Monday, September 27, 2010

Getting Outside With Your Kids

My daughter is so happy lately, and so in love with the outdoors.

We've been going to the lake at the dog park every day, and she's been walking out to the lake, throwing sticks for the dogs, and being the happiest kid you ever saw.

Raised by wolves.

Purple rubber boots- perfect for my little Violet.
She's been saying "stick," and "dog" and trying to say "trees."  I should also mention that she doesn't say anything else.  Not Mama or Dada (okay, she says both of those, but not to us, not because she knows their meaning).  Violet has a particular tree she can stop and just stare at for 5 minutes mesmerized.  She will pick up a leaf and inspect it with reverence.  Today, she picked up a stick and promptly began using it as a walking stick to go up a hill.  No one taught her that, she just did it like John Muir's ghost is her imaginary friend.  

When I was pregnant and my mom told me to start walking, I did.  I wanted to stay healthy and strong and comfortable.  It became more and more of a compulsion to go out and be in nature.  I didn't want to jog on my elliptical machine.  I wanted to hike, canoe, kayak, and swim.  I felt this urge as strongly as other women crave pickles and ice cream (I ate a few pickles along the way too, I'm not going to lie).  

Once Violet was born, I continued walking when I could, and when she was 6 months old, I started a mom's meetup group and one of the members started a regular hiking meetup on Thursdays.  Another member started a Tuesday morning outdoor playgroup.  It's easy to say these are too early or it's too hard to get out of the house with kids.  It's easy to say that it's not going to make that big of a difference.  It's not easy to teach a toddler to have reverence for a tree or leaf.  That's something that is taught over time.  That's something that happens when you genuinely love nature, and you SHOW your child that you love nature.  That's something that comes from letting them play in the dirt, eat the stick, taste the rock, and feel the texture of the bark on a tree.  I saw Violet laughing as she ran her hands over the papery trunk of a birch today and knew all that dirt she ate went toward making something great.

For recommended reading, I am suggesting a book that so far I have just skimmed, but glad I baught.  Many of the moms in my group have taken a class with Jennifer Aist, and were inspired by her assertion that getting your kids out in nature is essential.  Her book, Babes in the Woods, is a staple of most Alaska moms, and relevant for any climate.  

My second suggestion is for a book I haven't read yet, but is on my list and will hopefully be a book club book for us.  Last Child in the Woods has inspired many moms I know to take action and get their kids outside.  The premise has been described with this question, "Did you climb trees and build forts when you were a kid?  Do your kids do those things?"  A must read especially for parents who worry about the dangers of the outside and forget how much good is out there.  Again, all that dirt my daughter has eaten has made her who she is- an awesome kid.

1 comment:

  1. Violet sounds like a wonderful little girl! I love that har first words are nature words. :) I pray my kids will be like that one day, but really you have t do the things likeyou are doing for Violet...Let them enjoy and experience nature first hand. I so loved living with the single mom I was nannying for up until this past summer. The mom had a masters in Psychology and put a big focus on ecopsychology...her kids were adopted through foster care and have some major behavioral issues. But when we took them boating, hiking, camping, or even just to the lake or park their behavior issues would melt away. On their birthdays they would ask to do things like go to an apple orchard or for a hike in the woods...No chuck-e-cheese, no Baskin Robbins birthdays for those kids. They just LOVE nature and its amazing.

    Enjoy your daughter!