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Outdoor time

Posted on: August 2, 2011

Two posts I read in the last couple of months have inspired me to get our butts out of the house more often. First, this one at Mama Mia, by Mia Freedman, which points out the startling trend that kids aren’t playing outside as much as their parents used to. It made me think about my own childhood, which was largely spent outdoors: playing with neighbours in the street, riding bikes, roller blading, going to the park, bushwalking, walking to the shops, ‘exploring’, climbing trees, staying out and about until dark. My kids? Well, they are very young, and there are three of them (making outdoor time harder to coordinate), but it’s inescapable that, regardless of the weather, my kids spend way more time inside than out. All year round. Hmm. As Mia points out, that can’t be a good thing.

I started to ponder why I find it so hard to just take them out to play. We have heaps of outdoor equipment to keep them occupied (swing set, cubby house, balls, trucks, not to mention dirt, grass and rocks!) So it’s not like I really have to provide much entertainment. We have a (somewhat neglected) dog, who I’m sure would love the company. It also would mean I get more time to do outdoorsy stuff like hang washing and pull weeds (which I never do, but know I should). So what is stopping me? Well, as with many things, it just seems harder than it really is. Getting three small children appropriately dressed, and slathered in sunscreen, before traipsing outside for them to get all dirty and sweaty, and then bring half the dirt/grass/rocks back into the house when they’re done… well, it’s quite daunting. Plus there’s the dog poo – it has to be dealt with first or the whole outing will be spent yelling “Watch out for the… poo!” The clean up when the inevitable happens: Not Fun.

Despite all this, it is slowly dawning on me that if I don’t teach my kids to play outside more now, then they won’t know how to later. I thought of all the great times I had playing outside, without parents watching over me every second of the day. Making friends. Trying things out for myself. Exploring and learning. I want my kids to have the freedom to do this when they are older, too. But that means I have to teach them how to be safe outdoors now. I have to lay the foundations for being responsible, as well as adventurous, now.

Then I read this post by Lexi at Potty Mouth Mama, about habit-forming. The idea is to do something every day for three weeks, so that eventually it is just habit – something you don’t think about, you just do. I thought, bingo, this is exactly what I need – instead of talking myself out of outdoor play, I’m just going to do it. Now, about 10 days in, I’m pleased to report that the going outside thing has been working for us. We did skip a few days when it poured non-stop, however. I’m not really the ‘Singin’ in the rain’ type. But we made up for it by purchasing gumboots and jumping in muddy puddles after the rain cleared!

Here are some more pics of our outdoorsy adventures:

So, thanks Mama Mia and Potty Mouth Mama for giving me the kick up the bum I needed! I’m finding it less and less of a chore to just say, “Hey kids, time to go outside for a while!”, get them all organised, and out we go. Since they’re so young (4, 2 and 1), I don’t like to let them out there unsupervised yet, except sometimes when it’s just the older two – I’ve been experimenting with leaving them out there for short periods while I get stuff done inside, every now and then. They’re pretty good, but like to push the boundaries a lot when they know I’m not looking, so it’ll take some time. But for now, I feel happier that their time spent outside and inside is looking a little more balanced these days.

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