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'Siberia is a home to the cultures of indigenes, including people whose ancestors migrated to the Americas'

Like ducks to water in the snow - keeping kids healthy Siberian style

By 0 and 0 and 0
21 November 2012


Getting ready: kindergarten assistant ensures all buckets are filled with icy cold water. Picture: The Siberian Times 

Anyway this is the strong view of kindergarten director Olesya Osintseva after 18 years experience dousing her pupils - and getting them to rub the snow into their skin while also throwing a few snowballs at each other.

The temperature when we visited this week was minus 10C but in fact these children happily go through this daily ritual even when it is as low as minus 30C.  Colder than this and the kindergartens are closed. 

Icy outside showers for Siberian children

Icy outside showers for Siberian children

This is fun! Five and six years old children run around in the snow at -10C. Pictures: The Siberian Times 

There maybe people in the rest of the world who think this amounts to cruelty, but Olesya, head of Kindergarten Number 168 in Barnaul, southern Siberia, insists they are wrong.

'Some eighteen years ago we gathered together teachers and doctors to speak about our children's health,' she said.

'They were catching influenzas, and there were moments when half of the children attending the kindergarten were unwell. 

'It was obvious that something needed to be done to make them grow stronger and be more resilient against viruses. 

'This is how we came to the idea of boosting their immunity up by doing this exercise with buckets of chilly water outside in the cold. 

'We tested it on ourselves and our own children first, when both adults and children were first going out and splashing their feet with water, and in some months pouring cold water bucket over our heads. 

Icy outside showers for Siberian children

'One, two, three - splash!' Daily routine with a bucket of cold water over the head keep children strong and healthy, their parents and teachers say. Picture: The Siberian Times 

'What six months of these water exercises showed was an immediately stronger resistance to illnesses. Our kids were now able to go to the kindergarten and even if someone  had infection, they were no longer catching it.

'Then we made the next step and spoke about our experience to other parents. Some got nervous about the idea of their kids showering themselves with cold water in the middle of winter; others said they were keen to try. 

'Now the kindergarten runs a separate group of children where all of them start with the cold water bucket from the tender age of two. 

'I am completely sure: these children are noticeably healthier.'

Icy outside showers for Siberian children

'Perhaps people will not believe us, but facts are hard to argue with' -  teacher Lyubov Daniltsova. Picture: The Siberian Times

Today her kindergarten is known as Rodnichok - or Water Spring - and the cold water treatment goes on for her two-to-six-year-olds all round the year, summer as well as winter.

The 'treatment' is suspended if there are high winds. 

Typically, they are out in the snow for up to a minute and a half. 

The children are not forced to join the 'wet' group. If their parents object, they stay in the 'dry' group and don't face the cold war treatment.  

In fact, it is in summer that new children are taught how the procedure works. The water is still cold, but the air temperature maybe as warm as PLUS 30C. 

The teachers say that once the first snow falls, the children do it themselves and don't bat an eyelid. 

Icy outside showers for Siberian children Icy outside showers for Siberian children

Masha Rymnova, 6 years old, pictured splashing herself and inside the kindergarten. Pictures: The Siberian Times 

Before running out into the freezer - as the playground is at this time of year - the girls and boys go through their morning exercises in the kindergarten's PE room. 

They run, jump and stretch with their teachers, as the assistant prepares the buckets of water outside. 

'Perhaps people will not believe us, but facts are hard to argue with,' insisted teacher Lyubov Daniltsova.

'Our doctor confirms that children in groups that practice dousing get through the flu season a lot more easily, and generally the statistics show there are 95% of healthy children in the 'wet' group, compared to 75%  among the others'. 

Masha Rymnova,  aged six, is one of the pupils who show no sign of shock at what many people may see as shock therapy. 

'I like dousing,' she explained. 

'How we do it? So, we put our swimming costumes on, run outside, scrub ourselves with snow and play snowballs, all of us.  

'When I run out I shout 'the water is warm, it's warm outside, the snow is hot, it's great!' 

'Then we come inside,  get changed and go and eat. 

'Why do I like it? Because I want to be healthy and strong'.

Watch Siberian children having their daily buckets of cold water outside in the snow

Comments (33)

Absolutely amazing story and very true . Its the same as boosting your immunity or immune system by playing in dirt and mud it helps condition the body !!!
Chris, Australia
24/12/2020 13:01
The kids are outside, getting chilled, for less than a minute and a half -- then they run inside, warm up and get dressed. This isn't enough time to get dangerously chilled. This sounds like the classic finish to a sauna bath. In fact, it sounds like fun.
Leslie Fish, Buckeye, Arizona, USA
03/12/2019 08:29
People have always spoken against what they don't understand. Like H. Ford said, "If you think you can't or think you can, your right.
R. Faria, Albany, Oregon
02/02/2018 22:07
My grandmother was from the Ukraine ,My mother would put us outside in the winter everyday as babies to sleep in the afternoon. We would be wrapped in blankets. She said it was to be healthier and to get us used to the cold. I remember always playing outside in the winter even in winter storms. Loved it. She would also have our bedroom windows open just a crack to sleep she said to sleep better cold. I and my siblings were hardly sick as children.I sleep much better to this day when my room is cool .
Dawn, Canada
26/04/2017 06:57
xavieronassis, USA
05/04/2017 06:06
ITT: People who demand a peer reviewed study for theory of "cold shower tempering"

Love it way to go Ruskies
Ryan, Merica
17/03/2017 07:50
If it works it works, why do so many people immediately dismiss empirical evidence merely because there is no documented scientific research they can find? As if the lack of scientific evidence or even scientific evidence to the contrary has any bearing on reality. We're so ridiculously cowardly, try it for yourself and observe firsthand whether or not it works for you.
Michael, Colorado, USA
17/03/2017 04:59
You should look up average life expectancy in Russia, it's not great.
Vladimir, Serbia
17/03/2017 04:17
My grandmother always used to say it was good for us kids to play in the dirt. Helped us get used to germs.

I don't much care for jumping in cold water but I do "under dress" for the winter weather. I prefer to be on the cold side. While everyone at work is sick in the winter I very rarely get sick and when I do it is not as severe. So there might be something to exposing your body to the cold.
Tony, Boston MA USA
17/03/2017 04:08
This has been a well-known fact for a while. If anyone is interested in the research and the science behind it, here's the link: www.google.com
Mike, MA
17/03/2017 02:34
I found it humorous that this is accepted as fact with no supporting research evidence of any kind. People are gullible.
Omnichronos , USA
17/03/2017 01:44
Where is the link to the research?

No where.
Max, New Zealand
21/12/2016 15:24
There is a man by the name of Wim Hof who is referred to as the Iceman. He has been exposing himself to swims in ice cold water for decades. Science has caught up to him and studied his body systems. He has an incredibly strong immune system and can even control his autonomic systems. He has been interviewed by many programs and now offers week long seminars and retreats.
Ando, Canada
06/09/2016 19:25
Wim Hof (http://www.wimhofmethod.com/) is proving this. And now there is even scientific proof.
Great that you are doing this, we can learn a lot from your insights
Roel Elzinga, Oosterbeek, Netherlands
11/01/2015 03:13
I swim in the ocean year round without a wet suit. The temperature hovers around 8 degrees Celsius. I began doing this because my body was not regulating temperature well. I was cold all day but became very hot when I slept. I began with cold baths, just in and out, gradually increasing my tolerance. After three years of this I now can say that this is an amazingly quick way to strengthen your immune system. I don't know the science but I no longer have issues with my internal thermometer and I sleep very well at night. There are too many benefits to list, but my metabolism has increased, my skin problems are gone, my body is much more relaxed and I haven't gotten sick since I began the practice. Iodine in the seawater is also a big boost to the human body. It's hard to believe something this simple, and free, has cured so many problems that medications were only making worse. Try it, but go slow and have patience. Also, make sure to get warm with a hot bath or shower after!
Michelle, Port Townsend, Wa
13/11/2014 08:00

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