We received a set of Age 6 dungarees and waterproof coat from the Forest Schools Association courtesy of Rukka Rainwear back in Spring 2015. Our task to have a child ‘woodland’ test them…thoroughly! and report back. We identified a willing child in a Year 1 Forest Schools project began our test.
Session one started well, the child in question came out beautifully attired, pleased to be the only one in smart new waterproofs!, only to find that said waterproofs had to be stripped off in the first 30 mins as the sun came out and we were all cooked alive in a spring heatwave! Her initial thoughts based on a short trial….she liked how smart she felt, but found the clips for the braces a little fiddly.
Session 2 dawned damp and drizzly a great day for the test! Lots of climbing, kneeling, rolling, lying etc in the wet and muddy wood (you know how Forest Schools sessions go!) and we are pleased to report dry and clean trousers under the dungarees and a dry jumper! Her thoughts….”I’m nice and dry and clean”! her parents were pleased too, especially given the state some of the children went home in!
Session 3, 4 etc a mixture of very hot sessions and some very wet and chilly!! You know what it’s been like this year! she got used to the clips quickly and liked the fact that she could take her coat off but was still warm as the dungarees kept her Torso warm but left her arms free. The elastic round the ankles helped the dungarees stay down over a wellie boot really well despite lots of activity, jumping, climbing etc, we didn’t get a chance to test them in deep mud on our test child. But as you can see from the picture of a young boy who had Rukkas on in a more extreme test situation! they remained down over the wellies and kept him well covered.
Our Child thought they were “comfortable and I didn’t get wet”
The School thought “they worked really well she was much cleaner and drier than the children who didn’t have this type of waterproofs. Regarding sizing, we felt the set we had was a little small for our child (She was 6) if buying we would recommend talking to the company and maybe getting a size bigger than their age to allow for additional layers underneath, the dungarees are easy to adjust so you could easily pull them up to fit”
In my experience a lot of children seem to find a coat restricting at Forest Schools sessions and will remove theirs at the earliest opportunity (even if it’s bitter cold and windy according to us!) our child tester was no different. Waterproof trousers don’t seem to illicit the same response and are quickly appreciated by children, once they experience wet and muddy trousers they generally don’t want to repeat the experience!. At Forest school we aim to encourage children to make their own choices and learn from their own experiences (Health and Safety considered of course) therefore I personally see it as important to allow them to choose to wear or not wear a coat/ waterproof trousers during a session. This can prove to be a tricky H&S dilemma for a leader on those dry, cold and windy days, as children will want to remove coats, yet don’t fully appreciate the serious effect that wind and cold could have on them or how quickly. Do you insist they keep coats on? (if it’s raining most, in my experience, seem to appreciate the need to wear a coat very quickly). If you insist and they don’t experience cold in the controlled manor that your session should provide, how will they gain that experience and therefore formulate opinions and learn?
I therefore personally think dungarees are of real benefit to a Forest School Practitioner. By providing an additional layer of protection to a child’s legs but as importantly their torso too, I can let them remove a coat, allow them to experience getting muddy and cold and make informed choices for themselves, safe in the knowledge that the majority of their body is dry and protected from the wind/damp ground thereby reducing the risks.
The Rukka dungarees and coat emerged from the sessions looking in very good shape. Despite lots of stick carrying, prickly plants, climbing, sitting, kneeling etc they were hole and tear free, impressed! They wash really well too, but ensure you turn inside out part way through drying to ensure they dry thoroughly both inside and out.
A great set of waterproofs, that I would definitely recommend if you’re looking to buy. However I would recommend getting advice on sizing or asking to look at a range of sizes before ordering. The cost may be prohibitive for some but given how well they stood up to the’ testing’ we gave them I’m thinking they are worth the extra money.