Monday, May 6, 2013

[Guest Blogger Series] The Benefits of Raising Children Outdoors by Amelia Mayer


It is a huge pleasure to introduce you all to one of my favorite Outdoor Mom Bloggers, Amelia Mayer! Her blog, Tales of a Mountain Mama was one of the first Outdoor Blogs I started reading and it is an honor to have her on Mommy Hiker planting her seeds of wisdom and knowledge!

One of the most influential benefits of raising children outdoors is the simple fact that life-long challenges, lessons and explorations are presented on such a deeper and higher level than anything indoors.  I don’t mean bringing kids up in a primitive setting necessarily, but instead raising them to just love the outdoors and the opportunities they have to be free.  This means getting them outside on a regular, daily basis and, most importantly, discovering it with them.

Moab Family Portrait
As parents, we are often so tempted to shoo kids out the door to “go play”.  While unstructured play is fantastic and certainly has its prominent place, kids learn by example more than any other way.  Being sent out the door and out of their “parent’s hair” quickly becomes a punishment to some kids for wild or hyped-up behavior.  Don’t get me wrong – that sort of play is best fostered outside and so should be celebrated in the fresh air….but often with the accompaniment of adults they love.  As moms, as parents, as educators, as caretakers, we all need breaks.  Sometimes we just forget that outdoor time is just as necessary for us adults as it is for kids. 

Frankly, as adults we sometimes have a hard time imagining, discovering and just BEING.  Like everyone else, we have a zillion things to do and not enough time to do them.  We run ourselves ragged for the sake of our kids and so easily forget how to connect with them on the basic level they crave.  Lest you quickly disregard yourself from this category, I don’t even mean “keeping up with the Jones’” and making your child your puppet.  I am talking about forgoing a game of catch or hide and seek because the kitchen floor needs mopped or someone took every book off the bookshelf. 

Expert Explorers!
Yes, the works needs done, but all those things can be taken away from you.  The clean floor you painstakingly finished is taken away with the quick steps of a muddy child.  The dinner you cooked is consumed by hungry tummies you love.  The house gets messy, the laundry is never done and there is always one more thing to do.  The only thing that can NOT be taken away are the memories you make and connections you build with your children, with your family. 

A Happy Camper!
I challenge you to take even just fifteen minutes a day (that isn’t much, folks!) and concentrate completely on your children.  Put your phone down, go outside where distractions are fewer, look in their eyes and just play.  It fills up those little love tanks like nothing else can.  Here are a few of our favorite ways to connect as a family outdoors (because, no matter what anyone says, THAT is where the magic happens in such a profound way):

1.      Play with a ball.  Kick it, catch it, throw it, chase with it, bounce it.
2.      Look for ants, cool rocks or 4-leaf clovers
3.      Have an evening campfire.  Get crazy and roast S’mores.  Bring a book of jokes out and tell them as a family.
4.      Ride bikes (wagons, tricycles, Big Wheels, etc.)
5.      Draw with chalk on the driveway/sidewalk
6.      Go on a nature hunt.  Fill a bag together with leaves, rocks, recyclables, sticks, flowers and grass.
7.      Take silly pictures outdoors.
8.      Go on a walk, even if it is just around the block
9.      Fly a kite
10.  Play with Rockets (Stomp Rockets are REALLY fun for kids of all ages)
11.  Bring out some music and dance
12.  Play house
13.  Play restaurant
14.  Roll down a hill
15.  Jump on a trampoline

Cherish the moments, the smiles, the bruises, the tears, the dirty faces and the memories you make.  Everything else is passing….

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