An 'Outdoors Kid' - the pros & cons

Thursday, May 30, 2013

We live in western Pennsylvania.  We actually live, now, in the town that Brandon and I were born and raised - just outside of our alma mater school district which seems almost like a crime to anyone that knows us. Although we align ourselves to all things Pittsburgh (sports especially), we are located in the 'middle' of what James Carville (Democratic political strategist) was referring to when he said, "Philadelphia in the east, Pittsburgh in the west, and Alabama in the middle."

We are 'country.'  And our kids are living proof of all that country blood in their veins, as it is no more evident then when I lay in bed and reflect on the day.  I have come to find in three short years - my children's overall temperaments are almost directly proportionate to the amount of time that they got to spend outside on any given day.

As in all things, there are pros & cons to having an 'outdoors' kid.  The cons range from things like having to find ways to burn energy in the winter when they can't get outside.  And cleaning up enormous indoor messes from attempting to keep them occupied on rainy days.

And the constant tattoo'ing of bumps and bruises.  From skinned knees, to thorn pricks, to bug bites - we do a daily bruise check while getting ready for bed, just to make sure we get an accurate tally of all of the booboos.  This past week, I had to attempt to explain to the Pediatrician why our 15 month old daughter has a scraped up knee (from falling on the cement patio) and a gash and bruises on her forehead (from trying to climb out of the wagon in the stone driveway).

But the Pros are almost infinite - and we are very lucky to have the space in our own yard to be able to let the kids run wild and free everyday, when the weather permits (and even sometimes when we just bundle up or rain-gear up and go out anyway).

My personal top favorite pros to raising 'Outdoors Kids'

Water play:  One of our parenting lessons learned fairly early on was 'If the kid is unhappy - put him in water.'  I think this is well-known parenting advice, and although our kids spend a decent amount of time in the bath and occasionally 'washing' the dishes - there is no better (and easier to clean up) place to explore with water than outside.  Water play keeps them occupied and just happy longer than almost any other activity .

Energy Burning:  We try to get outside as early as 9:30a each morning if we can.  The sooner the kids can start moving their bodies and exploring - the better.  Part of the reason that they have 'better' days (emotionally) is because they are burning up energy that otherwise seems to turn into tantrums when they can't tire themselves out sufficiently.  Burned energy = happy children in our house.

Imaginative Play:  It seems that being outside is the place that encourages my kids the most to be imaginative.  Although we have fantastical play inside - when we are outside there is more space and more props to push their imaginations further than normal.  We have a 'secret hideout' where the kids explore and build and fight off dragons.  Grey plays 'ninja fighting' or 'robot boxing' on the trampoline by himself, Gemmi digs in the mulch and carries it to various places on the patio, giggling and sighing the whole time.

When the kids are outside, I get more opportunities to just watch their little minds than I do when we are in the house or visiting somewhere new.  They don't need me to constantly 'watch this!' or 'help me do this!'  They just play - and its amazing.

The organic learning:  This is my favorite part about having 'outdoors kids.'  There is so much learning happening everyday, with no pushing on my part from ideas I saw on Pinterest or worries about them getting new things in their minds.  All the questions and conversations happen organically because of things they see, hear, smell, find, step on barefoot, and occasionally put into their own mouths.

  • They've learned that you duck your head to go under, and you can jump over or off, you walk sideways to go down a steep hill, and go around things that look tricky or dangerous.
  • They know that a fire is hot so you don't get too close, but it is good for staying warm and cooking food.
  • We know to watch out for 'jagger' bushes and grass because if you step on it barefoot, it will pinch you.  
  • Grey said to us last night in the car, "You know a Mourning Dove sings a sad song like this, 'Whoooo, who, who, who'." 
  • Gemmi learned (the hard way) that red ants bite but black ants will happily crawl all the way up your arms while you giggle.  
  • We hold worms and caterpillars and frogs in our hands and give them names - then we put them back safely where we found them so they can be with their family.  
  • The kids know that we don't kill spiders because they eat bugs, so we put them outside when we find them in the house - and its okay to watch a bumblebee but not to touch or play with it because they'll 'bite' you.  
  • They learn about the way of the world; that plants drink the rain to grow tall and strong, that there are seasons with grass when it is hot and seasons when it is cold with snow and seasons in between when its a little hot and a little cold and everything is changing; and that everything works together to make our world - Grey recently announced, "Mum, it's raining - the worms are going to come out to eat.  And then the birds are going to come out to eat the worms."
  • We know that gray clouds means rain is on its way. 
  • They've learned about tools - that a tractor is for mowing, and a rake is for raking, and a shovel is for digging - but sometimes a shovel is for picking up a dead mole that Trixie played with too rough.  And then we use the shovel for moving it to the woods where we say a little prayer for it - something like, "Dear God, we found this dead mole.  Keep him safe and happy in heaven.  Amen."
  • Grey says that 'it smells like tractors outside' if we smell fresh cut grass and he'll announce other smells to Gemma- like "Smell that Gem?  It's a skunk!"  or "That smell is horse poop, Gemmi!"
  • And every night we look for the 'that crazy moon' and try to guess if its waxing or waning - and then we double check it on our lunar calendar or our moon viewfinder to see if we were right.  

It may mean that my kids clothes are generally ruined faster than most, that they have more bumps and bruises than other kids their age, and quite frankly they are usually pretty dirty - but we are so glad that we are parents to some 'outdoors kids.'


  1. When did those babies become kids? I can't get over those pictures I want to put them all in frames <3

  2. I can relate to this! My girls love to get dirty!