In my head I have a series of posts and they all begin with “The Lazy Mom’s Guide to…,” it all began with this post a couple of weeks back on how we do a whole lot of school without it feeling like we are actually doing school. That post felt like “The Lazy Mom’s Guide to Homeschooling.” Getting outdoors is an absolute life changer for me, as the mom of eight kids and all the associated work that involves I cannot possibly get through any day without spending at least a little time outdoors getting some real air. The busier I get, the more I need it and the more I need it, the harder it is to find the time to get outdoors… it is one of those crazy, counter intuitive things.
Getting outdoors is a big deal, there is no argument about that. The more studies scientists do, the more they confirm this. Though in this case we don’t need studies to tell us what we know to be true. Getting outdoors is good for us in so many ways, from our physical well being to our mental well being… across all areas of our lives. Last week I blogged about how much exercise children need in a day, and the easiest way to get that exercise is to just head outdoors.
Se7en Tips for Getting Our Kids Outdoors
- Just Step Out the Door: I know it is obvious really, but stepping out the door is a good place to start… we have this idea that the great outdoors or nature has to be a Botanical Garden or a National Park… it doesn’t have to be that. Nature is everywhere and if you live in an apartment and even step onto your balcony the nature is there. Even if you have no balcony, then a walk down the sidewalk should reveal a shoot pushing through the pavement or some birds flapping by, and the clouds… oh the clouds!!!
- Ditch the Agenda: My kids especially when they were tiny just wanted to be alongside me, and it occurred to me that if I wanted them outside then I would have to be outside. I am guessing it is the same for most mums… but then we get pressured into thinking that every moment needs to be filled with “useful activities” trust me there is nothing like a little boredom for our children to come up with a plan to play. Leaf collections, bug watching, clambering and climbing are all essential to fill our daily great outdoors’ quota. Head for a shady spot and then pause for a while, take a cushion or a blanket if need be… but just head there. Just being outside is good for you, you don’t have to have a program or a curriculum while you are there. I take twenty minutes to hang the laundry most days a week, my kids come with me… the climb around and play and chatter. I am busy and they get busy and did I mention the fresh air… it’s a good thing!!!
- Schedule Your Outside Time: Look at all the activities you do in a week… perhaps there is one you could walk to, if there isn’t then create one. Once you have one, make it two. It doesn’t have to be hours, an evening amble to the end of the block and back is a good thing. My kids write one letter a week and we schedule a walk to the mailbox, I agree this is not exactly walking along a trail through a game park… but you will be amazed at just how much nature is waiting to jump out and greet you. You may not spot the big five, but to be sure you could spot the small five… ants, bugs, pigeons, whatever… and if you can’t find any nature you can at least count passing cars. Of course it is easier to stay at home and not bundle up the kids, but this is a fairly easy way for you all to get rid of the cobwebs from being stuck indoors and spread your wings and get busy looking at things, busy kids are happy kids.
- Lose the Gym: When I was younger and did competitive sport, gym was a way of life for me… but now I have been in a different season of parenting little ones, and gym isn’t the solution to our exercise needs. I know that is a shocker, but if like me you have to drive to the gym and then you spend an hour and a half stuck indoors, then you would actually be better off outdoors… find a green park, a place to walk, and if you live in Cape Town, a beach and instead of driving to the gym go for a walk on the beach… it is playful, there is lots to look at and all the fresh air is so good. The thought of walking on a treadmill indoors breathing everyone else’s air just about kills me. If you have an excellent gym where the kids play, that’s great but when we had that I found that indoor exercise just didn’t give me or our kids a spring in our step and we needed to spend the same time again in fresh air to feel the benefit of the exercise. When our gym resorted to watching movies with the kids and not a beam of natural light in the building, I knew it was time to move on.
- Create Outings Outdoors: We have scheduled time to spend with friends, meet them somewhere outdoors… my kids love meeting up with friends, I cannot express how much they love it. So to schedule that meeting somewhere in the great outdoors is actually perfect. And we usually do an outing every couple of weeks… make a list of natural spots that you would like to visit in your neighbourhood. Pop your list on the fridge and start being a tourist in your own town… so that you can advise out of town guests which spots that are better than all the rest.
- Take your Snacks Outdoors: It is just as easy to chop an apple at the kitchen table as it is to eat to outdoors… not every snack has to be an event for the picnic basket or to bring out the heirloom tea set, keep it simple a couple of orange slices while you watch the clouds float by is indeed time well spent outdoors. If we head outdoors for a snack, my kids tend to get busy with a game and a play… they are moving about in fresh air and that’s what I am after. In fact, we have a crazy house rule (and this is a genuine lazy mother’s rule), we can only eat inside at the kitchen table or outside… My kids sit at the table for school so throughout the day they are thrilled to sneak off for a little snack even if it is torrenting with rain or freezing, they will choose to head outdoors for a snack.
- Take a Story Outdoors: The benefits of getting outdoors, to a person’s mental and physical health and so to their ability to learn and engage in the world around them completely out strips anything that can be taught by sitting in a classroom or watching tv. And no wildlife documentaries are not actually getting outdoors, they are just another version of screen time. We read after lunch everyday, there is a good reason when the weather is fine, to head outdoors with a blanket and read outdoors.
- Bring Nature Indoors: It can happen that the weather is just too grim to want to go out, and it is hard to find enthusiasm apart from a quick dash outdoors to catch the rain in a jar or to look for little rivers in the gutters… in that case have a supply of all the natural factual collections that you made through out the year… the stone collection, the feather collection… this is the time to bring the indoors inside!!!
The easiest way to get our kids outdoors is to actually to just step out the door and I know in the season of my life when we had many many small people underfoot the last thing on earth that I wanted was to actually get outdoors and even less exercise while I was there, we are talking sleep deprivation central here. Yet that is exactly what I needed to do for so many reasons. Make a start and take your morning coffee out the front door onto the doorstep and just sit on the front step, then take a walk to the mail box, trust me the improvement to your day, because of that small action, is totally worth it.