Thursday, January 24, 2019

#parentingtruth No.3 - Go Outside!

These #parentingtruth posts are in no particular order. What I mean is that No. 17 might be more important to you than No 5. will be, just depends on what strikes a chord that resonates with you. I’m putting numbers on them simply to make it easier for you to find the ones you want to read again, or share with your friends. You’re welcome! :)

#parentingtruth, the great outdoors, outdoor recreation, parenting

Today’s #parentingtruth is about our need to go outside - often! It is too easy in today’s society to get caught up in the rush of things to do, and spend all our time running from one event or place to another, or, the converse, to set inside at home and watch tv or play video games to fill all of our spare time.  For the past three years, I have been part of a group that writes a weekly column for our local newspaper. It is titled: On Nature. The four of us rotate, so we each write 13 columns a year. Every one of us has a particular focus for our columns, based upon our expertise and experience. I write to encourage families to get outside and enjoy time spent in nature - together! 

The focus for my newspaper writing came naturally, because we’ve been taking our girls outdoors their whole lives. When you see those two commercials together during a football game, one for an amusement park and the other for a forest adventure - we’re the second one. That’s not to say we’ve never been to an amusement park, just that we enjoy a hike in the forest more! Go outside with your family, it ranks right up there in the #parentingtruth highlight reel with love, forgiveness, and Jesus!

So why should you go outside? Because it’s fun. Because you can learn something, because your children will enjoy exploring, and because it can be great exercise! For young families, I recommend three things besides that diaper bag: a stroller, a blanket, and a hiking stick. When your baby is little, just getting outdoors in the fresh air and pushing them around the neighborhood or the park can help you both. Mom and Dad get exercise and baby gets healthy dose of fresh air. it doesn’t matter when they are little if they sleep through it all. Just take them outdoors. Babies are pretty tough, even though they may not look like it. That blanket will be great for putting under a tree and having a picnic. When your baby first starts to crawl, it gives you a head start to keep them from eating ALL the grass, or dirt - LOL! The hiking stick is to remind you that life is best lived outdoors. Your baby is going to grow up before you know it and want to go exploring. Be ready.

There is more to your life than these four walls you are sitting inside. Do you like to look for butterflies, flowers, cool rock formations, or animal tracks? Take your family along with you! While your kids may like watching nature documentaries on tv, they are going to learn to love living in one even better! Kids need the chance to get dirty. The naturalist at our local state park says she sees parents today that are afraid to let their kids get dirty. I see that too. Parents want to isolate their children from germs to keep them healthy. Unfortunately, what usually happens is they end up using so much hand sanitizer and limiting their children’s exposure to nature that they never develop a good immune system to keep them healthy long term. Let your kids play in the dirt. Let them eat the sand on the beach. Let them eat wild raspberries straight from the bush without washing them first. A little dirt never hurt. Let your kids be kids!

One of Arlene’s favorite places to be is up in the apple tree in our backyard. I don’t remember how old she was when she first climbed it herself, but fairly young. She has spent a lot of her life up in that tree reading a book, watching the birds, or just relaxing. When she was about 10, she sat in one of the apple trees and learned to mimic the Tufted Titmouse that was hopping around in the other apple tree. Even today, if I take too long to get outside when we’re leaving to drive somewhere, I know she’ll end up climbing in the apple tree. As a parent, you have to let go of your tendency to fear, and let them learn how to do things themselves. Teach them how to take care of themselves while outdoors, and then let them have fun!

Part of this #parentingtruth about the great outdoors is learning the difference between packing light and packing well. Once you’re past the diaper bag stage of parenthood, you need to learn how to pack your backpack well for adventures! You could spend a lot of time worried about if you can pack light, but instead, focus on packing well. If you spend a lot of family time outdoors, or you want to get to that point, then start with the basics and refine what you pack depending on your destination. It is not uncommon for me to pack two bags: one to keep in the car, and one to take on the trail. This started back when the girls were still little enough to need a change of clothes in case of "accidents." If we think we’re going hiking near water, we’ll pack and extra pair of shoes (and socks) for everyone in case we end up walking down the creek bed on our adventure. You might be going somewhere muddy and want an entire change of clothing. You don't have to take it all on the hike, just leave the extras in the car. Pack your water, snacks, compass, map, first aid kit and whistle in your backpack. I bought an extra whistle just so I could keep it fastened to my backpack. 

Once the girls were big enough to carry a small bag, they got to carry their own water and snacks. I remember this little belt-bag Emily had as a little girl that carried her water bottle and two or three small snacks. She wore it everywhere for a year or two. I used to have this small backpack with two outside pockets for drinks. For a while it carried the girls’ soppy cups, then they got bigger, and they got to take turns helping carry it. Today, everyone carries their own backpack or camel bag when we go hiking. When I think back over the memories that stick out the most from their childhoods, the majority of them revolve around time spent outdoors.

When it comes to spending time outdoors, the best motto is “Try, try again!” Did your adventure go well? Try another one. Did you meet some hiccups, or forget to pack the first aid kit? Try again. Did it rain? Try again, maybe you’ll have sunshine. Did you get sunburnt? Let your skin heal, get some sunblock, and then try again! Going outside can cure a lot of ills - like cranky kids, stressed dads, and tired moms - but mostly - it’s just plain fun! 

Are you looking for more ideas on how to put today’s #parentingtruth into action? 
Here is one of my favorite columns from last year with some ideas.

Stop back by next week and read about another #parentingtruth. 

In the meantime, bundle up the family and go outside!

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