The Forecast Calls For Play
Guest post by Holly A.
How many perfect-weather days do you get every year where you live? Where I live in southern Florida, I’d estimate the number would be 75 days. Now think about what it would be like to have only that number of days every year to be outside, doing anything. Not a lot, huh? Not a lot of days for playing outside due to “bad” weather, as the National Wildlife Federation addresses in its Be Out There campaign.
Here is how I came up with 75 days: Although Florida is known as the Sunshine State, here in southern Florida, speaking in climate terms, we have two seasons: the wet season (also known as hurricane season, from May-November) and the dry season (the time when snowbirds like to come from northern states and Canada). Practically speaking most of the time, that means the temperature or feels-like temperature is in the 90s from April and into most of December. Many of those days, it’s not only hot, it’s also extremely humid and rainy. Don’t believe those average-temperature charts — those days in the 90s can cool down to the upper 70s but only when it rains! If you’re thinking of a sunny day in southern Florida in the spring, summer or fall, you can bet it will be around 90 degrees. So that’s how I came up with 75 perfect-weather days — days when it’s not raining, it’s not take-your-breath-away humid or life-sucking hot, and it’s not bone-numbing cold. (Oh yeah. If it’s in the 40s, that’s freezing to us here in southern Florida!)
Weather was a top reason that parents gave for their children not playing outside more often, according to the NWF’s new report, The Forecast Calls for Play. You can download the PDF report from the Be Out There site. It’s important for kids to play outside for their overall health, numerous other studies have found — and being in nature helps kids appreciate the natural world, helping ensure they will grow up wanting to take care of the Earth.
I admit that I’m one of the parents who participated in the survey, and I agree the hot, humid weather is a deterrent to playing outside. I mean, some summer days are brutally hot! You can break a sweat within three minutes by doing nothing but sitting outside. I recall one summer day when I took my boys on a nature walk, and it was so hot that we were all grumpy with one another. It was only 10 in the morning. I don’t have a problem with letting my kids play in the rain or exploring outside when it’s chilly — in fact, chilly weather is so rare that we love being outside then — but the heat definitely gets to us.
Fortunately, The Forecast Calls for Play report gives parents tips and ideas for allowing kids to be outside even if it’s raining, cold or, yes, broiling hot. The report doesn’t advocate being outside during storms or bringing on frostbite or heat exhaustion, however, and provides tips for staying safe in all kinds of weather. In our case, we need to play outside either early (before 10 am, ahem) or late and stay cool with plenty of water to drink. We may also need to limit our amount of time outside so we don’t get overheated.
I think it’s great that the NWF has taken parents’ concerns and given us a way to still play outside on those other 290 days of the year when the weather is less than perfect.
Holly A. is one of Be Out There’s Founding Mothers and author of the Tropic Home and Family Blog.