We decided to join Ginny Yurich’s 1000’s Hours Outside movement for 2021 to “balance screen time with green time.” It’s a big goal to be sure, but with many pandemic restrictions still in place for the foreseeable future, it seemed like the right time to go for it. After all, nature is always open!
Thankfully the weather was unseasonably warm for the first few weeks of January, which allowed for winter playground visits (a first!), and lots of sledding, ski-doing, and winter walks. The highlight of our outside play for the month was definitely going dog sledding, a fun activity that was a perfect escape from the realities of Covid, at least for a few hours.
The warm weather even allowed for me to read outside while Henry played in the backyard on several occasions. I’ve been educating myself on the importance of getting kids outside -beyond my basic understanding that exercise and fresh air are important – by reading titles such as There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather By Linda Akeson McGurk, Up! A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure By Patricia Ellis Herr, and Last Child in the Woods By Richard Louv. They’re all good, but Last Child in the Woods has been especially enlightening, and I cannot recommend it enough. Even just a few chapters in, Louv shares so many gems:
- Technology and progress have created a world of convenience, but the price is a “diminished life of the senses.” So often we leave our heated or air conditioned homes and go straight into our heated or air conditioned vehicles to drive to heated or air conditioned schools and workplaces, never really stopping to interact with the natural world. Louv writes that, “we require fully activated senses in order to feel fully alive.” So if you’ve been feeling tired or anxious or down, heading outside to hear, feel, touch, smell, and hear all that nature has to offer is a pretty good place to search for reinvigoration. January definitely showed this to be true for us.
- Louv also explores the power of the natural world to form lasting friendships, writing that “certainly the deepest friendships evolve out of shared experience, particularly in environments in which all the senses are enlivened.” When I think back to my childhood playing at the park, sledding, boating, fishing, and biking to school – those people are lifelong friends, and watching Henry interact with other kids now that the restrictions on outdoor gatherings have been lifted, makes me hope the same will be true for him.
- Playing outside can actually make kids (and adults) more creative. Louv quotes Robin Moore, an expert in the design of play environments who says that “natural spaces and materials stimulate children’s limitless imagination and serve as the medium of inventiveness. . .” I’ve seen this in action myself. One afternoon I watched as sticks, rocks, leaves, fallen berries from a Mountain Ash, and snow in the yard all became magical ingredients in Henry’s “cake,” showing that expensive toys and tablets are not only unnecessary, but can actually be detrimental to a child’s healthy development by stifling their imagination.