Let’s Embrace Outdoor Play: Yes, Even in the Rain!


My five-year-old’s face lit with excitement as we pulled into our driveway on the first rainy day of the season. The yellow leaves had started falling, and it finally felt like fall after a long, hot summer. As only a child would, she insisted on touching the rain—and since her excitement was contagious, I allowed it, watching in fascination. After a moment, I ran into the house for a pen and quickly wrote to remember:

She leaps from the car,
No coat,
Head tipped,
Arms outstretched,
To catch the rain
On her tongue. 

As her body relaxed with every drop, it felt as if I was witnessing a spiritual moment, a child’s prayer of gratitude to the universe for providing us with much-needed rain. Her happiness made me smile, as I too felt the humility of the moment.

Fallen autumn leaves float in a rainy puddle.Since moving to Oregon, the rain has been one of my greatest mentors. I was raised to think of water as a symbol of baptism — a cleansing of one’s past self and a dedication to the new — and now, with each drip, my body remembers to let go and trust the universe as it guides me into new ways of being.

My love for rain is a new development, though, and has slowly evolved in the last five years— from hating even the clouds in the sky to now physically craving the start of rain. While I still complain about the cold or the extra time it takes to put on raingear, I now embrace Portland’s fall and winter weather, knowing our majestic forests depend on it for survival. Sometimes it’s magical, and other times we run home freezing and in need of a hot bath; no matter what, I have never regretted our outdoor play. As I’ve made an effort to embrace outdoor play in all weather, I’ve learned a few lessons I thought I’d pass along.

Come prepared.

My girls love to go on rain walks in the winter. Our house is right next to a nature path, so we sometimes leave without all our gear, thinking we’ll head back home if we need. On one of our walks, my younger daughter, probably three at the time, decided to jump in every single puddle. Halfway through the walk, her pants were soaked, she was freezing, and cold water puddled inside her rainboots. We had at least twenty minutes to go, so I scooped up my freezing, screaming child and booked it home, cursing myself for forgetting her rain pants. Nowadays, my kids would still rather freeze than wear their coats, but I learned to bring an umbrella (gasp!), hot tea, a blanket, extra clothes, and a beanie, just in case.

Commit to regular outdoor playdates with friends.

My close friend, also a nature enthusiast, created a recurring Tuesday playdate at the nature park nearby with a group of kids from Forest School. As children ranging in age from two to nine play, magic unfolds: nature becomes their science lab, art studio, and teacher. Tree branches swing like swords, pinecones become their craft, and paper airplanes glide in the wind. The children learn from mother nature as the adults give space, willing them to become masters of their own education. Sometimes I can’t help but feel reverence toward their wonder and imagination, and I’m grateful for our weekly commitment that allows me to be a spectator on the sidelines.

Say yes more often.

This week I watched my neighbor boys while my bestie and her kids came over to play. As we chatted over mimosas, the kids ran downstairs to ask if they could play outside. Immediately, my gut reaction was no. I was enjoying myself, thank you very much, and I didn’t want the work of putting on coats and shoes to go outside. But then I paused to breathe in and out, and I mustered up the strength to say yes. Bursting with excitement, the kids ran outside and spent a couple hours drawing, playing in leaves, and dancing to music. The memories from that day would’ve otherwise been lost had I said no, and I’m proud of myself for being willing to choose the harder path.

Girl picking flowers in the forest

I recently renewed my commitment to playing outdoors no matter the weather. I love the enchantment of our towering forests, the grand simplicity of picking a flower, the connection to the present moment only nature can provide. May we learn the lessons we need as we embrace nature in all her seasons—even in the rain.

Resources to Learn More about the Benefits of Outdoor Play

Balanced and Barefoot by Occupational Therapist Angela J. Hanscom
Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather by Linda Akeson McGurk
1000 Hours Outside

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Tara is a mom to two kiddos, ages 5 and 9, and has been married to her best friend for twelve years. Raised in the Air Force, she’s from everywhere and nowhere. If asked today, she claims the Midwest, having lived in Illinois for eight years during graduate school and the birth of her first child. Five years ago, Tara and her husband took a trip to Portland and instantly fell in love. As they drove to the Oregon coast in the rain and saw the bright green moss and towering trees, it felt as if they were transported to another world. In that moment, Tara knew it was the place to raise their kids. They packed their belongings and made the cross-country move while Tara was eight months pregnant with their second. Tara homeschools her older kiddo, hosts a monthly mom’s book club, works as a freelance proofreader and a part-time bookseller, and co-leads her daughters’ Girl Scout troop. As an introvert, Tara is the first to admit she’s horrible at small talk, but if asked about the deep stuff, she’s all in. She’s a serious plant enthusiast, and she recently found that exercising and playing piano calm her soul.