It is a medical fact that children are healthier if they daily run out into the snow in their swimming costumes - and pour a bucket of cold water over their heads.
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.
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.
'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.'
'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.
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'.
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