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The antidote to Early Years Childcare: Weather

Pip…Pip…Pip…Pip…Here is the weather forecast.

‘The weather today will be cloudy across most parts with intermittent sunshine interspersed with squally showers which may turn to thunder in some parts. Temperatures will rise to 30 degrees at times in the north while the south will experience occasional hailstorms and localised flooding with ice patches. These will be followed by snow storms in the west...’

If the BBC were to provide an early years weather forecast in the same way they give the shipping forecast, then this is what it would sound like. Early years staff consequently would be prepared for the fact that their entire day will be spent helping children dress to go outside and then undressing them again because the weather has changed in the time which it took to get them dressed, and as soon as they are undressed the weather will change again. This procedure will be repeated over and over again throughout the session. But actually, most of us know this already.

The early years practitioner’s biggest enemy is the weather. All educational advice states very clearly that children should be able to enjoy outdoors play activities freely. Training manuals pretend the weather is sensible and co-operative. In their opinion, there is no weather which is not suitable for children to be outdoors. No practitioner would disagree with that philosophy – everyone wants the children to go outside – preferably the sooner the better. But the weather has its own agenda.

Educational advice ignores belting rain, slippery ice, fog, snow, hail which hurts, sun which burns children to a crisp within a minute and freezing storms which arrive as suddenly and surprisingly as wet knickers. Whole days, weeks, terms can be spent by staff dressing and undressing children for outdoor activities.

We have tried to beat the weather in our setting. When the sun shines we dress children in coats, woolly hats, wellington boots and gloves and provide them with umbrellas and snow shovels. When it is really cold and wet we remove their cardigans, jumpers, warm woollen leggings, provide sun glasses, shove sun hats on and rub in Factor 25.

But it still doesn’t work because the weather watches us and makes sure it’s always one step ahead.

It’s utterly unfair and it’s about time someone actually sorted out the weather in early years settings. The rest of the world has to cope with unruly, irrational weather but we have unruly, irrational children to deal with. Having weather as well is just too much.

Weather warning is put out on the media for motorists telling them to take care of freezing fog patches. Deep-sea fishermen are warned of potential gales. We are warned about leaves on railway lines, individual places have flood warnings and different areas are told about sunburn factors. But no one ever bothers to give weather forecasts for early years settings where weather is really important. The met office simply don’t seem to care whether the weather is OK for us or whether the weather isn’t.

I’ve just looked out of the window. It’s snowing, the sun’s shining through the fog and there’s a beautiful rainbow in the sky – red and yellow and pink and blue – a national curriculum sky.

Time to lay down quietly in a darkened room.

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