Speak Positively to Kids About the Weather

CC BY 2.0. Mark Ordonez – A little boy plays in the rain outside the Smithsonian National Museum of American History – and why not?

The words we choose affect their desire to play outside.

My children and I are eagerly waiting for spring to show up. Saturday was warm and promising, but snow started falling again on Sunday, and when the time came to walk to school on Monday morning, we were trudging through an inch of wet slush, our moods reflected in the grey landscape around us.

It is hard to stay positive when you haven't seen the sun much in five months, but it's necessary. Kids have to be taught to have a positive attitude toward the outdoors, or else they will be reluctant to spend time there. It all starts with the language parents use to describe it.

Adults (or at least all the Canadians in my life) have a tendency to bash the weather. They complain about it to friends, at the grocery store, with the crossing guard. Not often enough do they think about how kids pick up on this, both what's said explicitly and subtly, and internalize it. It's time for adults to think about how they want kids to view the weather and outdoors and pick their words accordingly.

Recently I've come across a few helpful posts on this topic. One is from a blog called How We Montessori, where a mother acknowledges her tendency to speak negatively about weather and dirt, specifically. She writes, "I often find myself using negative language around the weather and dirt! 'Oh no, you fell into the puddle,' 'Oh yuck, you are covered in mud,' 'It's raining a-g-a-i-n!'"

The mother, who now lives in England and says they'd spend all their time indoors if they tried to avoid rain and cold, realizes the importance of changing this.

"We want our children to explore nature, to feel with all of their senses including touch, for many children this will involve getting dirty. Positive language can lead to positive associations, we can change our attitude, outlook and mood with words."

She suggests assessing one's inner dialogue about the weather. Then, try to use descriptive scientific language such as "The wind is coming from the North" or "Look at the Cirrus cloud." Neutral or positive language is good, too: "Can you feel how wonderful and squelchy this mud is?" or "This rain is so refreshing, it feels nice on my face."

walking with boys in the rain

© K Martinko – A rainy forest walk

Backwoods Mama is another blogger who offers a lengthy list of ways to talk positively to kids about weather. The benefits go beyond just getting them out of the house for an hour: "A positive mindset around weather helps our kids learn resilience, preparedness and flexibility which will benefit them throughout their life."

Use simple, neutral, and/or positive terms to describe the day, then make suggestions for activities that ignite curiosity and enthusiasm about it. For example:

"The thermometer says it’s below 0°C (32°F) outside. I wonder what Jack Frost has been up to outside? Let’s go find out."

"Oh my! All this rain is perfect for making mud pies."

"The wind is swirling leaves through the air. Let’s go see if we can catch them."

"There’s fog outside! We can go walking through clouds."

These are all fabulous suggestions that will hopefully inspire you to come up with your own ideas. (You could try throwing in some of these profoundly beautiful words that describe nature and landscapes while you're at it.) Fake it till you make it, and hopefully you, too, will soon realize that there's no such thing as 'bad' weather, just another wonderful day to explore.