Outside time. It is good on so many levels: physically, mentally, spiritually. When you go outside you are getting fresh air and perhaps more exercise. You observe things in nature and learn through direct experience. And when you breathe deeply and find delight and peace in the beauty of God’s creation, you are given a glimpse of His glory and goodness. The creation is a reflection of the Creator, so as you contemplate nature, you understand more about the One who made it.
Last week, I instituted a new policy. Video game/television time would occur only when I am fixing dinner and only if the kids have fulfilled their allotted outside time that day and after they pick up the living room and bedroom. It is amazing how motivating video game time is for X-man. Well, last week, I noticed that often, they would sit on the patio or lounge on the swing during much of their “outside time,” rather than explore or play with the various outdoor toys we have. It got me thinking about how to nurture a love of nature and the outdoors in my children. So here are the things I am trying and plan or hope to try to do just that:
1. Continue to mandate outdoor time- I remember when I was a kid in New Hampshire, we lived on two acres of forest land. One hot and sticky summer day, my mother kicked us all outside and told us we would stay outside for a set time (the amount, I do not remember). I was a very willful child and did not being forced and so I sat on the front porch the entire time. However, the more time I was required to spend outside throughout the rest of the summer, the more I explored the woods behind my house where I found a half burnt cabin and played in the creek. So I will do as my mother did and require plenty of outside time for them. I did notice that as long as I left them out there for awhile, they eventually came up with something to do.
2. Vary the outdoor experiences- After they did so much lounging last week in the backyard, I decided to take them to some different parks and the beach this week. Maybe a little time away from their backyard would make it interesting again. I hope to visit parks or other outdoor locations about twice a week this year. We’ll see how I do. This week, they enjoyed splashing in a creek, seeing some farm animals, climbing on tree stumps, finding a few wild animals (many squirrels and a few turkeys), creating sand castles with the materials found at the beach, and playing on the swings and playground equipment at the playground.
3. Model enthusiasm for nature- I need to be excited to go outside and interested in the things I find in nature. Maybe my enthusiasm will be contagious. And the time with my kids will be precious and incalculably valuable.
4. Learn more- A few years back, when I was researching the Charlotte Mason method, I found Jeannie Fulbright’s website and journal. I read her journal entry about Nature Walks. As her family started going on nature walks, they found it a bit boring. Then she realized that her kids were not enjoying it because they didn’t understand what they were seeing. She wrote, “Once we began studying botany, our love of nature literally blossomed.” So we should do some reading and research and learning about nature- perhaps then, they will be excited about what they see!
5. I am considering going through the Outdoor Hour Challenges. It would be pretty helpful to have someone directing me in what to do.