Dutch Kids Play Outside in the Rain and Cold Every Day

Here’s how they do it.

Kids in rain gear.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Elizabeth Newcamp.

I grew up in Atlanta under the firm guidance of the nursery rhyme “Rain, Rain, Go Away.” If it was raining outside, I played inside, so I wouldn’t catch my death. Elementary school brought countless hours of four corners and “heads down, thumbs up!” when it was too wet for recess. When an April shower interrupted softball practice I huddled in the crowded dugout dodging drips. Don’t even get me started on the cold. The threat of a dropping thermometer was enough to cancel school.

Then I moved to the Netherlands, where rainy days outnumber sunny ones. On a tour of a Dutch primary school I asked, “Where do the children play on rainy days?” That’s when I learned the expression “You’re not made of sugar.” Life in the Netherlands marches on regardless of the weather. Outdoor play is so highly regarded that weather never stands in the way. I had some learning to do—about the many types of Dutch rain gear.

I picked a soaking wet 6-year old up for lunch one rainy day in the first week of school.

“I didn’t have a raincoat,” he said as I wrung out his shirt.

“Sorry, buddy. I didn’t know it was going to rain.”

“It was really fun!”

From that day forward, I stuffed a Mac In A Sac everyday rain gear into the bottom of my 6-year-old’s school bag. It’s a brightly colored, machine-washable rain jacket that fits back into its bag, which comes with a clip so it won’t get lost. I was worried that my kids would have to fold the jacket in some perfect way to get it back in the bag, but they just stuff it in and that seems to work just fine.

Mini Mac In A Sac

Mac in a Sac Mini Kids Waterproof Packable Jacket

$34.99, Amazon

Then there are the days you know it is going to oppressively pour all day. Leaning against the schoolyard wall for shelter against the rain, I noticed the other parents hardly looked fazed. What was the magic behind their contentedness?

Turns out it’s not magic—you just need a well-made rain jacket with a liner and a full hood. All three of my boys wear Hatley rain jackets. I like the pliable, lightweight, and waterproof outer layer which is paired with a soft terry inside liner. They are cozy and lightweight, perfect for wind and rain. The boys love the adorable prints and never complain about wearing them.

Hatley jacket

Hatley Boys’ Printed Rain Jacket

$25.99$80.50, Amazon

Pair that lined jacket with some rain pants—Hatley makes good ones with tight cuffs—to keep your kids’ legs dry when splashing in puddles or riding your bike. We love Hibiko rain boots because the upper part is seamless so you don’t get leaks. Plus, pull-on handles empower the boys to slip into them on their own. (Crucial when you have three to get out the door.) Your child is now weatherproofed! Rain and mud are a part of their world. You can easily hose them off when they get home.

Hatley pants and rainboots

Hatley Children’s Splash Pants

$19.28–$45.42, Amazon

Hibigo Children’s Natural Rubber Rain Boots

$21.99, Amazon

The littlest kids wear an Oakiwear rain suit for serious outdoor play or when it’s coming down in buckets. My 1-year-old’s rain suit is yellow and makes him look like a giant banana. The banana suit zips from head to toe and has an attached hood, complete with small brim. This is essential as kids under 2 ride in the splash zone, on the front of the bike. They take the brunt of the rain and puddles. Donning the banana suit, he laughs happily as the rain pours over us. (I’ve also found the banana suit quite useful as a full-body bib.)

Okiwear rain suits

Okiwear One Piece Waterproof Trail Rain Suit

$37.71-$69.99, Amazon

I added quick pack adult Mac In A Sac rain pants and coats into my bike panniers as well. A bad day is realizing your everyday rain gear is in your other bike! I once spent a half-hour waiting under a highway bridge waiting out a squall because neither of us had our gear. In the end we gave up and biked home in the rain anyway.

Mac In A Sac Unisex jacket

Mac in a Sac Unisex Waterproof Packable Jacket

$54.99, Amazon

Tall rain boots look stylish with any outfit, allowing me to join in the rainy-day fun without fear of cold, damp toes. I wear these Hunter rain boots, which are so comfortable, have great traction, and are easy to care for—just wipe them down with a wet cloth.

Hunter rainboots

Hunter Women’s Original Tall Rain Boot

$82.50–$199, Amazon

Our travels around Europe proved that “dressing for the weather” is not uniquely Dutch. In January we went to Finland and found children in one-piece snow suits playing at a playground as if it were summer. Happy parents, all suited up, chatted while they played. In Stockholm in March we frequented playgrounds where school children were out sledding for recess. Our kids, now thoroughly integrated into the “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing” mantra, doubled up on gloves and went to join in.

I still revert back to my upbringing, reconsidering an outing due to rain. My 6-year-old is always quick to say “But Mom, we’re Dutch now. We aren’t made of sugar.”

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