Get outside, Family!

Get outside, Family!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Getting kids outside on the coldest of days

When it feels too cold to be outside, that’s when we have to be outside.

Otherwise, when will it ever not be too cold? It’s just the very beginning of winter weather here, and not all that cold. Temperatures in the 40s feel pretty darn chilly. But in a few months, that will be a nice day. We have to make friends with the cold. And I want us to stay friends.

Why does it matter? Why can’t we just curl up under a blanket on a wet, miserable day? Why not just exercise indoors? To strengthen my resolve, I’ve made a list of reasons to get outside every day this winter. Oh, we’ll log plenty of indoor hours. But being outdoors makes my family healthier and happier.

1.  Germs spread more easily indoors, especially in crowded, stuffy quarters.
2. Sunshine helps boost Vitamin D, and Vitamin D is good.
3. The loss of unstructured playtime for children is blamed for a host of mental disorders and other health problems. I see with my own eyes how playing with their friends in our yard sparks their imaginations, a walk in the woods calms my kids, an hour on a swing helps them sort through their thoughts.
4. Did you know children can suffer from seasonal affective disorder? True.
5. Outdoor play, on the other hand, helps fight obesity, may prevent ADHD and other health problems.  Outside is where my kids move around, without being told to do so by a coach or teacher. And without my yelling“no running in the house!” 
6.  I’m a better parent outside. It’s simply true.

I’m always disappointed when I learn that our schools cancelled outdoor recess for snow or chilly weather. I really like this guidance I found online, meant for childcare providers in California, urging centers to plan to be outside everyday with weather-appropriate activities. If children are dressed to stay warm and dry, most days can be outside days.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Grateful for nature, when and where I find it

I’m grateful for little bits of nature, where ever I can find them. I am thankful for:

  • The fiery sunset my son and I watched from our car at a McDonald’s parking lot, which transformed a rushed errand with a cranky kid into my favorite part of the day.
  • The walking trails left over from long-ago farms that the subdivisions in my community maintain.
  • Dandelions that bloom in the cracks of concrete lane dividers.
  • The walk I forced on my kids to check out a new trail in a town park, during which they complained non-stop until it started snowing. Then we all got quiet.
  • The bike ride and walk with my kids that I forced on myself on a day I felt I had too much to do, which turned out to be one of the last warm days of fall.
  • The yard behind our music school that would make a nice parking lot but instead is an oasis of free play for many children before and after lessons.
  • The small, wooded patch and creek outside my son’s school, where the kids battle trolls and other bad guys.
  • Interstate rest stops that have picnic areas, trees and playgrounds.
  • The flock of tiny, chirping black birds that took over a high-voltage transmission tower near my home. 
  • The wait for the school bus with my son just before dawn, when we try to identify planets and answer other questions about the universe of an 11 year old.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Easy backyard teepee

   I'm not crafty or patient enough to measure fabric, cut wood or otherwise make one of the super cute, authentic looking DIY teepees that are all over the internet. But my kids love having a teepee. So we collect fallen branches from our yard and dig out the old bed sheets and do our best. The result is usually a lopsided is-that-a-tent-or-did-garbage-blow-into-our-yard kinda look. This year, for the first time, using deadwood cut from an overgrown shrub, my son and I have created a reasonable likeness to a teepee. At least I think so. I can hear my handy, camper friends laughing at the suggestion that this is a big accomplishment. I'm telling you, it is. No nasty letters from the homeowners association this time. I'm recording our method, so next year I will remember how we did it.
The key to it all is a Y shaped stick, at least 6.5 feet long. You will need at 3 more sticks at least 6.5 feet long to make a teepee with a diameter of about 4.5 feet. That is just the right size for two or three small children, or one small child and regular sized mom who is folded up like a crinkled twisty tie.

Cut off any sharp ends where branches broke off so no one gets poked.

Lean the Y stick against another stick, so that the "armpit" of the Y is holding up the other stick. Then place the other two sticks at opposite directions so they are balanced and stable.  Each stick should be doing its job of holding up the other sticks.

We usually tie a bungee cord at the spot where they come together.

Next, wrap a bed sheet, blanket or other piece of fabric around your teepee. And there you go!

Younger Son added some homey touches:  a Super Lock made of bungee cords and cup holders.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Keep Daylight Savings Time!

It’s been a week since we set our clocks back an hour and my family is still reeling from the change. We miss Daylight Savings Time! Every one of us is sleeping poorly, cranky and out of sorts. But the worst is that our after-school, after-work outdoor playtime has been abruptly sheared.
It’s often 4:30 p.m. or later by the time my kids are heading outside to play during the week, after activities or homework. Now, it’s getting dark already by that time and they come back in for an extra odd hour of being indoors – which is the last thing they need. It’s the last thing any of us need. Adults should get to see the sun shining, too, even in winter.
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. There is in fact a movement afoot to make DST permanent, and several states having considered doing so. See these articles by Vox and CNN. For a long time there have been calls for sticking with Standard Time and dropping DST altogether. If nobody likes changing the clocks, then why, why, oh why do we still do it? (BTW, the energy savings isn't there.)
I say give us all more time to play outside! Keep Daylight Savings Time year round! Of course, there is a real problem of young kids having to wait in the dark for the school bus, as sunrise would be as late as 8:40 a.m. in December. Maybe school start times could be a wee bit later, although that can pose a problem for working parents. Or, maybe communities need to invest in lighting for bus stops – solar-powered lamps that turn on at 6:30 a.m. ? Not so cray-cray.