Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Digging, Tree Climbing and Puddle Jumping

Welcome to the June Carnival of Natural Parenting: Outdoor fun

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared their stories and tips for playing outside with kids. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


I recently read the book, Last Child in the Woods. Basically the premise is that time spent in nature is essential for the physical and emotional well being of all people, especially children. He summarizes various research that concludes that people who spend time outside are happier and smarter.  Also the less structured the time spent and the more natural the environment the better. I had heard about the book a couple years ago, but hadn't read it.  But I readily agreed and embraced the premise. My clearest memories of when I was young are playing outside. When I ran x-country in college running was always easier in the forest than it was on the road. When I started working, sitting at a desk, inside with no window, 8-9 hours a day was torture for me. The book's message matched my experience.

Thus I try to get my children outside often.  Selena and Allie don't fight as much when they are outside, and outdoor play seems to keep Selena on a more even keel than physical activity alone.  We did toddler gym for a while, and it was fun, but it didn't seem to have the mood balancing result that outdoor play has. 

Our favorite outside play is simply to explore our front yard and the cul-de-sac.  Not anything complicated.  I just take the girls out and see what they want to do.  We have a Japanese Maple tree in our front yard that is perfect for small climbers.  We have some landscaped areas that are great for digging.  (At least they were until we put beauty bark in them.  We are in the process of moving and we put in some stuff to give our house more curb appeal and it gives you splinters like crazy.)  Allie digs too, and I pretend I don't see all the dirt she eats.  We stop at our neighbors houses and stack rocks.  We play hide-and-seek behind the HOA sign. When it rains (which is about 9 months out of the year) we put on our rain boots (usually) and splash in puddles.  Allie got to do her first puddle splashing a week ago.  I think she liked it.  When she was younger I would put her in the backpack and carry an umbrella.

When we move one of the things I am going to miss is our climbing tree.  I made a comment to our Realtor that our new house doesn't have a good tree for climbing and she seemed to think I was crazy. She mentioned that there are lots of playgrounds in the neighborhoods.  But I don't think a piece of playground equipment can be quite as good as a great tree.  Hopefully we'll find a suitable one.  But either way I look forward to exploring our new neighborhood and seeing what new activities the girls invent.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


Lauren Wayne said...

It's funny how Realtors don't always understand that it's the natural parts of the environment that make the difference in the "location, location, location" equation. We had the same problem with Realtors not understanding our ties to the beach.

I love your attitude about letting your kids explore on their own and do the simple things like eat dirt! It's good for them. Or that's what I tell myself when all the other parents freak out and I just sit back and watch. :)

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

I agree about climbing trees. There is just something about an inviting tree that draws kids in. We have a magnolia tree in our backyard that is perfect for climbers - whenever we have kids visiting, inevitably someone ends up in the tree. It's always amusing to watch the mothers' reactions - will they relax and let the kids explore? Will they panic and force the kids down? I've already helped Kieran climb it several times - he's still a little short to do it on his own yet.

Michelle @ The Parent Vortex said...

A climbing tree sounds wonderful! I was never very good at climbing tall trees as a child, but a lady who took care of us one summer had a great tree for climbing in her back yard - it was low and spreading and nice and strong. :) I hope you find another great outdoor feature near your new house.

Holly said...

You are right - a playground is not a substitute for a tree!

Maman A Droit said...

Nothing beats a good climbing tree! there was a great one at my church growing up. As a kid I'd wear bike shorts under my dresses so I could climb it after church, and if my parents had a meeting, I'd bring a book and an apple and eat and read in the tree!

Unknown said...

As a child, when our climbing tree had to come down one summer we were devastated. We even wrapped a scarf around the stump in the winter to keep it warm! (Don't worry we found another). I love the idea of puddle splashing - we're going to have to do that this summer when it is both hot and rainy!!

Sheryl @ Little Snowflakes said...

I love how you encourage your kids to explore instead of finding "activities" for them to do. There is a tree at our local park that has provided hours of entertainment for my son. They are nature's jungle gyms!

Melodie said...

I hear you about climbing trees. We have a great plum tree my girls like to climb but we are moving to a house that has no climbing tree and we are all a little sad.

Zoey Martin said...

I would love to find a climbing tree for my little climber. If her enthusiasm for climbing me is anything to go by, she would love it!

Erin said...

The place I grew up is now private property and the lot is empty, all but the tree I spent the majority of my outdoor time in as a child. I try to visit it when I think I won't run the risk of being chased off, but it doesn't happen too often. I do really miss that old tree though. I hope you can find a nice climbing tree in your new area.
Your kids are adorable, btw.

Joni Rae said...

Oh!!! I love your pictures! Outdoor play is so important! <3