By Rebecca Holcomb
Director of Community Programs

Fresh air, time in nature, and active play are still essential for children even as the days turn colder and darker. Children at Common Ground enjoy lots of outdoor play and learning time all the way through the winter! Today is a cool November day with some scattered rain showers. As I look outside I see Common Ground High School gym class enjoying a 9 AM game of Frisbee and a field trip of second graders from Brennan Rogers circling up on the field by the farm. The Brennan Rogers students walked here from their school just up the road and they are excited to tour the farm, learn about local food, and harvest some veggies to make and eat some warming Harvest Soup before walking back to their school.  

A hike in the dark is much more fun with flashlights and comfy clothes!

Up in the woods, our NatureYear students are ready for a full day of outdoor adventure – activities today include a fall hike, helping to put the garden to bed for the winter, cooking with food from the farm, and plenty of time for play and for child led activities, too. Later today, the Kids Unplugged after school program will see children exploding with energy as they arrive on yellow buses from schools all over New Haven. They will spend the full afternoon outside, even as it gets dark! Going on a flashlight hike or gathering at a campfire in the woods are magical experiences on a cool late fall day after school.

Hiking can be enjoyed year round if you’re properly dressed.

Being dressed for the weather is essential for outdoor adventures to be fun when it is cold or wet outside. Dressing in the right kinds of layers can mean the difference between a full day of outdoor fun or a short, cold outing. Try these layers for weatherproof cold weather fun:

Layer 1 – Base layer next to the skin:
  • Polyester, silk, or wool long underwear (not cotton – any cotton next to your skin can get damp and make you colder). Polyester is the least expensive option and is easy to find in youth and adult sizes.
Layer 2 – insulating layer:
  • Fleece or wool pants and shirt. Again, make sure it is polyester fleece, not fleecy cotton. Old Navy, Walmart, and Kmart have 100% fleece pants and shirts in youth sizes available this time of year.
Layer 3 – waterproof layer:
  • Rain pants and a rain coat OR snow pants and an insulated, waterproof coat on top will keep out wind and wet, and hold all that body heat in.
Don’t forget hands, feet, and head:
  • Wool socks keep feet much warmer than cotton socks. Watch out for layering too many pairs of socks – if your shoes are tight then low blood circulation will also create cold toes.
  • Mittens are warmer than gloves, and mittens with long cuffs help keep them on and keep snow out!
  • A warm hat that covers the ears is essential once the weather turns cool.
Finally, a favorite mom trick or two for making it easier to get kids outside on colder days:
  • Keep base layers, wool socks, fleece pants, and fleece shirt in a milk crate or other bin, separate from play and school clothes. It is much easier to get out the door on a Saturday morning if you can find everything right away!
  • On weekends, have kids sleep in their baselayer then just pull on layers 2 and 3 after breakfast and get out the door.
  • Bring snacks! Staying fueled and hydrated also helps keep bodies warm in cool weather, and keeps kids moving if you are out for a hike.

Toasted marshmallows help warm our students from the inside out

Common Ground is open every Saturday from 10 AM – 2 PM through the end of November if you want to launch your late fall outdoor adventure from our campus. Come visit the farm animals, build a fort in the woods, and enjoy a hike on the Old Oak NatureTrail. The farm and the woods are different in every season!