Parenthood is not easy, there are so many parenting books, websites, blogs, social media posts all telling us how we should and should not parent. Are they right or are they wrong? This is a question that will be asked forever as new scientific studies come out and opinions change over time. The one thing that is consistent is that we want to raise well rounded, happy children. How do you do that? If someone finds out please let me know.
Growing up I got to spend a lot of time in the outdoors and loved it. When I became a parent, I knew this was one thing I wanted to instill in my child. As a parent I have worried since the day I found out I was pregnant about my parenting skills or lack thereof. My husband and I have had multiple conversations about what we are doing right or wrong. Soon my daughter is turning eight and as I watch her, I am pleased with the happy, carefree, funny, smart girl she is growing up to be. I think to myself, how did I get so lucky to be the mother to this wonderful little girl?
My answer is the love of nature and being outside. At a young age we had our daughter engaging in outdoor activities. At just two weeks old we put in her in a front carrier and took her to explore local waterfalls and hiking trails. Evenings were spent walking a quiet dirt road near our house. On the weekends we did various hikes or pulled her in a sled while we skied or snowshoed, When she got a little older we started camping and canoeing with her and she got her own skis and snowshoes.
Child care, this is something we stressed a lot about. Finding good child care is very difficult no matter where you live. We were lucky to find two great in home daycares that would incorporate outdoor time when she was an infant and toddler. When she was ready to start preschool my husband and I again stressed over finding a good school that fit with our working hours and what we wanted for our daughter. We were very fortunate to come across a preschool that incorporated education as well as the importance of being outside. The teachers would take the children outside every day. They would go on hikes, play in the woods or work in the large greenhouse on the schools property. The kids planted seeds and took care of the garden. This gave my daughter a good foundation to love fruits and vegetables straight from the ground. When I picked her up she was also excited to tell me what they found on their many adventures in the woods or in the greenhouse. On the weekends she was always eager to show us what she had learned while at preschool, making it more enjoyable for all of us to be outside.
At the start of elementary school, we needed before and after school and vacation childcare. Another challenge, are you noticing a theme with my stress of childcare. We are fortunate to have a childcare facility in town that focuses on the importance of being outside. Sometimes I worry that it is too much for her especially on day’s that it’s raining or cold and snowy, but she never complains or says she does not want to go. It's usually, "Mommy I'm so lucky I get to be outside all day long." After school she is able to be outside and get out any extra energy from being in class all day. She loves to come home and tell me about the adventures they went on and what they saw. I have noticed over the last year, that when she is having a difficult time or a bad day, she will go outside and play until she is feeling better. She prefers to be outside, more than in. Recently, when I wanted to go for a small hike in the rain, she was eager to join me, even though she had been outside all day. On the weekends she asks what hike or adventure we are going on and is eager to help plan. Being outside helps her stay focused, energized and get a good night sleep. It builds her creativity and lets her imagination wander.
Friends on the trail have also helped keep my daughter interested in being outside. I love watching kids explore on the trail, they are always finding something interesting to explore on deep in conversation without any electronic devices in sight.
I understand that everyone may not have the access to the resources I have living in a rural area, but getting outside can be as simple as visiting your local park or walking trail. I am a strong believer that kids need at least an hour of outside time everyday, even though recent studies say more. Does my daughter always get this, no, as we can have our lazy day's too, but I do try my best to get outside. That is all I ask of you, is that you do your best.
Are my views right or wrong? No, but it is what is important to my husband and I for raising our child and are happy with the results of being an outdoors family.
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