I’m Not Cold

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L- I’m too hot for my coat.
C- I don’t want to wear my jacket.
P- Can I take my jacket off because I’m warm in it.
M- I take coat off?

Many of my children take their coats off, run around and play happily.

Adult #1- Oh you must be cold.
Adult #2- I feel cold looking at you, I just won’t look!
Adult #3- Your teacher let’s you take your coat off? *While looking at me and not them*
Adult #4- Well you’re okay because you have long sleeves.
Adult #5- Oh I am so cold, how are you not cold??

One of my biggest pet peeves of all time – is telling children what to do with their bodies when it has no effect on others around them. We don’t do it to other adults, but we think we can for children. We think we know better than they do, in so many ways, even when it is something we can’t know at all. 

I can not tell if a child is cold though I can observe them and guess. I have on occasion pointed out to a child that they are shivering and they had jumped up to grab their coat, remembering they brought it outside. I have also seen children take off their coats and instantaneously start twirling in joyous swirls around the playground, smiling and giggling and calling themselves frost fairies – and assumed they were not cold.

Other than body cues – I can’t tell what temperature feels comfortable to them. Which is really all it is. Being cold can not make you sick. Being cold can be bothersome of course, but the temperature at which it does so will differ from person to person. I love the cold. My ideal is the low 50s. I won’t wear a coat unless the wind is biting or I will be outside for a long time. Others get chilly around 70 degrees.

Yet around this time I hear it all. Adults arguing with children to wear jackets, mittens, hats, boots, and scarves. Trying to convince, manipulate, coax, bribe, argue, threaten, or pry their child into layers.

Why?

I know the intentions are well. We want our children to be safe and comfortable. We think that because we feel cold, they must as well. But projecting our feelings, and what we would want onto the children is mixing up agendas and creating a conflict where there shouldn’t be one. 

It has always been interesting to me that in educational circles that follow Reggio Emilia and other similar methods, don’t always extend the thinking of children being competent to other areas of their teaching practices.

Children are competent enough to use real life materials. But not competent enough to tell if they are cold.

Children are competent enough to take risks with materials, their bodies, and their environment. But not competent enough to connect feeling cold to putting on a jacket.

Children are competent enough to lead their own learning. But not competent enough to know when their body is feeling warm. 

I really don’t know what is is about winter clothes that is such a salty topic for some – what makes it so hard to ask ourselves, “Why do they have to wear a jacket?”

Every year I watch my classroom transform during the winter when they gain control over this. It is always bittersweet because I sadly assume this isn’t something they will have power over in years to come as they move on to different teachers and different schools. But being able to watch a child fling their jacket off and twirl around the playground, other children’s eyes lighting up as they realize they too have a choice and power over their own body and also choose to take their jackets off. The giggles and smiles as they prance around in the chilly air will always be one of my favorite sights to see. 

Even when they put the jacket right back on in 30 seconds, a minute, or never again. I know that in that moment they know they have power over their own body.

Of course with all things, common sense need apply. Not every child will be able to monitor their body temperature – and we as their carers should make judgement calls in extreme weather for those children, respectfully.

I know my children are capable and competent in so many ways. I could never imagine restricting them in a way that would tell them I think otherwise. 

 

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9 thoughts on “I’m Not Cold

  1. This us my philosophy as well, but the problem I encounter is parents, overprotective parents who get angry with us (teachers) if we are not dressing children responsibly. I told some concerned parents recently that it is warm out and the children have been running so when they asked to take off their sweaters my response was of course, im not wearing mine either. But then a parent came and told me the cold comes from the ground and how dare i not think about how sick her child will be. Because of the parents control over the children, the children are losing their self-awareness/control to be able to regulate their own body needs. I had a 6 year old in a gym lesson with a long sleeve shirt and heavy sweater and he was sweating….i asked him if he wanted to take it off and he said no, my mom likes when i wear my sweater so i asked him at least to go get a drink. Sometimes teachers have the right ideas of independent children, but their are parents or authorities who hold a different opinion.

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    1. Stefanie, it is definitely a delicate balance. I think one of the most important aspects of a classroom is an open dialogue with families. In the beginning of the year we wrote an email to families about our stance on the topic, and why we value body autonomy. There were some families who were on the fence but they were all willing to give it a shot. I just sent out a reflection email on this topic and many families thanked us for challenging them in this way, and stated they now also value body autonomy and giving their child power over what they wear.

      Sometimes, I think we don’t give families enough credit. Often times parents are doing what they think they should – and having your child wear a jacket when it’s cold feels like common sense. Sometimes just opening up the conversation, and challenging our community of families to ask themselves ‘Why?’ is enough.

      Other times, they stick firm to their thoughts on the matter and I think that is okay too. My job isn’t to get families to align their values with mine, but rather to push and challenge everyone’s thinking – as well as my own! While it is easy to get frustrated when a family leans towards an authoritative method that differs greatly from my own, it is much more productive to try and understand their perspective and to incorporate their values in the classroom as well.

      My first year teaching Pre-K I had many of the same angry conversations from parents when they picked up and saw their child running around without a jacket on, and I was immediately defensive. But I realize now that I never talked to the parents about my values on the matter, nor gave them an option. I thought it was okay for my to choose what was best for their child – but really, it wasn’t and I can understand their anger now.

      My first suggestion if this is something you value is to think deeply about why you value it, and to then open a dialogue with your families to see where everybody stands on the matter. And at the end of the day, know that they are making the best choice they know for their child!

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    1. Hey thanks for the shout out! It is incredible to read and hear about other educators challenging their own thinking after reading something I have written. It is a goal I thought I was far from reaching!

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  2. Hi,

    I’m a mum of 2 boys and I for a while I worried I was being over protective, I have tried different approaches and mostly let my kids guide the decisions regarding their bodies, saying so and for your information, I have read (you can look up studies done by scientists from Yale and some more) and also being told by medical experts that yes, cold temperatures or being cold increases your chances of catching viruses! Your lower body temperature messes up your immune system making viruses harder to attack or destroy.

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    1. Hi Jessica, I have heard similar in the past, and used to think the same. I did some research and came to a different conclusion.

      It is important for everyone to research and decide for themselves though, so thank you for sharing what you found and what you decided for your family. The most recent research I have found stated that the cold could affect how well our respiratory system filters out the bad and lets in the good – but there is still more research needed to be done. Though even if this were the case, I don’t think my viewpoint would change. Of course, I do think others may have to. If you are at risk for losing your job if your child gets sick, or if you or your child have health issues that could be complicated or worsened if they were to get sick, I would see why in those cases more caution would be necessary. Otherwise, I think it’s okay to let our children’s decide, and then possibly get sick. Getting sick, in most cases, isn’t bad. It is annoying, frustrating, and not ideal but for me, and for many people – it is worth the freedom to run around and enjoy ourselves. If you and your family would rather just not take a risk, hates being sick, or just can’t afford to get sick – I think of course you should make the best decision that fits your family!

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  3. Thank you! I’ve just found your blog (and am devouring it!)
    I’m thankful that most of the families of the preschoolers I work with are understanding…
    One that I wish had been different was a phone call from a stranger to the school… they were driving by, noticed the kids didn’t have coats, and were concerned. It was 10-15degrees Celcius, raining slightly… AND the children know about how to care for their bodies…
    I wish this person had stopped, so I could have had this conversation with them. Instead, they’ve got a less-than-correct vision of my program.
    Every day, a new piece of information, a new reflection, a new practice… It’s such an amazing job!

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