Dress for the job you want, right? The most important job of children is play and we need to ensure that their clothing supports them as they work. Our outfit is a ‘container for movement’ (Bowman, Grow Wild), and our clothing choices can be the difference between a fun experience and a miserable one.
We often categorize our clothes as either ‘sedentary’ or ‘movement.’ You might guide children in dressing for a specific occasion with these categories: work, play, special event, or school. Choosing clothing for play can have a big impact on the fun we have. Nature offers diverse inputs, and we need to have the right clothing to explore our environments.
“If we want our kids to move more, they need to get a little wild.”
Katy Bowman, Grow Wild
Living in Saskatchewan means experiencing all of the elements, sometimes in the same day. Your best bet is dressing in thin layers, so that you can remove them if you get too warm. Gloves and mittens can protect the hands from weather and scratches, but can also get in the way of our play. For thinner gloves, ensure a snug fit so that the hands can work effectively to climb trees, move rocks, and climb up the slide. For winter inspiration, check out the highlights on the Sask Junior Explorer Page.
Pants and shirts should allow for full range of motion. Think of wearing a pair of jeans to ride your bike. You’re more likely to stop after a few blocks, rather than make it around the trail. Test out your clothing with a good play at the park. Have a child who prefers dresses? Biking shorts underneath your skirt are a great way to keep your style and still be able to climb on the monkey bars. Use an elastic band to keep your skirt out of your face while you hang upside down.
Shoes can make or break a good play session. They also impact development of motor skills and coordination. The best shoes for play have a minimal heel and a flat toe box. Heels can cause us to stand on an angle, adding pressure to the toes.
A bendable sole is necessary for flexible play, and lightweight shoes are less likely to interfere with our movements. It is recommended that shoes are about half an inch longer than the child’s foot. Too small shoes keep kids’ feet from developing well, but a full size larger is also not ideal.
Compare the traction on the shoes in your closet. You’ll likely find a lot of variety; different shoes are made with different environments in mind. Remember to also build in some time with bare feet.
When it comes to clothing, material matters. Avoid cotton during wet and cold months; wool is a great alternative and assists in regulating body temperature. Your outer layer needs to be able to stand up to the elements. Consider breathability and water resistance. If you notice your clothing is wearing out, grab a spray or wash of water repellant from your local sporting goods store to give it a second life.
If you’re wondering if an outfit will work for play, put it through the Tree Climb Test (Bowman, Grow Wild):
Can both arms reach overhead comfortably?
Can you bring a knee to your chest? Stretch a leg out to the side?
How will the outfit shape work with the environment? Will loose fabric catch on things or fray if it gets caught?
Do these shoes help or hinder?
Can this outfit squat?
Can this outfit invert?
Can this outfit walk a mile?
For more information and tips, check out some of my favourite outdoor Instagram accounts: