Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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Who says you have to give up beach trips after the kids are back in the classroom? Yes, beach days usually rhymes with summertime but healthy outdoorsy kids are wired-up to extend the shelf life of their swim suits in the colder months. As parents, we like to bundle up our children til they resemble Michelin men but they’re not cold. We think they are. I believe that children are a lot stronger than we give them credit for. In fact, I believe that exposing children to the great outdoors even when the weather gets colder makes them healthier. We spent last weekend in Cornwall and I packed our beach essentials to prove that beaches can be indeed be enjoyed, even when the crowds are gone.
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To set the stage, the outside air at Sennen Cove was 18C/64F so I expected the water to be somewhat chilly. Surf reports confirmed the water hovered around 15C/59F. Not tropical but not cold either. Upon arrival on the windswept beach, we spotted a kids’ surfing class in progress, a dozen children enjoying the waves in wetsuits and bright tee-shirts. Obviously, water was that wetsuit-worthy but surfing beaches are colder than swimming beaches as they are exposed to the wind.
Despite sunny skies, my girls clung to their sweaters like barnacles to the reef. I knew it’d take them a while to warm up to the idea but by golly, they grew up in San Francisco where the water is wetsuit-temperature year round. I’d seen them have a blast in the San Francisco Bay when I was shivering in double fleece layers. I knew they would have fun here too.
We set up camp on a nice rock and hung out for a while. “Look, a local child!” said my husband. Like a drunken sailor, a chubby toddler was maneuvering the sandy beach in our direction – wearing only diapers. He didn’t seem to be cold at all. Hardy child theory, check! If a hardy toddler could do it, so could I. I changed into my swim suit and as usual when I change to go swimming, my attitude towards the outside temperature changed. Whereas I was on the edge of chilly minutes earlier, I now felt warmer inside. Because I knew I was going into the sea? I don’t know, sometimes it’s only in your head.
My 8-year old changed in her swim suit too, to keep me company. However she wrapped herself in a towel because she was cold. My 9-year old was still resisting the call of the sea, happy to look for seashells fully clothed.
Now my girls belong to two very different water camps. My 9-year old likes to tell me she’s “like me”, meaning she can swim in cold water. Indeed she’s a tough cookie and can step into cold water, forget about the temperature and have fun in the waves for an hour until I drag her out of there. My 8-year old has the same can-do attitude but she’s so slender that she gets cold very fast. With her, the issue is hypothermia within minutes. To prevent that, I bought a child wetsuit for both my girls but only the little one agrees to wear it.
Why the 9-year old refuses to wear her wetsuit? She claims it’s uncomfortable and she gets rashes. She much prefers the water without it.
Within minutes of me going in the waves and screaming “It’s great!”, my 8-year old asked for her wetsuit. My husband and I squeezed her into it and she came with me in the waves. First she only wet her toes, then she moved in deeper. Realizing she wasn’t cold (that’s what wetsuits are for), she got bolder and holding my hand, asked me to go further in bigger waves. It didn’t fail. Seeing us jumping over crashing waves, my 9-year old changed her mind. Soon she was in swim suit too and joined the fun.
Honestly, we didn’t feel cold. I asked my girls several times because I’m not a good cold-water gauge but each time they shook their heads, “not cold!” Unfortunately my poor husband was cruising the beach with a really bad headache and he felt cold, I could see him shiver. What a contrast – us three splashing with delight in the waves, everybody else dressed like winter is coming.
We stayed long in the waves, maybe 45 minutes, maybe longer? By the end my girls didn’t want to leave at all. They were fully immersed in the waves having the time of their life, giggling and brushing the hair away from their face each time a wave toppled them over. They were such happy girls, I felt like a very happy mommy.
But lo and behold, all good things come to an end. We had to get out and get ready for dinner. To prevent hypothermia, I dried my girls and dressed them as fast as possible. Then we walked to a tearoom and they had hot tea with cake. It was a perfect beach day in the fall.
My advice, if you want to enjoy the seaside as a family in the colder months is: