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. 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.
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.