The Outdoor Families Magazine Facebook page is a busy place. Parents, educators, and outdoor industry experts share their thoughts on posts related to kids and the outdoors. Several weeks ago we posted a blog entry by Frugal Fanatic about “10 Things Moms of Boys MUST Know,” and did you ever respond! One parent, Claudia Keating, sent us this essay.
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by Claudia Keating
As an outdoorsy mom of both a boy and a girl, many of the “boyish” stereotypes on the blog post “10 Things Moms of Boys MUST Know” rang true for both of my children. In response, I took on the challenge of creating my own list for parents of outdoor families.
1. Know that being grossed out by insects, worms, snakes and frogs is not allowed. You must react with the same awe that your children have when they introduce you to these new friends. It may take practice, but a great tip is to mirror the joy you see on their face on your own. It will become real with time.
2. Know that your home’s entryway will be a muddy mess. Or a snowy mess. Or a dusty, dirty mess. Bath towels used as rugs will be invaluable to you. You will often need to carry your children in your outstretched arms, dangling from their armpits, to the bathtub. That is the best place in the house to strip off dirty clothes while containing said mud and/or muck.
3. Know your outdoor children will be dirty. Playing outside is hard work, it really is, and a very important job children generally take seriously. Keeping up with the demand for mud-pies at a backyard “restaurant,” or bulldozing mulch on a miniature construction site takes a lot of concentration and effort. Embrace it.
4. Know that your washing machine will become your new best friend. Everyone knows children are washable, and hey, most clothing is, too! Invest in an economy-sized jug of laundry detergent, and let the children play!
5. Know that it is normal for outdoor children to play, all day, every day. Sometimes energy can seem overwhelming, especially when everyone is cooped up in the house. But take advantage of all weather situations, whenever possible, and usher your crew outdoors. The payoff will be immediately apparent.
6. Know that your outdoor children might push your buttons. Don’t let frayed nerves get you down; spend some time outside. Sometimes, merely stepping into nature can be enough to calm a tense situation or refocus kids’ energy (or your own) on something positive and productive. Take a seat in a camp chair with a book and let children focus their creativity on a sand sculpture or a bouquet of dandelions. It’s okay to take a breather.
7. Know that you will forever be telling kids to take rocks from their pockets. Parents quickly realize that simply requesting removal of foreign objects isn’t enough. A system of checking every pocket of every pair of pants, every hoodie, and every jacket every time they hit the wash. This is a good time to designate a small shelf or shoe box to the cause. Start a collection of “found things.”
8. Know the word “quiet” needn’t exist when playing outdoors. Quiet has a time and place, and sometimes it is nice to play a game of “listening ears” to hear sounds of nature, but kids need the outdoors to run, shout, and play away extra energy. Let them.
9. Know that outdoor children will tinker. Offer small tools and opportunities to take things apart and put them back together. A magnifying glass, tweezers, screwdriver, or hammer can allow for hours of entertainment and learning. Smash flowers, then look at them up close. Tighten screws on the swing set, fix a window frame, or construct a birdhouse.
10. Know that outdoor children, and your whole family, will benefit. Together, roll down a hill or play hopscotch. Take risks to learn more about testing limits and to building confidence in productive ways. Strengthen muscles and gross motor skills by climbing trees and running relays. Return to your own childhood by growing flowers, painting the snow and weaving tall grasses into fence pickets. Most important, enjoy this time. Sit back, and quietly observe how kids interact with each other and nature. Then live it.
Claudia Keating is publisher of the blog Playscaped Wonderland. She and her family live in Akron, Ohio.