Sequencing Our Way Outdoors

by Diann Gano, M.Ed

Autumn has flown by—and winter is almost upon us! Here in Illinois, that means cooler temperatures and wrestling with winter outerwear.

But here’s the good news: Getting the children dressed for outdoor play is a great way to meet your early math standards. Outdoor play in the winter months includes snow or rain pants, boots, coats, hats and mittens. Getting my young group dressed for outdoor play used to be a challenge. But math—specifically sequencing—came to the rescue! 

By breaking this dressing activity down into smaller steps, you can boost your early learners’  self-confidence and place them on the path to independence as you lay the foundation for math concepts such as routine, pattern and sequence.

By learning to dress themselves, children also strengthen developing skills such as coordination, memory and body awareness.

I embrace this activity as an important part of our curriculum. This process takes time—and we have a lot more of that commodity than a working parent trying to make it to an early-morning meeting!

Here’s how I do it: First, I set up the following “winter outerwear dressing stations” leading from the children’s cubbies to the exit door. Allow plenty of room between each station. One teacher I know uses all four corners of her classroom.

  • Bathroom break station
  • Snow/rain pant station
  • Boot station (It’s easier to deal with the boots BEFORE the coats go on. Hopefully your students will have slip-on boots or boots with Velcro fasteners.)
  • Coat station
  • Hat and scarf station
  • Mitten station (Waterproof snow mittens are ideal for outdoor winter play. Fleece or wool mittens are good for car rides but—if the children are going to be sledding, building snowmen, eating icicles or just playing in the snow—snow mittens are the way to go. The best ones are long enough to cover the wrist or forearm up to the elbow and keep little arms warm and dry so that your little snow bunnies can play outside longer on cold winter days.)

If you have not been taught the “firefighter flip” method for putting on jackets, two-year-old Jonathan (below) will lead you through it:

           Toes to the tag.                        Hands slip into the armholes.              And…FLIP!

                 Over the head.                  Push the arms down into the sleeves.       And…ta da!

We love the firefighter flip and use it all year long. It takes a few practice sessions, but I guarantee that successful coat flipping is in your future if you are not already using this method.

At the exit door, I provide some last-minute assistance with hats, scarves, zippers and mittens.

For some reason, removing the cold-weather gear seems to go more quickly. I use laundry baskets as stations for removing the gear, which allows me to quickly and easily place the wet gear in the proper drying places.


Sequence. Routine. Pattern. It’s all there—and it’s all math! Regardless of the season, find a sequence in your everyday classroom activities and break it down into little steps. During these crisp, beautiful late autumn and early winter days, put on your own outerwear and join in the fun!

2 Replies to “Sequencing Our Way Outdoors”

  1. I love allowing the children the choice of putting on what seems right to them while incorporating the idea of sequencing!

  2. I absolutley love this idea. It is hard getting 19 kids ready to go outside for winter play. We do centers all day so incorporating dressing for outside is genius. Thank you!

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