Ah, the great outdoors! The most wonderful place to explore, interact with nature, enjoy some peace, get some exercise and breathe in the fresh air. I know how important it is to raise children with daily outside experiences, but getting bundled and out there isn’t always as easy to actually do as it is to say.
With the approaching New Year, I looked back over the past year and reflected on what parts of my life (as a mother, wife, educator and general human being) were working for me, and what needed some “oomph” pushed back into it to get me on track to the person I want to be. Reflecting on what experiences are important to me to be offering my little one in her second year of life, I realizedthat our outdoor time has been lacking. Actually, lacking seems to be a soft way of putting it. We straight up just were not spending any more time outside than it took to quickly dash from house to car, car to store, and back again. Sure, the spring and summer were spent happily lounging and frolicking in the beautiful sunshine and lush, green grass, but somehow the turn of the seasons turned me into an indoor cat. Our sprinkling rain and dreadfully cold temperatures on the West Coast (which rarely drop below 0 degrees), had spooked me into hiding for the winter. For shame! Somewhere in between my “nesting” and the cozy last winter we spent snuggled up with our newborn, I forgot my mind frame about weather: If you don’t like the weather, move. Where we live, there will be rain. Lots and lots of rain. Deal with it. That’s what muddy buddies, rain jackets, and all manner of waterproof garb are designed for.
Being that my daughter isn’t of the age yet where she can independently decide to go play outside, or even verbalize a want, I had completely disregarded that my growing child needs to be part of the world outside of walls. Feeling as if I had been stunting her spiritual, physical, and emotional growth by denying her the great outdoors, I made it a top priority in my New Year’s Resolutions to make spending time playing outside happen for us.
The goal I set for myself was that we would head outside for at least 10 minutes each day, regardless of the weather. Now, 10 minutes might sound like a miniscule portion of time, not even worth the preparation to get there, but I’ve been finding this measure has been working really well for me. Because my babe’s fingers are just so tiny still, I worry that too much time out on very cold days might hurt those little digits. 10 minutes seems doable, even on very cold days (and now that I’ve picked up some little waterproof mitts from Hen & Chicks, we’ll be good to go for longer without worry). And who is to say that we actually pack it in after 10 minutes? What I’m been finding is that a “daily 10-minute” goal is a great way of setting yourself up for success, as generally by the time you’ve spent 10 minutes at something, you get into a rhythm with what you’re doing and forget to stop. Small expectations can lead to great doings.
I have to be honest – we haven’t made it outside every day. New Year’s Day went out the window with family visiting and the holiday wind-down, and Saturday was a very full day for us visiting our mama group for the first time in far too long. Monday and Tuesday didn’t fair so well, either, being that I was working, then busy running around getting some medical upkeep done, but at least she spent some time going for a walk with her Gramma while I was out. However, the days we have made it out have really been very special to me.
Sunday it poured rain and gusted wind all day, but I was determined and managed to bundle little miss up in her waterproof suit, the most waterproof boots we own (we’re waiting for some new stock to get in at Hen & Chicks), and a warm toque. Getting ourselves ready, Hubs commented that we were crazy and he would not be braving the elements. Shortly after we got out in the yard, though, Daddy came to join for our family fun. I loved spending time outside as a family, swinging our bean on our tree swing for the first time, picking up leaves and sticks, walking around and looking at everything.
This afternoon when we returned home from my work and little Z’s Gramma time, we went for a walk together to get the mail. Our mailbox isn’t too far down our road, but – as I’m sure anyone who’s ever spent time walking with a toddler will understand – it was a slow meander that took 10 times the amount of minutes it would have taken me by myself. Also, it was 10 times the amount of awesome.
Not taking the time and making the effort to get out with my little one, I realize now how much we’ve been missing. You can just see the wonder and amazement in those tiny little blue eyes, looking around at everything she has only seen through a window for the last few months. She squealed with delight and booked it towards puddles. She stepped on sticks, seeming hesitant and unsure of what was going to happen when she did. We watched the stream of water trickle down the ditch along the road, and she let me know it was very important that she get to feel and explore these great, odd-looking contraptions I was pulling envelopes out of. We listened to birds. We splashed rocks over and over again into mud puddles (clearly, a new favourite game). We filled up my soul, and I’m sure hers as well, with the plethora of wonders that the big, beautiful and natural world has to offer. For the first of many, many times.
I can’t believe it took me this long. But, I can’t kick myself now. “Over, done with, gone” has been my motto for a long time, and has served me well. There’s no point getting stuck in the past with “should have’s” or “should not have’s”. There is only going forward, with an understanding that everything has the ability to change and grow. We do our best. We grow our best. We become our best. Over and over again.
So please, for the love of everything that is childhood and natural wonder, please make an effort to share the world – your world – with your little one, even when it’s wet and chilly out. It’s amazing what you don’t realize you’re missing out on until you get your comfortable little bottom up and out the door. With the right gear to keep you warm and dry, even the chilliest days can be the most rewarding.
Oh! And I’m trying to help myself with the whole getting outside more thing by aiming to snap portions of our beautiful island as we stroll around it, and posting them on Instagram with #strollsaltspring. Not a lot yet, but many more to come! Maybe you have your own pictures of strolling adventures to add to the thread?
This article first appeared over at The Big To-Do List. Images used with permission of the author.
Hannah is an Early Childhood Educator who lives a happy and busy life on a beautiful little island on the West Coast of British Columbia (that’s in Canada, eh). Find her blogging over at The Big To-Do List.