XII.—WALKS IN BAD WEATHER
Winter Walks as necessary as Summer Walks.—All we have said hitherto applies to the summer weather, which is, alas for us! a very limited and uncertain quantity in our part of the world. The question of out-of-door exercise in winter and in wet weather is really more important; for who that could would not be abroad in the summer time? If the children are to have what is quite the best thing for them, they should be two or three hours every day in the open air all through the winter, say an hour and a half in the morning and as long in the afternoon.
Pleasures connected with Frost and Snow.—When frost and snow are on the ground children have very festive times, what with sliding, snow-balling, and snow-building. But even on the frequent days when it is dirty under foot and dull over head they should be kept interested and alert, so that the heart may do its work cheerfully, and a grateful glow be kept up throughout the body in spite of clouds and cold weather.
Winter Observations.—All that has been said about ‘sight-seeing’ and ‘picture-painting,’ the little French talk, and observations to be noted in the
family diary, belongs just as much to winter weather as to summer; and there is no end to the things to be seen and noted. The party come across a big tree which they judge, from its build, to be an oak—down it goes in the diary; and when the leaves are out, the children come again to see if they are right. Many birds come into view the more freely in the cold weather that they are driven forth in search of food.
“The cattle mourn in corners where the fence screens them.”
“The sun, with ruddy orb
Ascending, fires the horizon.”
“Every herb and every spiry blade
Stretches a length of shadow o’er the field.”
“The sparrows peep, and quit the sheltering eaves.”
“The redbreast warbles still, but is content
With slender notes, and more than half suppress’d;
Pleased with his solitude, and flitting light
From spray to spray, where’er he rests he shakes
From many a twig the pendent drops of ice
That tinkle in the wither’d leaves below.”
There is no reason why the child’s winter walk should not be as fertile in observations as the poet’s; indeed, in one way, it is possible to see the more in winter, because the things to be seen do not crowd each other out.
Habit of Attention.—Winter walks, too, whether in town or country, give great opportunities for cultivating the habit of attention. The famous conjurer, Robert Houdin, relates in his autobiography, that he and his son would pass rapidly before a shop window, that of a toy-shop, for instance, and each cast an attentive glance upon it. A few steps further on each drew paper and pencil from his pocket, and tried which could enumerate the greater number of the
objects momentarily seen in passing. The boy surpassed his father in quickness of apprehension, being often able to write down forty objects, whilst his father could scarcely reach thirty; yet on their returning to verify his statement, the son was rarely found to have made a mistake. Here is a hint for a highly educational amusement for many a winter’s walk.
Wet Weather Tramps.—But what about the wet days? The fact is, that rain, unless of the heaviest, does the children no harm at all if they are suitably clothed. But every sort of waterproof garment should be tabooed, because the texture which will not admit rain will not allow of the escape of the insensible perspiration, and one secret of health for people who have no organic disease is the prompt carrying off of the decayed and harmful matters discharged by the skin.
Outer Garments for.—Children should have woollen rain-garments—made of coarse serge, for instance,—to be changed the moment they return from a walk, and then there is no risk of catching cold. This is the common-sense of the matter. Wet cloths are put upon the head of a fever patient; by-and-by the cloths dry, and are dipped again: what has become of the water? It has evaporated, and, in evaporating, has carried off much heat from the fevered head. Now, that which eases the hot skin of fever is just the one thing to be avoided in ordinary circumstances. To be wet to the skin may do a child no more harm than a bath would do him, if the wet clothes do not dry upon him—that is, if the water does not evaporate, carrying off much heat from his body in the process. It is the loss of animal heat which is followed by ‘colds,’ and not the ‘wetting,’
which mothers are ready to deplore. Keep a child active and happy in the rain, and he gets nothing but good from his walk. The case is altered if the child has a cold already; then active exercise might increase any inflammation already set up.
I do not know whether it is more than a pretty fancy of Richter’s, that a spring shower is a sort of electric bath, and a very potent means of health; certainly rain clears the atmosphere—a fact of considerable importance in and about large towns. But it is enough for our purpose to prove that the rain need do no harm; for abundant daily exercise in the fresh air is of such vital importance to the children, that really nothing but sickness should keep them within doors. A mere time and distance tramp is sufficiently joyous for a wet day, for, taken good-humouredly, the beating rain itself is exhilarating. The ‘long run’ of the schoolboy, that is, a steady trot, breaking now and then into a run, is capital exercise; but regard must be had to the powers of the children, who must not be overdone.
Precautions.—At the same time, children should never be allowed to sit or stand about in damp clothes; and here is the use of waterproof rain-wraps—to keep them dry on short journeys to church, or school, or neighbour’s house, where they cannot very well change their garments.