Raising Outdoor Kids

Start them when they are young…

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It has been awhile! I have been busy giving my blog a new look and planning the upcoming season of my Timbernook program. But I am back some new content, starting with a very special post about special outdoor people in my life! 

Raising kids who enjoy being outside can be challenging. Making the time, finding the gear and managing the mess are just a few of things that come to mind!

You may be saying yourself, “I can never get my kids to play outside.”

I may have just the encouragement you need.

Today I am sharing an interview with a young mom in my life who does an amazing job of getting her young boys outside on a regular basis. Megan, who happens to be my daughter-in-law and mom to my adorable grandsons, has made it a priority to get her boys outside from the time they were very young. She has a unique perspective as a former nanny and preschool teacher and now, as a baby sleep consultant for Sleepwise Consulting.

WARNING: Cuteness Alert!

Physical activity really enhances the brain’s ability to learn and retain information.

Before you had your own kids, you worked in a preschool - What things did you learn there that helped you shape your attitude about parenting, play and the outdoors?

I was a preschool teacher for 3 years and I do think it shaped a lot of how I parent my own boys. I attended a lot of trainings about open ended play and how important it is for young children to have freedom and creative outlets. Outdoor recess time, was another huge part of our day - fresh air is good for everyone. Some of my trainings also were about how physical activity really enhances the brain's ability to learn and retain information. Watching and learning from my 40 students a year really taught me about different learning styles and how little things such as 5 minutes outside can make a huge difference.

What kind of clothes/outerwear do you have that you find are essential for playing outside? 

Some outdoor wear I have found to be really helpful are Keen sandals for the summer - they can be wet or dry and are fairly closed in with tough rubber toe boxes to protect little feet. Another must for summer is a baseball or bucket hat to protect little faces and eyes. We also love rubber boots we have both neoprene insulated ones for cold and just regular rubber rain boots for summer. And last but not least our favorite thing Oakiwear rainsuits! We LOVE them and can’t say enough good things about them. The suits just easily zip over any outfit, so your little one is ready for mud, water or snow and you don’t have to completely change them when you’re done outside.

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Frequently I hear concerns about outdoor play, including fear of germs, worry about child abduction, and worry about getting hurt - Do any of those things go through your mind? What could you say to moms who might have those concerns?

I should say right away that I’m not a germaphobe. I myself grew up spending countless hours outside playing so I think that’s just what I’m used too. I honestly believe, that Target carts are way more gross than dirt outside. I’ve never thought too much about child abduction. I try to have a healthy protectiveness, but not be a helicopter mom. I know kidnapping can happen anywhere... however, we live in a fairly safe neighborhood and I don’t let my kiddos wander outside alone yet.  

As far as my concern about them getting hurt… I think honestly, my kids have gotten more injuries from playing inside than outside. I feel like grass is soft and forgiving, and if they play on a hard surface they are usually riding a bike or scooting around and they wear a helmet. I’m really a firm believer that children should have the freedom to explore - I would encourage all parents to let their little ones play outside and feel a sense of freedom- I really think children are a lot smarter than we give them credit for.

Outside play allows children to explore and use their imagination more freely which in turn helps with independent playtime inside.

How does playing outside have a positive impact on your day? Conversely, do you notice a difference when you don’t get outside?

Playing outside definitely puts more of a positive spin on our day. It’s a place where my children can run and be free. Our yard has a lot less boundaries then inside our house and I think the extra space helps everyone feel happier. I’m also a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant, and I know that in order for most children to sleep well they need to burn off that excess energy. Sleep is something we value in our house, so if allowing time for outdoor play helps that then it’s a plus in my mind. Outside play allows children to explore and use their imagination more freely which in turn helps with independent playtime inside. On days we don’t get outside my boys are definitely more antsy and have more trouble focusing on a task or toy.

Free to Run!

Free to Run!

Give your child a chance to be bored and dream up an idea - that is so beneficial for imaginative play and building confidence.

What advice do you have for other moms who want to get their kids outside more often?

My best advice would be just go for it. Make outside a part of your day no matter what. Start small with just 10 or 15 minutes and build from there. Dressing appropriately for the weather really helps too. Simple things such as a bucket and shovel do wonders for a child’s imagination. Give your child a chance to be bored and dream up an idea - this is so beneficial for imaginative play and building confidence. In today’s world, our kids are so use to things being instant that I really like to fight that and give my boys creative freedom. My last tidbit of advice would be don’t be afraid to get a little messy. I hope your family will find a love for the outdoors as much as mine does. Happy playing!

So many great tips! The bottom line is that you need to make it a priority, get the right clothes, give them some freedom and just go for it! As an added bonus your kids are going to learn to entertain themselves and they will get a better night’s sleep!

Megan and her husband, David, their 2 boys, and their dog, Grizzly, live in Mt. Airy, Maryland. 
If you have questions about getting your child to sleep better, contact Megan at: megan@sleepwiseconsulting.com.

For more information on getting kids of all ages outside, I recommend reading Balanced and Barefoot*, by Angela Hanscom.