I guess it is an agree-to-disagree thing on going outside, then, because I *do* see it as important enough to push, especially at the start of the colder weather. After that, I don’t have to, because she’s acclimated enough to not be bothered and to want to go out on her own. I’ve seen a very real difference in how well she does when she can and when she cannot get enough outside time, both in her moods/behavior/concentration and in her “allergies” (this area is notorious to giving allergy problems to people who did not have them before they moved here – I think the indoor/sealed-in culture has a lot to do with that). There are also practical considerations… we walk everywhere. By making sure she’s more comfortable – because she’s gotten used to it – it makes walking to the store less of an ordeal. (And no, I don’t leave usually her at home when I go… but *only* because she is expected to help with the shopping and with carrying the groceries home. Heh. She’s also expected to pick out what she needs for the days when she cooks.)

    The part I took exception to was saying it was as bad as helicoptering. There are some very real and valid reasons that some of us consider this an important enough issue to stand firm on, with more studies all the time showing the long term benefits of sending time outdoors in all sorts of weather. Much like the way that nutritional information has improved over the last generation, this is an area that is coming to light as something to which more attention should be paid. I don’t honestly have an opinion, one way or another, about how often you do or do not send your child outside (so long as those choices do not hinder my own, this is generally true for most matters), but I don’t think that those of us who do find it an important point should be judged.

  143. @Eris de Suzerain there is a school near my sister’s house that I’ve seen kids rollerblading at either recess or gym. I think it is so cool. I might suggest that for Coach’s LEAF grant next year.

  144. We live in Salinas, CA. It’s a very mild climate here – it’s about 65 degrees EVERY day of the year. A little cooler in winter, a little warmer in summer. At my children’s elementary school, if the weather got about 80, they were not allowed outside because it was too HOT. I couldn’t believe it! I grew up in an area where it was at leat 100 degrees in the spring and summer….we went outside rain/shine/sleet/blazing sun.

    We’re raising a bunch of wussies!!!

  145. @ KLY – Sorry but I see a real disconnect with the idea that a child is responsible enough to wander around town on their own and make any number of decisions but not responsible enough to make such a basic decision as to whether it’s too cold/hot for her to play outside. Maybe I’d feel differently if I had a child that had to be forced outside or forced into activity or complained frequently. But I don’t so it doesn’t seem like too much to ask to allow a child who is complaining of being cold when it is genuinely cold to come in.

    And I also do mean play outside. If we have to be outside in inclement weather, she just has to deal. I also don’t agree at all with separate arrangements for different kids so if the class is going out, she needs to go out no matter how cold she is since she needs to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around her.

    I do have a problem with forcing kids out to play in weather that you wouldn’t want to be out in. If I thought it was so important that my child go out to play on a cold day, I’d go out with her. I wouldn’t, however, force her to do something that I won’t do.

  146. Donna, I tend to see it as more of a kindness to her to push past her initial reluctance at the beginning of the season, so that she is actually more comfortable when she *has* to be outside later. By doing this, she works up to it while running around and having fun, and isn’t as miserable when it comes time to walk to school or the store or whatever. By this time of the year, I can barely keep her indoors long enough to get lunch into her before she’s asking to go back out. But being outside in all weather is a fact in our lives, and teaching her to think ahead about how to best prepare for this makes sense to me.

    To be honest, I don’t have to push as much these days, anyway. She’s now 11 (and a half, I mustn’t forget the half! Heh), and she’s used to the routine and barely needs a reminder… because she knows it works out better my way. It was more of a push when she was younger.

    I spend just as much – if not more – time outside than she does. I don’t push her to go outside in weather I wouldn’t go out in. Unless it is especially wet or something, though, that doesn’t often happen. (If it is not also freezing, she’s a bigger fan of playing in the rain than I am. My rain exposure is usually limited to when I have to go somewhere.) I spend a good part of every day outside, actually.

    I see no disconnect in how we do things. Where I know her judgement is good and sound, I allow her freedom (including the freedom to make some mistakes). Where I know she is still not able to see the bigger picture or think ahead enough, that is where I provide guidance. With going out in the cold, yes she will be a little uncomfortable at first… but it isn’t going to hurt her, she’ll get over it, and she’ll be better off for it in the long run (including not being uncomfortable the rest of the winter, and better able to run around the neighborhood and have fun). Even she sees the practicality of this, these days (which means she has learned one more good lesson about thinking ahead and making decisions for something beyond just that moment).

    It works for us… and it works as a part of our free-range approach.

  147. My son’s daycare has all the children go outside at least once a day, especially if it is nice outside. The other day my son was sitting outside in his carseat, perfectly bundled and warm, watching the older kids sledding (he’s 5 months). I was so happy to see him outside! Here in Vermont, you go outside no matter what the weather, because if you let the weather keep you inside, you’d never leave the house!

  148. It looks like some of the moms here live in arctic climates. I live in Maine and I think -20 F is bleeping cold. The schools in my area go by the “Feels Like” temperature from the local weather report. The “Feels Like” temperature takes into account the windchill factor along with the thermometer temperature reading. If the “Feels Like” temperature is less than 10 F, then the kids stay inside for recess. I think this is pretty reasonable. They also don’t take the kids out for recess if it is raining.

  149. The school management should be responsible in childrens health. They need to find out first can kids
    handle the cold outside the school. I don’t think their
    is that kind of policy.

  150. Wow, recess. When I was in grade school, morning recess was ALWAYS inside. It was a fifteen minute break to eat a snack, use the restroom, chat, and sometimes play a game or read.

    Lunch recess, however, was always outside except in the rain. That usually involved tag, and games we invented (the school had nno playground equipment). You could also just ask if you could stay inside if you wanted to read or something–the nice lunch ladies watched kids that stayed in. Most of us didn’t unless we were sick or something.

    This was a school that was K-8 and wasn’t fancy despite the fact it was Catholic. Though I went to school in the late 90s, my nephew, who is 7, has told me his charter school operates the same way. So isn’t that an option for the children that think it’s cold and those that are eager to go outside? If there are multiple classes then the teachers can figure out who has outside and inside duties if there is no other staff.

    Though maybe I should shush since I just get to watch my nephew and have no kids of my own just yet!

  151. Our school division policy: indoor recess if the temperture is -30 celcius (= -22 F) or below, whether that is -30 or -30 with the windchill factor (e.g. -20 but very windy). We had an unusually warm fall, but when it got cold, it went right into a cold snap (-20s and -30s), so the first really cold day, a lot of kids were not wearing warm enough winter clothes, so the school had an indoor recess. In the middle of winter, you are supposed to be sending your kids with warm enough clothing for the weather.

    I hate being cold and I don’t particularly like going out in cold weather, but last year, when our well froze and my husband was away and I had to go out and check on things during the -40 cold snap (yes, that’s minus four zero and it’s the same in celcius or fahrenheit), I put on my ski pants and warmest coat and big mits and scarf and touque, and actually, except for around my eyes, it wasn’t bad. Certainly I felt a lot warmer than most winter days. So if the daughter is “shivering”, then the parents need to invest in some winter clothes.

    Incidentally, in our school, you can send a note asking for a child to be kept in at recess. Maybe that is a better choice for the shivering girl, rather than keeping all the kids in. My kids complain bitterly when there is no outdoor recess.

  152. @Vick no it isn’t easy to split duty like that. We have about 80 kids in the English 4th grade group. There are 4 teachers for the group. Recess serves as the lunch break for 2 of the teachers. The 3rd teacher, an aide, and I have recess duty.

    It takes 3 of us to watch the kids. To be blunt many of our kids are almost feral. They have little or no social skills. Of course the fact their parents tell them to flatten anyone that looks at them funny. They NEED recess to learn how to interact, but they also need us to teach them how to act.

  153. i don’t understand all those posts about shivering outside. can’t you people learn to dress properly for winter already for heaven’s sake? you need your underwear, thermal underwear that is. then you some cotton shirts and sweaters, snowsuits for kids and ski pants for adults. add warm winter gloves or ski gloves, scarfs and a real warm hat.. and you can stay outside for hours! bad weather should NEVER stop you from enjoying the outside!

  154. Prairie Moon Waldorf School in Lawrence, Kansas has recess in the snow. The children build show tunnels!🙂

  155. I want to add that I always hated indoor recess as a child. They didn’t even let us have recess in the gym to run around! We had to sit and play quietly with educational toys or we’d watch a movie in the dark.

  156. Grew up in upstate NY, we went out unless it was below zero. My kid’s school in Belmont MA does as well (though the wind can play a factor).

  157. i currently live in central florida but have lived mostly in south florida… I am not allowed to take my class outside if it is in the 50s… Mostly because the parents still send their kids to school with shorts and cotton dresses and sandals… and for kids who are used to temperatures in the 80s/90s 50 is freezing especially when there is wind…. When parents learn to send their kids dress appropriately for the weather than I won’t be held hostage all day by a gang of 4 year olds all day long who just wanna run and climb….

  158. JLM, I, too, lived most of my life (and all my schooling years) in S. Florida. (WPB, to be exact.)

    I’m sorry to hear it has gotten to that point. Back “in the day”, we still bundled up to head outside, even when the temps dropped A LOT… and there were quite a few winters at that time that required actual winter wear. If we didn’t have it, we were simply told “next time, prepare better.” This was possible because, as you said, what was cold to us was still not threatening to life or limb. Heh.

    (I’ve been banished to N. Texas for awhile now… but when I go home I still adopt the standard winter wear -as winters have stopped dropping to the levels they hit when I was a kid… shorts – or a light skirt – and a warm jacket. LOL)

  159. […] — Our darling children, who, we’re told, can’t handle recess in the cold (see this), or waiting outside the high school to be picked up (see this), or babysitting, even at age 14 […]

  160. I’m all for cold weather recess. I wrote an article last week when the temps were frigid. You can read it at http://www.getkidsoutsidenow.com. I think we’re raising kids to be fearful of the cold. I also think that teachers don’t want to go outside either. Safety is one thing. Not wanting to supervise in cold weather is another.

  161. Oops, I just committed a no no in the post above. Self promotion. Sorry about that. I am passionate about this topic and appreciate the many posts. It’s great to see so many voices out there in favor of getting kids outside. I can’t believe that kids can’t go outside in 25 degree weather. Of course, temperatures are relative (25 degrees in January is perfect for outdoor play in Wisconsin) and that many kids do not have the right clothing. Usually, schools in Madison offer indoor recess as an option on colder days, so I don’t understand the concern when it’s sub zero. Why not continue the option for kids who have the right clothing? Many kids could use a good run around the playground even in sub zero temps. My guess is that it’s the teachers who don’t want to go outside to supervise. Safety is an issue, but I suspect it’s the teachers that don’t want to venture forth. Where I work, I am the only teacher who enjoys going outside in all temperatures. I have the clothing for it and enjoy it. I am not the norm. If we want kids to get outside at school, then adults have to take them. Preferably, those adults like to be outside and know how to engage kids when it’s cold. Again, this is not the norm. I’d like to call my elementary school principal and find out what they did in the 1970s. I’d like to think that we went outside in all weather, but I honestly can’t remember. Calling Mr. Welda, are you still there?

  162. Here in NE Ohio the policy seems to be for elementary kids (K-4) when it’s 20 something or above. Dependent on damp and windchill (Sensible).

    Meanwhile on the SAME property, kids in 5-8 go outside – never.

    The teachers make the call and THEY don’t like to go outside, so they don’t. Reasons range from “Kids don’t dress right” to “they’ll fight.” Apparently kids learning to dress right and or being disciplined so they don’t fight is just tooooo haarrrdd.

    It’s maddening. My kids would love to go outside

  163. In Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, our kids go outside for recess unless it is -30 celcius (-22 Ferenheit) or colder, with the windchill factor. Kids (and parents) learn to dress appropriately for the weather.

  164. […] — Our darling children, who, we’re told, can’t handle recess in the cold (see this), or waiting outside the high school to be picked up (see this), or babysitting, even at age 14 […]

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