One of my priorities, at least on paper, is giving the kids plenty of time to be outside and in nature. I wholeheartedly agree with all the benefits of being outside. No need to persuade me, I get it. I just wish all the mud, dirt and sand didn’t end up back in the house, or that the kids could be instantly bathed by a magic fairy when they get back inside, or said fairy could also get all shoes, sunscreen and butts wiped before going outside. Sometimes getting three little kids out to the backyard is harder than a park, sometimes a walk around our short block is like pulling teeth to get out the garage door. 99% of the time once we are out the door life improves dramatically. And, I’m hoping, the more we do it the easier it will be. Building habits is hard work, but I think this one is well worth it.
I read Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv awhile ago. The subtitle is Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder and it all makes perfect sense. Kids don’t go outside as much anymore, or play unstructured games (soccer for 18 month olds is on the up and up though), and are kept in front of a screen more often because it is seemingly safer and easier. It’s interesting how parents are encouraged to provide sensory explorations for their babes and toddlers. Pinterest boards are full of shaving cream and corn starch experiments, how to make your own snow and the like. Sensory experiences are super valuable for kids. That’s how they learn, by engaging all their senses. I’ve gotten out the corn starch and water too. But, sometimes I think it’s all a little…much. It’s a lot of prep work on my part, and it’s so contained without much room for imaginations or creativity to flourish. But, digging in the dirt…that requires zero prep work on my part and keeps the kids busier for much longer than our contrived sensory experiments.
I want to get everyone outside at least one hour a day (the more the better, but I’m going to start here).
Spring is in full bloom here, and there is no excuse. If I have too many priorities I know it’s like having none. For now, in this season (literally and in the season of three littles), I am making outside time a must. Even when the fairy doesn’t arrive to put on the shoes and sweep up the dirt. We have other priorities in our homeschool day such as reading out loud, open ended play and open ended art time. But, for whatever reasons, these habits have easily turned into routines that I no longer have to think about much.
My two oldest have been spending a lot of time on the iPad. I mean, they are so into Clumsy Ninja and Minion Rush that it is half comical half scary. I am not against video games at all, and can see the benefits, however I was noticing behavior I just didn’t like. We would be out with friends and they would ask when we could go home to play the iPad. And when they were done playing they’d be extra whiny and argumentative. Misbehavior was leading me to take away iPad privileges and I didn’t like the continued conversations we were having. I wanted to throw the thing out the window. Something had to change and that’s when I decided we had to fill up the day with better activities so that time in front of the screen wasn’t as much of an issue. I love Lori’s take on screen time and priorities at Project Based Homeschooling, most specifically this post where she says “You have to stop curtailing what your child loves and instead focus on building a routine and a family culture around the things you believe are most important.”
In the past week there really has been a significant change. We’ve spent way more than an hour each day outside, we continue to read and create art daily and many days no one even talks about the bananas they got at which level of Minion Rush. And the days the iPad is played it is after a full day of all that good stuff (in my opinion) has been accomplished.
I’m glad my whiny, video-game-playing kids reminded me, in their own way, that our priorities just haven’t been balanced. As fun as it is to get Clumsy Ninja jumping on his trampoline, it is just as fun, or dare I say, more fun, to jump around themselves.