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A Deep Dive into Dressing Kids for Forest School

Forest school newbies, I see you. In our community group, I've heard a lot of questions from parents and families new to the forest school experience about what the heck it is their kids should wear to stay warm, dry yet agile, forest school is an active place so, kids won't want to be dressed like michelin men! A key aspect of ensuring a positive outdoor experience for kids is choosing clothing that not only provides comfort and protection but also aligns with sustainable practices - cos y'know - isn't nature the reason we're all sending our kids there anyway?!

In this comprehensive guide, I'll delve into the art of dressing kids for Forest School adventures, emphasizing the use of sustainable fabrics such as organic cotton, wool, and recycled polyester for year-round comfort and sustainability. By the way, if you're new to sustainable fabrics, start with our handy starter article here

Layers in Harmony with Nature:

I always recommend wool. Wool, wool, wool for everything. Start with moisture-wicking wool base layers. Look for OEKO-tex or GOTS certified merino wool ideally dyed using plant based dyes (especially important for kids with allergies). Dependent on the weather, you can limit these to just a wool tank or a full long sleeve set in light weight 160GSM or a heavier(thicker) 250GSM wool for those bitter cold winter mornings. These pieces are designed to regulate temperature effectively, to pull away sweat from the skin keeping it dry which is super important in winter time. Not only do these materials offer comfort and warmth, but they also contribute to a lower environmental impact compared to synthetic alternatives.

WARNING: do not put cotton UNDER these layers as this will defeat the purpose of the moisture wicking properties of wool and trap moisture against the skin. After this first layer is where you can add a fleece, zip top or hooded sweatshirt if needed.

Weather-Responsive Outerwear:

A little rain, snow, sleet or wind doesn't a forest school stop, so invest in weather-appropriate attire crafted from sustainable materials like organic cotton and recycled polyester. Seek out fleece jackets, rain jackets and rain or snow pants made from recycled synthetic fibers or eco-friendly fabrics such as waxed organic cotton that are waterproof and breathable. Layer these pieces on top of your wool base layers as needed. E.g. if it's a snowy day how about trying out these Jan & Jul snow pants, fleece lined for comfort and warm with cuffed bottoms, they're great for keeping out the cold. Prioritize brands committed to sustainable production practices to minimize your environmental footprint.

Don't forget the accessories: hats, socks and gloves: Hats are a must in cold weather. As always, I'd recommend wool due to the thermoregulation and moisture wicking properties and if it's really cold I'd opt for balaclavas to keep the neck covered and safe from a nasty wind. What I love about a balaclava is that it can be tucked in underneath existing layers to provide a seal. When it comes to socks, it's easy to default to focussing on what keeps the core warm and throw on any old socks laying about in the drawer or any old underwear. To enhance comfort and moisture management, consider wool socks. Similar to my musings above, wool, with its natural moisture-wicking properties, helps keep feet dry and comfortable during outdoor activities, making it an ideal and sustainable choice for Forest School, hiking or even skiing. In summer, swap these out for organic cotton alternatives. Look for socks that contain as little % of synthetic fiber as possible.

Gloves and mittens are also an absolute must. Hands and feet tend to get cold more quickly than the body (torso) because they lose heat more rapidly since they have a higher surface area-to-volume ratio. To keep little ones toastier for longer, opt for gloves and mittens made from natural fibers like ethically sourced wool. Again, wool is going to keep moisture away from sweaty palms. Double these up with a waterproof outer layer if needed for activities that might mean hands end up touching a lot of snow e.g. skiing, snowball fights etc. These fleece lined waterproof Jan & Jul mittens would well.

Bug Protection with a Natural Twist:

Now that we are done with staying warm, in the spring and summer seasons, bugs are a real issue and bites can really get a kid down. Explore natural bug repellent options that are safe for children and the environment. Additionally, dress your child in long sleeves and pants to provide a physical barrier against insects. Choose clothing with light colors, as bugs are often less attracted to lighter hues. I won't delve too much into sunscreen in this article, but by covering in long sleeves and pants, you're also keeping your child safe once the sun comes out in full force AND protecting them from ticks.

Backpack Essentials with Sustainability in Mind:

Backpacks, water bottles and the like are a sore point for me. My eldest son loses and ruins these 2 items at an alarming rate. But it doesn't stop me from putting sustainability front of mind when buying these items. Select a backpack made from eco-friendly materials such as recycled polyester or organic cotton. Pack a reusable water bottle and a stainless steel or recycled polyester snack container to minimize single-use plastic waste. Encourage your child to embrace the ethos of sustainability by participating in the responsible disposal of any waste generated during the day.

Labeling for Sustainability: It seems like a bit of an afterthought, but it really shouldn't be. Once you have all these gorgeous heirloom pieces and your kid is fully ready to hit forest school hard, don't forget to label everything and I mean everything! They will loose items (over and over again in my eldest son's case!) Utilize sustainable methods for labeling your child's clothing, such as recycled paper or fabric labels. Choose clothing with embedded fabric tags to eliminate the need for additional labeling.

Communicate and Collaborate: Stay connected with Forest School instructors to ensure you're on top of anything that's needed in school that day, expected weather conditions, activities and the like. It's best to know what's happening so you can prepare and keep your child comfortable throughout. Collaboration is also important when it comes to aligning on sustainability efforts between the home and school. You might want to chat to the administration of the school about their waste management philosophy, how you guys can collaborate to promote certain practices and eco-friendly choices to integrate sustainability into the Forest School experience.

Dressing your kiddo for a day at Forest School can be a bit mind boggling for a beginner so i reallly hope the guide above acted at least as a starter for thinking about this. There are lots of methods to keeping a kiddo comfortable, but in my experience, the above helped not only keep them protected from the elements but also streamlined enough to actually ENJOY the elements. By prioritizing ethically made organic cotton, wool, and recycled polyester, you not only provide comfort and protection but also instill in your child a sense of responsibility toward the environment. Through these intentional choices, you can nurture a love for nature while making a positive impact on the planet. Any questions? As always - hit me up below.

PS. A little poll to help us prep the next article in the series!

What do you want us to cover next?

  • Dressing sustainably in hot climates/seasons

  • More on fabric care and longevity

  • More on sustainable fabrics and their properties

  • Ethical production, what I have to know

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