Finally, winter arrived– at least for a day or two. And we know it’s coming back. Brrrr. When the thermometer registers in the teens and there’s frost on the windows, you might think twice about a stroll around the block with the baby or a play time in the local park with your energetic toddler and pre-schoolers. We have clients who want their kids outside no matter what the temperature and nannies– especially those from warmer climates –who don’t want to poke their noses outside when it registers less than 45 degrees. This is a great topic of conversation to have when interviewing a prospective caregiver. If you are interviewing in July or August, concerns about kids going out in the winter are probably not on your mind. But it’s still a great time to find out if you are going to be compatible when the temperature does plummet.
Every winter we also get calls from nannies suffering from cabin fever. There are nannies who do want to be outside at least some of the time in the winter. It’s hard to be cooped up in a house for ten hours a day five days a week. A walk outside helps break up the day. If it’s raining, snowing, or just too cold, a drive to a mall or museum may be a help in breaking up the monotony of being trapped indoors for days on end.
Here are some helpful guidelines. 30 degrees or higher, it’s fine to be outside as long as everyone is dressed appropriately. More on that later. From 20 to 30 degrees, you don’t want to be out too long without periodic indoor breaks to warm up. Unless prompted, many young children would stay out until they’re really cold and not even realize it. Also, pay particular attention to the wind chill factor. It really affects how cold it will feel and how safe it is to play outside. The thermometer may say 30 degrees, but with the wind chill factored in, it may only be in the teens.
A natural inclination is to bundle a baby up in the frigid air. But babies aren’t able to regulate their temperature well and they can overheat. The idea is to layer starting with a light base especially cotton. Then put on a middle layer of slightly heavier material like fleece, and finally add a water and wind-resistant outer shell. Feet and fingers are particularly sensitive to changes in temperature. They need protection. And, as your mother always told you, you need something to cover the head. This is where babies (and adults) lose the most heat. If you are trying to assess how cold a baby is, check the nape of the neck–not the more obvious hands or feet. If the nape is cool add a layer or subtract a layer if it’s clammy.
Now that everyone is dressed appropriately, the winter is a great time to introduce children to winter sports: ice skating, sledding, skiing. Everyone–bundle up-but not too much—and have a great time outdoors. Even if it’s only for a stroll around the block.