On the first day of school, John and I got to sit through a presentation from her teachers about Ada’s preschool and how Ada should dress. In Norway, young children attend “barnehage” which translates to children’s garden just like kindergarten. Barnehage is basically equivalent to preschool/day care for children from 0 to 5 years old. Barnehege is heavily subsidized by the state and children who attend are required to spend at least one to two hours outside every day unless it is below 14F. That means even if it rains cats and dogs outside all day like it did on Tuesday of last week or if it’s freezing cold or sleeting, they spend time outside.
Norwegians have a saying (though I’ve heard this in the US too) “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” To that end, here is what Ada’s preschool teachers told us Ada would need to be able to participate comfortably outside at preschool.
For rain or wet weather, Ada and her friends have rain pants and rain coats. The pants are more like trousers and have an elastic that goes around the shoe. So, they are pretty impenetrable. They also put these over their snow suits in the winter if it’s especially wet snow outside:
As a side note, I think it’s pretty neat that Ada’s friends back in Delaware get to wear full body rain suits as St. Anne’s Episcopal preschool trials a nature preschool!
For colder weather, the kids dress in layers. First they put on wool (“ull” in Norwegian) long underwear:
A one piece fleece suit:
A one piece heavy winter suit (again note the elastic to go underneath the boot):
Wool socks and good snowshoes (Viking and Ecco are good Norwegian brands that make warm shoes with Goretex on the outside for water resistance/breathability):
And another pair of snow boots for wet snows (basically wool lined rain boots):
Finally, a hat and fleece scarf or a balaclava (shown below) and really nice mittens that can go over the sleeves of a coat:
Unfortunately because we are new to Norway, I don’t have the awesome network of friends and family giving us hand-me-downs for all of this necessary clothing. These clothes also can be quite expensive. A good set of new winter boots can put you back $100 and a good pair of mittens can cost up to $50! However, I have been able to find almost everything we need used through other parents at Ada’s school, facebook groups or the local craigslist (finn.no) at extremely reasonable prices. Although it takes more time to obtain clothes this way, it has saved us a lot of money, and of course I hope it has also helped the environment through reuse. (Plus, it was fun to go to random parts of the city to meet up with the sellers.)
I almost forgot to mention that Ada will also occasionally need “wind and cold cream” that parents put on their kids faces to protect their skin from getting too dry in the winter. Evidently they sell it at most “Apoteks” aka pharmacies. Yikes!
This fall, Ada gets to go to a “nature school” every Friday where they get on a bus and go to a place where they learn about nature by spending all day outside regardless of the weather. I’m sure Ada will be putting some of this clothing to good use there as well. As you can see below, Ada will pick blueberries, learn how to whittle and operate a bow and arrow (!), build a hut with sticks, set up a trap, pitch a Norwegian tipi tent, grill around a bonfire, and do an obstacle course. How awesome is that? (At several places in Norway, I’ve actually seen small children put these skills to use by whittling sticks quite proficiently to roast a hot dog over a fire.)
Because Ada will be outside all day at nature school, we’ve had to buy her an insulated sitting mat which is quite common in Norway to protect your bottom from the wet/cold ground. Below is a pic of Ada sitting on her mat when her class chose to picnic outside near the local pool:
Below is a pic of Ada picking up trash to celebrate international clean up day (All the kids in barnehage wear yellow or orange vests on field trips and they seem to take field trips a lot).
And below are a few good pics of Ada and her friends playing outside this fall in preschool:
Finally, how does the school manage all of this clothing. Each kid not only gets their own cubby which holds their indoor shoes/extra set of clothes and backpack. But each class has their own special portable closet with hooks that can hold boots and rain coats so they can dry for the next day!