Another winter day has passed. Did your kids spend it hanging around in the house after school watching television or sitting in front of the computer? I have heard the excuses from my kids --- "it's cold, it's yucky out, I don't feel like it" and one of my all time favorites...."it's boring!" Why is it so hard to get kids outside these days? Sometimes I get tired of pushing them out the door and feel like giving in and letting them hang around inside. And it's true, winter weather makes it hard to go outside to play. It's so much easier to be outside when the sun warms your face and you don't have to bundle up.
Really, when it comes down to it though, why is getting kids outside such a challenge? Sometimes I find it strange that I even write a blog about the topic. Shouldn't it just come naturally? When I was growing up, it was just what my friends and I did. When we arrived home from school, we went outside. Our mothers and fathers didn't have concerns about us being overweight due to lack of exercise, not getting enough vitamin D, having our intelligence suffer from too much television and time on computers. When did it become so difficult that there is a need for numerous Web sites devoted to the topic of enjoying nature and the outdoors?
I know the adult excuses --- we're too busy, there's too much homework, not enough time in the day, it's dark too early, etc., etc. etc. Seriously, we are all so busy that we can't spare 20-30 minutes to take our kids outside or make them out go out (if they are old enough) while we get things done around the house even though we know it is so beneficial to them?
Let's all make it a goal for 2010 to spend more time in nature. It can be done relatively easy if done with baby steps. Here are some good examples:
1. Encourage children walk to school or the bus stop three days per week. Or, reverse it and make it for the walk home. There is an international effort to promote this cause: iwalktoschool.org.
2. Ask your kids to help you take out the garbage or recyclables out to the currb and stop along the way to look at the night sky or make footprints in the snow.
3. Purchase a birdfeeder and start feeding the birds. Have them help you fill it with seed periodically. The National Audubon Society can help you learn how.
4. Go to a book store and look for interesting books to learn about nature. Your children might enjoy a wildlife or bird identification book, activity books or gardening books. Then use the books to do an activity a couple of times per week.
5. Go outside and locate a place to plant a flower or vegetable garden once Spring arrives. Over the next month or two you and your children can decide what you want grow and how you will plant your garden. The Web site KidsGardening.com can help.
Once you accomplish your goal, you can increase your outdoor time little by little. Allow your kids to use their imagination to help figure out what they can do outside. Eventually, going outside will become easier, part of your daily ritual and everyone will have fun!
I invite you to post ideas on simple things you do to encourage your children to spend time outside. You ideas will help all of us reach our goal. Thank you!
As a side note, last fall my daughter and I built a fairy cottage to show readers of my November 6, 2009 post why building a fairy cottage is fun for children. Yesterday, when we were outside, she went over to check it and is convinced that a fairy took up residence during the winter. She said "Mom, there is definitely a fairy living here! She must have used the rain catchers (acorn caps) I set out because they are moved." I smiled. :)