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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Parks & Recreation

Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland

Phone: 503-823-7529

1120 SW Fifth Avenue, Portland, OR 97204

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How to help your child stay warm all winter

OUR GOAL IS TO GIVE CHILDREN POSITIVE EXPERIENCES IN ALL WEATHER
Learning how to navigate nature in all types of weather is an important skill, and one that our programs encourage for all participants. Cold and rainy days often scare people away from being outside, but at Environmental Education we believe with the right preparation and action, children can still have successful experiences in cold, hard rain, sleet, hail, and even snow! It's important for children to recognize the power of the elements, and also to start to have empathy and a sense of wonder about the animals that endure the elements every single day. Our bodies and behaviors, like the animals around us, can help us to survive. 

USING OUR BODIES TO STAY WARM
In our programs, expect that on cold, rainy days we will stay continuously active. Children might run and move more than usual, so consider packing a couple additional high-protein snacks if it's a cold, wet day. During rainy downpours we will look for dry ground under trees to use as shelter -- we may even build temporary shelters if needed. Again - the animals do this, and we will too! 

CANCELLING CLASS
Our programs continue rain or shine, however, there are certain circumstances that will cause us to cancel class. If Portland Public Schools cancels, we cancel as well. If Portland Public Schools has a two-hour delay, plan to come to class unless you hear differently. High winds (sustained winds of 25 mph or more) bring ALL of the PP&R Land Stewardship staff out of the forests - and this applies to Environmental Education too. In the case of a class cancellation, our Program Coordinator will communicate by email, text, and/or phone to ensure everyone gets the message. Any cancelled class will be refunded as a credit on the Portland Parks Account.  

HOW TO PREPARE YOUR CHILD FOR WET AND/OR COLD WEATHER:

1) Check the forecast the night before class, keeping in mind many of our natural areas are near water or at elevation and will be colder and windier than predicted. 

2) Dress your child in wool or wool-blend clothing (wool + polyester or acrylic).  Unlike cotton, wool/synthetics keeps you warm even when it’s wet. Avoid cotton clothing on cold and wet days. (Cotton encourages evaporation, which is excellent for hot days specifically for this reason, but it's actually dangerous in our wet winters.) Wool/synthetic socks, leggings, base layers, hats, mittens, scarves and sweaters keep children comfortable by keeping core temperatures higher. 

3) Rain boots with warm, wool/synthetic socks are a must!  For the best warmth in wet weather, wearing some layers and a thick sweater and a simple rain shell will do the trick most days. Rain pants are great if you have them. (TIP: Ask friends if they have old wool sweaters or socks to pass on, knit your own, or hit a second-hand store. Wool items that are 100% wool can be felted to the right size if they are too big! Plus they get warmer and drier when felted.)  

4) Hats, scarves and mittens should be comfortable for kids to wear, and be easy for them to take on and off as needed. Pack extra socks in the backpack. (DRY socks, even if they are cotton, can make a huge difference.) Packing a second set of mittens/gloves/hat is helpful just in case something gets lost or wet. 

5) Remember- we can always peel layers off when children get too hot, but we can't invent layers that stayed at home!

6) For the absolute coldest days pack extra food, extra water, and something sweet in the lunch or snack. Pack a small thermos with soup or a hot drink if you have it. Cold temperatures burn lot of calories and sometimes a little bump in blood sugar can give the core temperature the boost it needs. Shivering is the first sign of hypothermia.

7) Get familiar with what hypothermia looks like. Here’s a pretty good info source about hypothermia. https://www.princeton.edu/~oa/safety/hypocold.shtml