Friday, March 26, 2010

Being Outside

Saturday, the Spring Equinox, turned out to be an incredible 71.1 degree day, sunny, with not a touch of wind. I don't think it even got that warm all last June! Seriously.

The boys spent almost the entire day outside, M and Z in their forts or foxholes or whatever in the gravel pit, and E helping C out in the garden. After much cajoling I convinced them to go on a hike in the woods with me after lunch [the promise of Papa coming along too, before he had to head to the dreaded Town Meeting, clinched the deal. Can we talk sometime about boys, once they reach a certain age, preferring the company of their dads? Despite all Mama has done (and continues to do) for them. Ingrates.].

E, all on his own asked if we "could do that thing what we did last spring?" Meaning EarthScouts. I'm kind of bummed that EarthScouts didn't catch on like I'd hoped, and that I gave up, for the most part, after last spring (there was an entry in our EarthScouts journal from November). But I was happy that E remembered and wanted to wear his vest and carry his bag. Z wanted his bag, but I ended up carrying it (it was a handy place to keep the journal and camera, so I didn't mind).

Once we got down to the river, which is quite low, C crossed over on some willow logs, and M shimmied (or, rather, ooched) over after him and explored a bit on the other side. There are only a few days a year, in Maine, where you can sit completely still outside and not either be freezing your tukus off or being devoured by blood-sucking insects. This was one of them and it was oh-so-luxurious (though E and Z did come in after playing out all day on the much cooler Sunday covered in little red bumps that looked suspiciously like mosquito bites, and everyone in the family has now had at least one tick crawling on them, while poor Z has had two latched on behind his ears!).

As I sat and watched the boys throw logs in the river, and explore I kept thinking about the feature in this month's Brain, Child (yes I'm going to just keep dropping those words every five minutes, so get used to it), in which the author takes issue with the movement to get kids outside more.
Admittedly, I only read the first two pages because I got sick of her complaining about Richard Louv's tone is Last Child in the Woods. It's been a while since I read the book, so I don't remember much about his tone, but I've read plenty of books where the author's tone rubbed me the wrong way, yet the information was still valid, and useful. In any case, it was a gripe I thought worthy of maybe one paragraph, not two (or more) pages. I also got the sense she was trying to justify a family trip to New York City that she felt guilty about. I would love to take my kids to New York, or any number of other big cities, and I want them to spend as much time as possible outside in nature. I don't see why the two should be mutually exclusive, and I don't think anyone in the No Child Left Inside movement is suggesting they are.

Even if there were no measurable benefits to my kids in terms of gross or fine motor skills, balance, muscle development, a healthy dose of dirt, cardiovascular fitness, brain development or even the making of memories, I would know that being outside is good for them. Perhaps the best thing for them, because I can see they are happy. They are having a great time. And, on days when they don't get inside (interminable days and weeks of indoor recess because teachers and daycare workers don't want to get wet or cold), they are cranky, whiny, clingy, grumpy, mentally exhausted and physically wound up. They are royal pains in the buttocks on those days. In fact, I find it hard to believe that the crisis of kids not getting outside is as dire as it's reported to be, because who would NOT want to throw their kids outside when they start fighting, or whining, or begging for TV?


  1. I agree with you - the kids need tons more time outside. Mine do.

  2. Andrea,
    I read the whole essay, appreciated her stance, but speaking for my children: they NEED to spend time outside, just exploring freely (as do I!)
    Keep rocking those hikes!
    And yes, boys and their's innate. Also might have something to do with dads JUST PLAYING with their children while moms also: do dishes, laundry, cook, etc...

  3. My older son is somewhat of an "indoor kid" - he evinced a preference to stay inside even on some of the glorious spring days we've had already. But, as soon as we do head out and spend time in the sun (or even clouds) and fresh air and dirt, he is so happy and his good mood lasts (and he often falls asleep more easily). As a mom, I want to try to figure out how to best nurture his passion for his indoor pursuits with his body's obvious need for outdoor ones.

  4. Kristen--I sometimes have to bodily drag my kids away from their Lego's to get them outside, but once they're there, they have a fantastic time. We have enough "indoor weather" here in Maine that when it's nice out, they have no excuse (says she who sneaks away to sew, or read or write--inside--even when it's nice out!).


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