We can still enjoy it! Maybe we have to start earlier as the sun rises, or even before. And maybe we have to wait until the sun has set. Here are my thoughts (and at the end, some shared thoughts) for getting outdoors with your child. And by outdoors, I don’t mean to soccer practice, VBS kick-off, or a the school fall festival. I mean OUTDOORS to EXPLORE. Being out in the world that was made for His enjoyment and our care and learning.

For me, being outside this time of year in the South is easy. I am a hot weather bug. I actually go outside to escape the cold of our air conditioning (which is currently set on 80 degrees). But I also know it is dangerous to work out in 100 degree heat for too long, so I make several trips a day to warm up rather than one long extended stay. To prove I can practice what I preach, above is a photo I took in January with many inches of snow on the ground. At night. I don’t like the cold. I actually despise any temperature below 70 degrees. But no less,  because I need the outdoor time as much as my children do, I shared in the festivities.

If you do not live on some land with trees and “wilderness” like we do, you can visit a nearby park, museum, zoo, or science center. Focus on the outdoor exhibits at least as much as the  indoor exhibits. The above photo is from February when we visited a nearby science center. Their outdoor exhibits focus on the animals native to our region. This was a chilly, damp, dreary day. Yet we, by the choice of the kids with only slight encouragement, spent more time outdoors than in. We especially enjoyed seeing up close the animals we often only see from a distance on our property.

Most of the time we spend outdoors just happens. A child wants to fish, or a child wants to ride his bike, or hike, or build a fort, or climb a tree. And that child is fortunate enough to just walk outside and travel where he wishes. Do I sometimes worry that he’ll get lost? Hurt and can’t let me know? Stolen? Sure. But I am not going to live by fear. We do our best to equip the children for such concerns as is age appropriate. And of course, we don’t send out a three year old under the care of a five year old. At least not intentionally. Have they been hurt? Lost? Yes. Stolen? No. And I wouldn’t do anything differently. Well, I did do one thing differently. I am still reminding the now 5 year old that when momma or daddy are looking for him, he needs to answer us…

Even in neighborhoods, wildlife abounds. Let your child chase bugs, birds, reptiles, rodents. Sure she might be stung or bitten. It’s OK. There’s a cure for that. Let your child get red-faced and soaked in her sweat. Then give her some water and show her the shade. What she gains in addition to a swollen arm and slight heat exhaustion is far greater than her momentary inconvenience.

Not to mention her creativity. She’ll find that she needs “tools.” But don’t rush out and buy that bug net. Let her figure out how to make one. Don’t buy the snorkel. She’ll figure out how to make one. Yeah, you’ll sit on scissors when you go out to enjoy a drink on your deck that evening with your husband. But that’s your minor inconvenience. She opened a whole new world of a creature using her innate logical, creative, and critical thinking skills. And look at her beam with pride of having overcome a challenge. Just smile back at her.

Your child (or you) has obstacles? It’s OK. There’s usually some way to beat them. The three year old has a broken arm. We just got a cover for it. It did indeed still get wet. Time and time again. It wasn’t a matter of she “deserved” to swim with the others. It was that she deserved the opportunity to explore the lake on her own terms. (See her exploring freshwater mussels below.)

I screw up as a wife, mom, friend, homeschooler. And often. But something about being outside can bring me back to center. Whether it is 100 degrees or whether it is 30 degrees. And it’s the same for our kids. When they are cranky, grumpy, irritable, or *gulp* bored – kick them outside. And make them stay there. They’ll figure out something to occupy their time. And I suspect it won’t include a playset.

Here are some great outdoor posts for you to peruse while you watch your precious one(s) through the window.

Creativity and the Hundred Acre Woods by To Love, Honor, and Vacuum

The Outdoor Hour Challenges by Handbook for Nature Study

Get Kids Outside Exploring Again, a guest post on Free-Range Kids

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