Winter play

The joy of contrasts: freezing hands, icy faces and then a slow warm up in a warm room (ideally bathed in low winter sun) warming up over a steaming hot soup or teatime hot chocolate make winter days a pleasure (this post is by Nicola Baird).  

But over the holidays my sister-in-law Kate had to stay indoors far more than the rest of us because she’s breastfeeding her seven week old daughter, Rose. Chilled out as breastfeeding can be, it’s not that much fun sitting still on a snow-draped bench or in the icy outsides we’ve been experiencing recently.

Some slings enable you to breastfeed without the wind chill factor (have a look at slingmeet  or the baby wearer sites but it’s still a puzzle to me just how the Anglo Saxons or the Innuit (or anyone without access to our amazingly insulated skiwear) used to manage in the cold winter days.

Playing’s not just for kids. Over the Xmas holiday, a time when my relations take eating big meals slowly to an art form, the children were able to entice their dads out for a sudden burst of runaround in Granny’s garden. I love the photo here because it demonstrates just how much fun playing outside can be if you’re all in the game whatever your age (3-50 in this case) and even if the dads first had to be driven away from football results, newspapers and i-phones.

Playing out
When my family were holidaying midway between Leeds and Bradford, last summer (part of a holiday house swap with a former work colleague), we were introduced to the pleasures of really quite young children playing unsupervised in the street, or playing out as they call it up North. Every morning two little girls (aged about 7 and 9) would turn up at our house, feign surprise that the normal residents, Freddie, 5 and Elsie, 2, weren’t there and then beg Lola and Nell to go play with them. When we got home I meant to ask my London neighbours if they’d agree for their kids to do the same, but bizarrely there’s been just no time, and few accidental street meetings either, so six months on my promise to let my girls play out more on the pavements has been hollow. They’ve done it, but it’s not half as much fun (or as safe) without a gang of neighbourly friends to enjoy it with you.

Snow changes everything. On the day that the first snows fell before Christmas around eight children (including mine) were soon hogging the normally car-owned road, exhilarated by the power of the snowball and proceeded to practice sharp shooting and snow grafitti. For me inside (hanging up washing!) but listening to the sound of laughter in the street was a reminder of the joys spontaneous play brings. It’s not the sort of laughter you hear at a ballet or other after-school class that’s for sure.

Admittedly playing out in the snow tends to end in tears because snowballing turns your fingers icy all too soon. But everyone eventually thawed, the wet gloves were dried by the woodburner (or on the bathroom radiator) and bedtime welcomed. I’ve read reports that say every half hour your child plays outside they will fall asleep 10 minutes earlier. However flawed the timings must seem to those families who just can’t get their kids to sleep, it is obvious that being outside offers memorable, and very happy days.

For any child over five (or good at concentrating) try bedtime or treat reading aloud The Secret Garden (the ultimate playing out contrasting the Yorskhire moors and an abandoned walled garden) as a subtle way of showing children just how fun it is exploring the garden if your street is simply not an option. Here’s a photo of Saskia, 4, and Alfie, 2, children of one of the wonderful contributors to my book Homemade Kids,  looking for beans or mini-beasts (depending on their mood!).

There’s also good ideas to create safe, attractive and enjoyable streets – ideal for playful pedestrians – at the Living Streets website

What are your best tricks for keeping kids and homes warm?

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2 Comments on “Winter play”

  1. stacy Says:

    The good thing about babywearing in the winter I’m finding is that we both stay warm. I stick him in my front carrying sling and wrap my clothes around him – a long cardigan and winter jacket. Then I pop a winter hat on him and one on myself as well – I was once told that body heat escapes throught the head as heat rises- so put a lid on the pot so to speak. Of course, in this style, I am limited to carrying him only on my front. I then carry a backpack to transport diapers, wallet, camera and whatever groceries I may pick up during my walk. It’a a good counterbalance.For this style to be a success, it’ important to have big fitting clothes – most ladies with an infant still have maternity wear so that works if it’s a jacket or cardigan.
    Now when I do bundle him up on the rare occassion when carrying 8-9 kg to the park 2-3 km away seems too much, I really hate all the unbundling required for a diaper change. I found that I can breastfeed in the winter on a sunny day in the park on a bench – if I sit in the sun. It’ s about 10 degrees Celcius. And yes, it is possible with my Mobywrap to breastfeed while standing or on the train and I have done so but there’s a bit of wrangling to get in and out of position so I don’t do it often.
    All this metric is probably leaving your head spinning.

  2. stacy Says:

    Oh – I forgot to say that on occasions when I bundle up my bundle of joy – that’s when I use the stroller. Let me tell you, the kid is getting heavy despite having a sling that distributes weight evenly across my back!
    ~Stacy in Japan

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