Getting wet in the rain is part of my job. I've almost made a career out of getting wet in the rain, and making it feel like fun. It is fun. No really! I check out the weather forecast and just think oh, I'm going to get wet today.
Part of outdoor learning for me is that you go out whatever the weather is doing. The only time we wouldn't go out is in crazy high winds in certain environments but you can usually adapt where you work and play so that you are still safe. I have maybe had only 2 sessions in many years where we took our plans in-doors In all weathers there is always something to experience, something unexpected.
If you are an outdoor educator of any kind or even an active, outdoorsy parent you will know that the weather can mess with your plans. So then your plans become a movable feast. Everything I do is ready to change at the last minute. This is not because the weather stops your plans but more because your plans should be ready to change to make the most of whatever the weather brings you, in the same way that you may try to make your activities follow the seasons.
Often, just a willingness to carry on and go outside as planned is all you need as your groups, your children or your family will find fun things to do without your help. Many children and young people are not allowed out in the rain, so the opportunity to go out in the wet weather and be allowed to get a bit soggy is a novelty for many and they will make their own fun. Here's an image of a group collecting rain water running off of a shelter into our washing up bucket-much fun. That same water was then used in the physics, water-in-the-bucket-challenge, where you swing the water filled bucket around over your head and none will fall out because of the centrifugal force-that's science that is.
This is Jay, a keen young scientist testing out that theory for real in one of our sessions. She was wet already so had no fear of getting wetter if the experiment didn't work. Science in action.
In reality, in a whole year there are not that many days where we actually get very, very wet. We have maybe only one or two days when we have got drenched right through even our waterproof layers and even our pants have got wet, kinda days. The thought of being drenched right down to your skin is a horrific thought for many parents and teachers. In truth we deny children and young people the small pleasure and satisfaction of getting wet to then get warm and cosy again when we change and get dry. It is a nice thing. A really nice thing.
If you are looking for ideas for activities in the rain and other weather you might usually avoid, there are a few books out there but you could start here with this one. Check out their website for other ideas.
Mostly I find that going out in grotty weather is a mind set. There's no secret and no expertise really, just a sort of stubborness that whatever happens you are going anyway. In schools, once kids and staff know that you just go out anyway, they just go out anyway! If every time it was a bit wet I worried about whether we should go out or stay in, we would never leave the classroom. Often a shower has completely disappeared by the time we have put our outdoor gear on.
I apply this mind set to our own family adventures also. Although admittedly it is more tricky when it isn't for work and I have more choice over what we choose to do and when. However, we will happily adventure in the rain. Our first ever microadventure was in almost biblical rain in January, with my kids and some of their friends but that's what made it memorable and funny. We were soaked, but on an adventure that we knew was just one night. That's what matters, you know the cold and wet is temporary and will not last forever. We had hot drinks and hot baked beans that night and hot porridge the next morning and we were fine. We got to experience that wet-to-warm-and-cosy feeling the next day. Nice.
With very young children, it's not quite the same, 'just get on with it' rule. They become cold and grumpy much quicker and you don't ever want to put them off being outside. Small children crying lots in the rain, isn't fun any more! They can still go out though but in small bursts, with a standby shelter and if I want to extend their time outdoors I will have blankets and even hot water bottles under shelter so that they can warm up and then return to their play. Young children will also develop a rainy and cold day mind set if you help them to understand that it is o.k. and it is fun and is only temporary.
Most of all, there are activities that only really can happen if it's raining or has been very wet. Most of my groups love to skid or 'power-slide' down banks and hills in wet weather. It's definitely one of their all time favourite things to do.
It doesn't happen overnight, but the understanding and cooperation of those that work with you is pretty key. It's most helpful if parents, teachers and other adults or staff understand what you are doing and trust you. This isn't always there right at the start but the happiness and enthusiasm of their children or class will help them understand, bit by bit. Some will be pleased that you are willing to help their children experience those moments in their place. They may understand the value but just not like getting their hair wet and you will be doing them a massive favour!
Make plans to take a rainy walk or play session outside. On a wet but not windy day, umbrellas are great fun upside down hanging from trees to catch the rain and trigger exciting play and experimental ideas. Remember, most waterproofs are not really water proof but just shower proof and will not withstand major down pours but do still make awesome skidding down hills equipment!
Message me with your most memorable rainy play days and I will edit them into this post. Or you can post on instagram with #misselvyscuriousschoolofthewild or #wildwetdays. Spread the word with your own stories that there is no such thing as bad weather and all that............