During the winter months, dressing for the outdoors means that transitions require additional care and attention. Children’s ability to dress themselves for winter will vary based on factors including age, abilities, dispositions and familiarity with winter weather and clothing. Therefore, children dress at different paces and with varying levels of comfort. Some children may struggle or need additional support or assistance with putting on outdoor clothing. Other children who are dressed quickly may need to wait for peers who are either looking for winter gear or struggling to put it on. While the children wait, they might start to get bored or feel hot and frustrated in their bulky winter clothing.
During the winter months, the College receives an increase in the number of complaints or reports related to transitions to outdoor environments. In some cases, RECEs’ physical or verbal interactions with children are inappropriately harsh. In other cases, RECEs, intentionally or accidentally allow children to go outside when they are not appropriately dressed. Instances of failure to adequately supervise children also occur. These situations can result in children being put at risk of physical harm, or damage the relationship between the RECE, and a child, the group of children, families or colleagues.
As an RECE, you are responsible for ensuring you adhere to the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. You maintain caring and responsive relationships with children and you protect their safety, health and well-being (Standard I & III).
Using your professional judgment is incredibly important to support children during transitions. The following can assist in making transitions easier for everyone:
- Consider potential factors that may affect children’s ability to participate in preparing themselves to go outside
- Ask for help from colleagues
- Use transitions as learning opportunities
- Encourage children to help each other
- Think about supports that would increase children’s comfort levels
- Transition in small groups
- Encourage families to practice dressing for winter at home
- Communicate with families about the type of winter clothing children require
- Collect extra winter clothing to use when children need it
Other College resources that can support you in this area:
- Practice Guideline: Supporting Positive Interactions with Children
- Practice Note: Professional Supervision of Children
Example for reflection
With colleagues, consider the following short scenario and reflective questions:
Lee and Francie are preparing to take a group of 24 kindergarten children outside to play in the snow. The children are led into the hall by the educators, who support the children with getting into their winter gear. Some of the children require only the occasional verbal cue, whereas other children need physical support to get dressed. As Lee is helping Amy, she notices Devon is crying because he is having trouble finding his mittens. Lee quickly pulls up Amy’s boot and rushes over to Devon. Amy rubs her ankle and says “Ouch – that hurt!” Before Lee could respond to Amy or Devon, a number of other children call out for her help. The children being assisted by Francie are in their winter gear and go outside.
Lee is feeling under pressure to keep on schedule and get the children outside so the hallway isn’t too busy when the next group of children comes out to get ready. She says to Devon, “Don’t worry, you can go out without your mitts and I will see if I can find them.” Then she looks over at Amy who is rubbing her ankle. As she approaches Amy, Lee is worried that in her haste, she may have hurt Amy’s ankle.
If you were in Lee’s position, identify what steps you would take to ensure the children’s health and safety was your top priority:
- For Devon
- For Amy
- For the group
What transition strategies could Lee and Francie use to support individual and groups of children?
With colleagues consider additional factors that are unique to your practice setting that could influence a similar situation? How could they be addressed?