Health & safety: Winter tips from the teachers

From Ross Thompson

As a winter cyclist, the first recommendation I can make from years of personal experience riding bikes in sub-zero weather: layers. Proper layering keeps you warm, mobile, and safe. And bulk doesn’t always equal warmth! Wool, polar-fleece, or cotton base layers (“long-johns”) can do wonders for keeping the heat in and the cold out. Also, keep your hands, neck, and face properly covered. Neck gaiters are becoming quite popular, and are proving to be a safer/easier option for children than scarves. No need to wrap 4 feet of fabric around your child anymore! This simple mini pullover keeps your child’s head and neck toasty warm rather than exposed on those brutally windy days, thus making outdoor activities far more enjoyable and safer for longer periods of time!

Then we come to the whole mittens vs. gloves debate. Which is the better choice might be too hot a topic for our newsletter (sometimes it might simply be, “Whatever it takes to get us out of the house in the morning!”), but the bottom line is you want your children’s fingers to be warm and safe. There are many choices, however the least effective are the thin fabric, knit (stretchy) gloves and mittens that provide little-too-no protection from the cold winter weather. They get soaked quickly as the children play in the snow, the snow quickly melts on the mittens from their body heat, and then starts to rapidly chill their hands as they spend time outside.

From Amy Vavricka

Winter in Minnesota can be a blast when you get out to enjoy some outdoor activity. Sledding and skating can be wonderful family excursions, but safety can be a big concern for families with young children. Even walking on an icy sidewalk can be intimidating! Just remember….walk like a penguin (i.e. shuffle) and take it slow!

Sledding safety depends a lot on the snow conditions and the steepness of the hill. At school, we teach the children how to use their feet as brakes so they can learn to control the speed of their sled and stop themselves. Here are more sledding safety tips Kids Health.

Check out these sledding spots around town

We are fortunate to have so many lakes for skating. Some lakes may not be safe for skating. Read ice thickness guidelines.

From Ayuko Boomer

Welcome back and Happy New Year! As winter arrives, flu and common cold viruses are beginning to proliferate. One of the best and easiest ways to prevent your child from getting sick is to wash his/her hands with soap and water often and as soon as he/she gets home from school or any public places. The recommended time frame for hand washing is 20-30 seconds or singing ABCs twice. To avoid spreading germs, you should encourage your child to cough or sneeze into the elbows or shoulders.

From Sheila Williams Ridge

Keeping children safe and comfortable in the winter is important to encourage play and learning. Determining how cold is too cold has more to do with the wind and weather gear that the children and teachers wear than just a temperature gauge. If children and adults are wearing several layers, water- and windproof outerwear, warm wool socks, warm hats with earflaps, insulated boots and water- and windproof mittens, then they should be safe and comfortable in most temperatures.

When the wind chill starts to dip below zero, we make sure that children have additional warm gear like neck gaiters or scarves that can help cover their noses and mouths. During this weather, the ice becomes crunchy and walking in the deeper snow becomes hard work, so it is also important to be sure children don’t get overheated and start to sweat. Observation and communication with children outdoors is key in figuring out if they may need to shed a layer or two or add another layer. For example, even at days that are below zero, if we are building a snow fort, and shoveling piles of snow, playing tag, or hiking up a sledding hill repeatedly, it is possible that children may need to shed a heavy coat and wear just their under layers that usually comprise a thermal layer, a shirt, and a sweater or jacket liner.