Weather Permitting and the ERS
As temperatures drop and winter approaches, the term, “weather permitting,” becomes an important consideration for programs seeking to emphasize outdoor play and improve their scores on the Environment Rating Scales. Opportunities for outdoor play, gross motor play and experiences with nature are emphasized appear in several items of each of the scales: the ECERS-R, ITERS-R, FCCERS-R, SACERS-R and even the newly released ECERS-3.
The scales define weather permitting as “almost every day, unless there is active precipitation, extremely hot or cold conditions, or public announcements that advise people to remain indoors…” This definition is also aligned with the ITERS-R definition of “very bad weather” as well as with Caring for Our Children’s guidance on outdoor play for children. Other guides, like the “Child Care Weather Watch” chart, are popular with programs but are not aligned with the requirements of weather permitting. In addition, there is a common perception that DCYF regulations prohibit outdoor play in freezing temperatures but the regulations do not include any such prohibition.
Programs who successfully meet this criteria often take a range of approaches to integrate outdoor play into their program. Successful approaches include:
- Educating families and staff on the importance of outdoor and gross motor play, including the wide range of conditions that are safe for children to be outside
- Keeping extra warm clothing on hand (possibly by encouraging families to donate outgrown items)
- Encouraging staff to bring snowsuits, boots and other cold-weather items so they are comfortable outside
- Working with maintenance staff to prioritize keeping outdoor play areas clear and dry for play
- Keeping a flexible schedule that allows children to have several shorter outdoor play periods rather than one large period