To stay healthy and enjoy the upcoming colder and wetter months, families at U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden can follow the German traditions of enjoying fresh air, both indoors and out.
Susanna Baumann, mom of three, takes her children outside every day, regardless of weather. “If you wait for the rain to stop, you’re never going to get outside,” she said. “We do what the Germans do: we put on our warm gear and get out.”
Baumann’s round trip routine begins and home, circles through Kurpark and includes the Wiesbaden farmer’s market on Wednesdays and Saturdays. As added benefits, her daughter can identify most birds they encounter, and they’ve befriended others who frequent the parks.
Jordyn Landis takes her girls, ages 2 and 1, outside every day, even when it is wet and cold. “I believe they need the fresh air; it is good for their lungs, for their growth,” she said. Landis started outdoor trekking with her girls as soon she got post-partum clearance for hiking. “We love being outside,” she said. “We get stir crazy when we stay inside.”
Landis and her children love the free zoo in moderate weather, but she stays in the Hainerberg neighborhood and lets her children explore the playgrounds on most mornings when the weather is cool or wet. “I want them to walk and get their energy out,” she said.
Jasmine Gardner, mother of three, purposely moved into a house with a backyard when she arrived to Wiesbaden earlier this year. While she and her children venture into their neighborhood and area parks, she knew her children, ages 4, 5 and 7, would spend significant time outside after living in Sweden.
“When we lived in Sweden, we didn’t have a car, so went everywhere by bike,” Gardner said. Her daughter even rode her bike to school. “I have pictures of my daughter riding her bike in the dark, in the snow, in the rain,” she said.
“It is a fact of life there,” Gardner said. “You take them to school and drop them off and they stay outside for an hour no matter how cold, how rainy, how windy. It was an interesting experience for us coming from the U.S. where we spend a lot of time indoors, especially in the rain.”
Gardner said of her daughter’s transition into an American school system, “They have their outdoor recess time, but it is not as nearly as much as she used to get in the Swedish school. She said to me the other day, ‘Mom my brain is so tired, but my body has so much energy.’ “
“Right when they come from school we go outside,” Gardner said. “They tell me now that I need to get my exercise too.” Compared to weather is Sweden, she said, “It is much easier to be outside in Germany and even now in the rain, it’s not that bad. It’s doable.”
“Germany has the best weather gear,” Baumann said. “We have rain pants; rain suits, rain boots, snow suits, every possible thing you need to get out.”
“It is always important to layer,” Baumann continued. “When I leave the house it could be freezing and an hour later, the sun is out and it’s 20 degrees warmer.”
Gardner has painful memories of squeezing her children into full-body snowsuits in the U. S. When considering special rain gear, she said, “I was worried at first. They hated putting it [snowsuits] on; I hated dealing with it when we came back.”
“In Sweden, we bought them rain jackets and rain pants and they go out in the rain and cold. They even have rain gloves,” she said. “When you are actually outside in the rain, you learn very quickly that the rain pants are your friends, not your enemy.” Rain pants are light weight and protect against both wind and rain. For her children, Gardner said, they feel like regular clothes.
Baumann said, “I love the rain pants too because they are super thin and I can throw them over their pants. Even if it is not raining and the ground is still wet I will bring the rain pants.”
Karla Sweeney, mom to two boys ages 4 and 6, said, “I love the saying here of ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.’ My kids have become accustomed to putting on rain boots, rain jackets and grabbing their umbrellas when we go for a day trip.” Her boys find the umbrellas to be a fun addition to their regular outings. “I don’t think we have ever owned so many umbrellas before.” Sweeney said.
In addition to the right clothing, Baumann has quite a few “must-haves” on her list of preparedness. “I have strollers for every occasion,” she said. “I have a double-bob, all all-terrain thing. I bring that if I know the weather is not going to be good. I can shelter them in there and put everything under.” She regularly packs snacks, bubbles and balls when she’s out with her children because of their stops in area parks.
“Remember to carry some extra clothes in the car – change of clothes, hats, gloves, extra jacket,” Sweeney said. “If we do get a couple snowfalls in the area, we definitely head out right away and do some hill sledding, snowball fight or build a snowman. The snow doesn’t last long around here so don’t miss the chance!”
“For my mental and physical health, I have to get out and get fresh air every day,” Baumann said. “So if that is good for me, I would imagine it is just as good for my kids.”
Landis and Baumann believe their outdoor lifestyles ward off overall illness. Baughman said, “Since Corona has happened, none of us have been sick; we get out every day with fresh air and I think that is really good for our overall physical health.”
Landis said, “Especially during the flu season it is important to have that fresh air” She also views outdoor play as beneficial to mental growth and stimulation. “I love them using their imagination outside and getting dirty,” she said. “I don’t mind cleaning up the dirt and wet mess afterwards.”
Gardner also said outdoor pursuits have many benefits. “We all feel better when we get outside and we have fresh air; we all feel better when we get up and exercise; your body feels better; your mind feels clearer; getting out of the house makes such a big difference on your outlook of the day,” she said.
For Germans “Frisches Luft” is a way of life. Year round, Germans open household windows and doors to exchange stale trapped air with the fresh outdoors. The circulating air reduces mold, eliminates smells and now, according to Germany’s environmental agency, can potentially reduce the risk of COVID-19.
Martina Schulz, customer service representative with the Directorate of Public Works and a local German national, loves opening her windows and doors to circulate fresh air. For her personally, she said, “I just love that; it’s just healthy, especially in the morning.”
Baumann said “I open up their windows for a little bit because we shut their doors all night long and crack open the windows in the morning to let fresh air in.” She added, “I would never think about that at home. Here, you do as the Germans do. You need the fresh air in your apartment. I think it is good to have the nice air flow instead of stale air.”