Monday, July 24, 2017

Outside Play

written this spring

blogger friend of mine recently shared this article from Huffington Post.  The author, a pediatric occupational therapist, recommends kids play outside at least three hours a day- and this shouldn't include organized sports.

I couldn't agree more but it's taken me more than a few years to get here.  When my older kids were pre-school and young school-age, I was kind-of a nervous mom (I can hear Jamey saying sarcastically, "Kind of?").  I didn't want them to eat too much dirt, fall on rusty nails, climb too high in the trees, etc.  Plus, I wasn't content to just be outside, so I'd start a project like weeding and then get frustrated when they'd wander out of my line of vision and I had to stop what I was doing and follow them.

Fast forward ten years.  My kids are older so they generally know how much dirt is okay to eat (wink) and they're the ones pounding in the rusty nails with hammers.  As far as climbing trees goes...well, that's a story for another time.

One aspect of this outside play that I wasn't willing to relinquish back then that I see so much value in now is our time apart.  As a homeschooling family, we're together a lot.  When they enter their own world of play outside while I'm inside, we all get a nice break from each other.  They're free to argue, discuss, make semi-unsafe plans (then rule them out on their own, hopefully) without a mother cringing (and maybe intervening) from the next room.  And for me, I get time to think.

Another thing I've learned?  Those weeds aren't the end of the world.  When the toddler who's with us now starts saying, "peep peep peep" inside, it's his way of asking to go outside.  He's giddy with excitement as I put on his socks and shoes and we head out the door.  He makes a bee-line for the chicks and pokes his little finger through the chicken wire of their cage, petting them with his finger tips until they scurry away.

Then he makes his way into the shed that houses the mower and climbs onto the seat, wrestling the ear protection off the steering wheel and placing them on his little head, grabbing the wheel and rocking, willing the mower to start (he's had a ride and now he's obsessed).  Following this little guy around outside is such a joy.  I (usually) don't notice the weeds and instead I can actually see the world through his wide eyes. For a while yet, he'll need a grown up to help him navigate it but hopefully one day, he'll relish spending time outdoors- away from grown-ups, creating his own pretend world of play, too.

"There’s so much value in kids creating play schemes on their own. Kids who are always told how to play have trouble thinking outside the box, and even answering freeform essay questions. Plus, true outdoor free play is like cross training, with the climbing, spinning, going upside down, and the like that adults don’t encourage but that are so valuable for their development." - from the author of the article, Angela Hanscon

So, nervous mamas out there, I feel you.  Take a deep breath and take just one or two steps back. There's the reward of freedom in it for both you and your kids if you're able to let go just a bit.  And there's joy in being given a tour of their newly fixed up hog-shed turned club house...complete with art on the walls, flowers, furniture they nailed together, a caterpillar habitat, a play-area for the toddler, and a floor that may or may not be swept cleaner than my kitchen floor inside.

Maybe four hours a day should be the new recommendation? Pin It


  1. Found your blog tonight and am following. This post was breath of fresh air. My little homeschooler is too little to be out alone. But I find myself needing to make a conscious effort to just be engaged with her and not be wandering over to do a project. I love being with her so much, but as a driven-to-get-stuff-done personality I have to be purposeful to just be present while outdoors. Thank you for the reminder of the importance of the outdoors.

    ~ Emily from So Sunny Day

  2. wow, three hours!? That's amazing! I try to encourage my kids to be out that much and I agree that the break is lovely for this introvert. Thanks for sharing :)

  3. Love this so much! I've been away from blogs for a WHILE but was thinking about and appreciating you and thought I'd drop in. Glad I did! Saying a prayer for you and yours. Annnnnd-- I was wondering, could you recommend a narrative style American history book? For my kid who is in second grade but reads at a much higher level. Thanks much!


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