All the snow we've had on the East Coast lately, and the winter break that is coming up, reminded me of Ella's old nursery school, in Norway.
It was a pretty large school, with five classes of 2- to 3-year-olds – Ella's age at the time – and several classes of 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds.
The school was housed in a big, old brick mansion. It had a yard about half an acre big, with apple trees and a large lawn, in addition to the swing sets, sand boxes and all the toys you would expect.
In the winter, it was all covered in snow, but that didn’t stop anyone from playing outside. There were two small knolls in the yard. They were no more than four feet high, but that was plenty to make ice slides down the sides.
Mayhem on the slopes
Every day when we got to school, it was mayhem!
A dozen toddlers or more on one of those little hills at once. Sliding down sideways, backwards or head first, in their slippery snowsuits. Using each other as stepping stones to crawl back to the top.
I’ve never heard so much childrens’ laughter and delight in one small place.
The kids who didn’t crawl over each other on the slopes, would try to pull each other around the yard on sleds. It was cute beyond words: Two toddlers pulling as hard as they could to move a third one even a foot.
Every day, the kids were out there for hours.
In Oslo, the kids normally play outside until the temperature drops below 14 °F. In other parts of the country they think we’re wimpy in Oslo. In Lillehammer, for example, they’ll keep the kids outside until the mercury drops below -4 °F.
Good, warm and practical clothing
Of course, none of that would be possible without good, warm clothes. But when the teachers have to dress and undress a dozen toddlers every day, they need it to be as easy as possible.
So, all the kids wore basically the same: A single base layer of merino wool under a thick snowsuit with waterproof proof patches in the front and back.
Two-year-old Ella in her nursery school winter "uniform":
A slightly-too-big snowsuit over a thin wool base layer.
Unlike bulky, clammy cotton layers, the thin and snug base layer leaves plenty of room inside the snowsuit, and makes it much easier to move and play.
And when everyone went in for lunch, it was just a matter of peeling off the single, outer layer – all the boots and mittens still sticking out of their respective holes in the snow suit.
Indoors, all the kids would run around, dressed only in their base layers.
On very cold days, they'd wear an extra jumpsuit over the base layer. But that suit would normally also be wool, so it wouldn't restrict movement too much, nor be too warm to wear inside.
A good winter for practice
Even if the schools in Brooklyn don't let the kids spend as much time outside in the snow, this winter has still given us plenty of opportunities to practice our winter dressing skills.
And with Winter Break coming up, and the weather report calling for lots more snow, I know it's not nearly over yet.
So let's restock on base layers, and just enjoy it.
I hope you have a great winter break with lots of fun and playing in the snow!