It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Going Outside

Not that we are today. Going outside, that is. It’s -29C out there right now, windchill taking it down to a biting -34C. Wind like that hurts. Also, we’ll take 25 minutes to get dressed to go out, and be back inside five minutes later. If they could manage fifteen, it would be worth it. Five? Meh.

But how do I do it, you ask? Well, as I said to Natalie, for starters, you allow enough time and you encourage independence. The three- and the five-year-old can both get into their own snowsuits, needing help only with zippers, mittens and boots.

The two’s? (There are four of them these days.)

Four snowsuits are tossed onto the floor.


The first snowsuit is laid, empty, in my lap as I kneel on the floor, and the first child lifted into my lap to sit on the snowsuit. One leg, two legs, are stuck into the suit. One mitten, two mittens, onto the hands, and then the hands pushed through the arms, me pulling the sleeve toward myself, the child’s elbow braced against my chest. Pop! Goes the mittened fist through the sleeve. One zip (or two) and that child’s done.


Then the hats.
Then the boots.

At no time — pay attention, girls and boys, this part is IMPORTANT — at NO time do I ask, “Do you want to…?” “Could you please…?” “Would you like to…?” Ask questions of a two-year-old? Do I look crazy? What is a two-year-old’s answer to ANY question? Why would I invite that?

Nope, it’s all cheery directives. “Rory! Come get your snowsuit on!” And if Rory races the other way, I scoop him up and pop him onto my lap. “Come on, silly boy! Time to go OUTSIDE!!” Big smile, lilting voice. That usually does it.

Why? Because if he complains or cries, I don’t stop. I don’t even slow down. And the whole time I’m shoving his body into the suit, I’m narrating. “We’re going outside! You LIKE to go outside! One foot. There you go! Other foot! And you can’t go without the snowsuit. You would FRRRREEEEZE! One arm! Pushpushpushpush — pop! Good man! Two arms…” Any struggles against the suit are ignored. Ignored as if they aren’t happening at all. When the child is dressed, I smile into their face (even if it’s a red and furious face), clap, and celebrate the fact that we’re just about ready to go OUTSIDE!! Whee.

Yes, I do acknowledge their feelings. “I know, you don’t like to put on your snowsuit. You have to sit still, you can’t run around. Snowsuits are stupid, aren’t they? Boo, snowsuit! But it will be nice to be warm outside, won’t it? It sure will!” Note, though, that I don’t wait until I have their agreement before proceeding. All the while I’m noting what a pain snowsuits are, I’m getting her into it.

This has happened enough in earlier weeks that by now no one bothers much with complaining. Snowsuits are inevitable. We don’t give them much thought any more, we just do it. I don’t coax or convince, because winter gear is a non-negotiable. Some things are negotiable. Mittens might be — I’ve been known to let a child go out without mittens so that they can discover why we wear mittens. Some things are non-negotiable. Snowsuits and boots are non-negotiable.

With that as our understanding, there’s some fun to be had. An older child who is pushing their own mittened hand through the sleeve is encouraged to push hard when I put my face in range of the end of the sleeve and say, “Push, push! Poke me in the nose! Go on, you can do it!!” And then the mitten pops out the sleeve, I might just roll back and make much of having been popped in the nose.

It’s very fun.

For them, at any rate. This is not to say I enjoy putting five or six kids into snowsuits. I can’t say I really do, no. It’s tedious, it’s repetitious. It’s boring, frankly. What it’s not, happily, is a power struggle.

And the reward? Going outside for a flounder in the snow!


Only not today. Brr.

January 24, 2011 - Posted by | Canada, daycare


  1. I am always amazed when I volunteer in my son’s Kindergarten class (mixed Junior/Senior, so at this point in the year the children are aged 4-5.5), and find that there are children of this age, seemingly without any developmental disabilities, who do NOT know how to put on their own snowsuits/boots/winter gear. They pick their snowsuit off their hook and just look at it helplessly. An adult of some description has to come over and direct the process of getting the child into the snowsuit. I had thought it was only the Juniors (4 year olds) with this problem, but on my last visit I noticed two five year olds, capable in every other respect, who were exhibiting the same behaviour.

    It certainly made me understand why my children’s teachers always comment favourably on how quickly and easily my children dress themselves to go outside. I just wonder why the other children’s parents and caregivers have not bothered to teach them this very basic element of self care?

    Comment by mamadragon | January 24, 2011 | Reply

  2. lol – Awesome. Still? I would DIE. ;>)

    LOL I suspect you’d rise to the challenge… but you can be grateful you don’t have to, if you like!

    Comment by Hi, I'm Natalie. | January 24, 2011 | Reply

  3. You. are amazing. Just in case no one has told you lately. đŸ™‚

    Aw, shucks.

    Comment by Dani | January 24, 2011 | Reply

  4. I remember watching my husband’s friend dressing her under-two baby for a walk to the restaurant where we would be eating.

    “Do you want your mittens on? No? You’ll be cold…”


    Yup. Yet people do it all the time, and such trouble they make for themselves! Exasperating to watch.

    Comment by IfByYes | January 25, 2011 | Reply

  5. 20 months old is also too young to associate not having mittens on with being cold, even when it’s happened.

    I can’t imagine that sort of cold and carrying on everyday activities, Mary.

    Well-meaning parents who have promised themselves to be reasonable with their children forget, or don’t understand, that a child’s capability for reason is much less developed. You can be reasonable; they may not be able to be reasonable back.

    And carrying on everyday activities? In this cold? I can’t, either, not if it means going outside. This is the period of the winter, about three weeks every January/February, where I essentially hibernate. Some hardier souls than me are out and about (for things other than direst necessity), but not me!

    Comment by Z | January 25, 2011 | Reply

  6. I remember being taught in nursery school how to put my big fat winter coat on myself quickly and efficiently without any struggling with sleeves.

    Boy were my parents surprised when I immediately refused to let anyone put my coat on me after that. What I had been taught was quicker and easier.

    Comment by Helen Huntingdon | February 1, 2011 | Reply

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