Children Belong Outside

Actually, I believe all humans belong outside. But especially children.

Think back to your childhood. What were your favorite happy memories that stood out?

Chances are they weren’t memories of being indoors watching television.

Chances are they weren’t sitting at a desk in school.

I’m guessing they were probably during the summer months, lazing around in the yard, riding your bike around the neighborhood, poking bugs with sticks, swimming maybe if you had a pool or a creek nearby.

Mine were swimming in our backyard pool with my siblings, drying in the sun, and then swimming some more.

All. Day. Long.

Until the sun set – and the sun doesn’t set until about 8:30 in the summer here!

Hours and hours of learning.

Hours and hours of doing “nothing.”

Hours and hours of watching clouds roll by or making up games with siblings or neighbor kids.

Lake2.jpgI’ve recently joined a Wild and Free homeschool nature group in my area.

These like-minded women have inspired me to be more intentional about crafting a simple childhood out of doors for my children. And not only for the summer, but year-round.

I was homeschooled until college and it was a great experience.

Homeschooling lends itself well to travel, camping, and adventures, so I figured it was something I wanted to do with my own kids.

I dappled in the extraordinary idea of unschooling, and it has been perfect for our family so far.

But I also realize intentional lessons will work themselves into our days as Malachi and Shiloh grow. This group is the perfect stepping stone for that.

The works of Charlotte Mason inspired Wild and Free. She believed in lessons, but mostly she believed in “life out of doors” and in children’s curiosity and ability to reason and figure things out.

It’s about literature, fresh air, and learning by doing rather than being told.

I’m excited and honored to have the privilege to learn along with them! Because I don’t think we ever outgrow our natural curiosity.

I still love being in the sun, playing in creeks, hiking, and going on field trips around the city. This is an excuse not to have to grow up just yet….or maybe ever!

Life outdoors is a simple but profound concept in our society today.

One thing I’ve noticed in modern suburbia is that people will spend a lot of money on the “perfect yard.”

They will hire a lawn company, buy weed killers, install irrigation systems, build decks, purchase high-end grills and lawn furniture…

But rarely do they ever actually spend time in their yards. Maybe once or twice a year on perfect 70 degree days or when they have guests.

I consider our family quite the opposite.

We don’t have a big yard but live next to many parks if we need room to run.

There is about as much weeds as there is grass in our yard…and I’m not even exaggerating.

There is no giant trampoline or swing set, and we’re okay with that.

The one thing we’ve bought for our kids in our yard is a $7 kiddie pool that we use often with kitchen utensils as water toys.

I’m not saying all this to point fingers at anyone. I’m just saying that we’re perfectly content with our small, imperfect yard. We spend a lot of time there, even on the hot days, the muggy days, and the days where there are lots of bugs.

If we all only went outside on “perfect” days we’d be spending our whole lives indoors…which, sadly, many of us do.

I believe humans were made to be outdoors.

I’m not sure of all the details, but I believe life began in a garden and it was good.

Indoors is something man created to be safe from harsh elements, not to insulate himself from all discomfort 24/7.

I know there is sun and bugs outside, but sunscreen and bug spray help with these minor issues.

When I was in Haiti I literally had to wear bug spray the entire time. This wasn’t natural bug spray, either. It was the real deal, with deet and everything.

But it was far better than not going.

In my opinion, the benefits of getting outside -even if you can’t be 100% natural about it- outweigh the cons.

Same goes for rainy days and extra cold days.

As someone with a bit of seasonal depressive disorder, I can testify that getting out and enjoying the yucky days is good for both my endurance and mental health.

Rarely do we use climate control in our house. (It was built in 1908 before climate control even existed so it’s well-designed for the task.)

We do it largely to save money for things that are more important and lasting.

But we also do it because we prefer to adjust to the seasons.

The ability to acclimate is a natural rhythm that many westerners have lost.

We dress for the seasons, wearing layers in the winter and swimsuits in the summer.

We love our lifestyle and wouldn’t change it even if it didn’t save us money.

So this year, maybe try living a bit more of life outside.

I understand that many adults have jobs that require they be indoors, so maybe just take baby steps.

Take as many lunch breaks outside as you can.

Eat your breakfast on the deck. It doesn’t have to be perfect weather.

Ride your bike to work if possible.

Go for a jog in the evening.

Spend the weekends at the park or go on some camping trips.

I’m very excited about the future and all the ways we are going to entwine learning and outdoor play as my kids grow.

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What are your favorite childhood memories? How can you incorporate more outdoor play and joy into your life?

2 Comments

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  1. I always say, “getting outside for a walk is my cure for everything!” (headaches, feeling sad, muscle aches) My family lived on a small farm when I was growing up & my brother & I were out ALL DAY, until my mom would call us in to eat. I think it’s much healthier for kids & adults alike to be outside as much as they can. Sadly, folks have gotten away from this. Glad to see you’re encouraging this with your children.

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