Updated: Oct 20, 2018
And other common questions about Forest Kindergarten.
It rains a lot in Humboldt County. And it's beautiful for it. The forests are carpeted with water loving ferns and dappled with mushrooms of all sorts. The redwoods drink from the fog around them and thrive in this cool damp climate. I love it here, not in spite of the rain but because of it. And yet when I first got the job as one of Laurel Tree's Forest Kindergarten Aides the question I received the most was, "but what about when it rains?"
"Well, we're out in it!" I would reply, to which I might receive an incredulous stare or a simple laugh. I had seen the videos and read the articles about the Forest Kindergarten movement and I had fallen in love with the idea of it -but had I been in the rain with fourteen kids under the age of six? Nope, not yet anyway.
Now, almost five months into the school year, and with a quite a few wet and windy days enjoyed I'd like to share with you what we do on the rainy days.
And yes, we are definitely out in it.
GOOD Rain Gear
This is a must have for enjoying rainy, muddy days outside. We ordered our rain gear from Mknordika, a Scandinavian company, and they have been a success! The suit has rain pants that loop under the rain boot so it's perfect for puddle jumping (And believe you me these kids have tested that).
You can find our rain gear here: https://www.mknordika.com.au/shop/kids/kids-raincoats/
At our home base at Laurel Tree we have lines on either side of our main gazebo which serve as the spine for our tarp set up. This way we can have three "dry" stations going at one time while the rest of the yard can be used for good old fashioned rainy day romping.
A Quick Setup
Because we live in such a diverse and beautiful place we wanted the Forest K class to experience all of it from forest to coastline. So, we move around a lot. We stay, play, and explore one "camp site" for about two months then move on to another. We scheduled our beach classroom time during the beginning of the year and our forest time during the more rainy months where we would be sure of some tree cover.
Tarps Work Wonders
While tarps may look campy to us, for many of our kids setting up tarps was basically the equivalent of fort building. There is certainly something very appealing about setting up a fort or a shelter on a rainy, wet day. What's worked well for us during the really rainy mornings is to have someone (an aide or a parent volunteer) go beforehand and set up a few tarps before the van load of kids arrive.
One tarped area serves as our cozy spot where kids can get out of the rain. Here they can work on a quiet, calming project, drink some hot tea, and maybe read or look at a book with friends. Some kids might prefer this space over being in the rain at all, but what we've found is that the cozy spot is used intermittently and that students are mostly happy to be out playing in the rain.
Finally, here are a few things we found we needed and/or wanted while in a muddy beautiful forest with 14 kids:
~A place to rinse, dry and sanitize muddy hands before snack
~A designated place to keep their backpacks up and out of the mud
~Bird books, plant books, and books that help you identify tracks of local animals
~Communal water bottles! On the off chance that someone forgets to pack a water bottle we like to keep a few water bottles handy so that kids can have a "birdy squirt" when they need it (aka squirting the water into their mouth without letting it touch their lips)
~Audio books or fun music to listen to on the ride to and from your site.
~Bug boxes and binoculars for a closer look!
~Lots of rope, clips and bungees for our tarp set up.
~A towel or mat for wiping off boots before loading into the vans.
~An extra tarp for keeping gear dry
In the end, there are days were the rain is a wonderful, breathtaking thing to behold and many incredible learning moments take root. Then there are the days were you feel muddy and exhausted and the kids are wet and whiny. But let me tell you, it is worth it.
Check it out! More on kids, rain and play in the great outdoors: