Monday, April 5, 2010

Get Outdoors Challenge

(Lucy plays in the sandbox)

Back in the 70s, my sisters and I had free range of our neighborhood. All the neighborhood children convened in the small patch of woods in the middle of our block, where we played for hours, swinging on vines, climbing trees, using long sticks to "clean" a "puddle" of the old leaves that had settled there (as an adult, I wonder, was that a vernal pool we were disturbing?) We walked a few blocks away to a big wooded area bordering a big river: we were to avoid the river, but were allowed to wade in the stream that fed it and spent whole days building dams, creating imaginary worlds, and sometimes falling through the ice into the stream (and solving that problem without any hovering adults.)

Today, it's the rare child who's sent out the back door and told not to return until dinner. Children learn in school about environmental issues, but does it really have any deep meaning without a long-term passionate personal relationship with nature?

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and chairman of the Children and Nature Network, has declared April to be Children and Nature Awareness Month. Lisa, of 5 Orange Potatoes , has created a challenge for the month: go outside with your children every day, and document it with a photo.

(a 5-year-old who's mastered chicken-catching)

If you've been reading here for a while, you know we're already outside every day. I am a huge proponent of taking children outdoors daily, in all weather, for large blocks of unstructured play time. April seems like an awfully easy month to do this: I can hardly stand to come inside with the weather as beautiful as it is! (This morning, we were out from 8 until 9, and then again from 9:30 until 12. And then back out again after nap.) But I wanted to join the challenge, anyway, because although I tell people "we go out every day," I find that I'm often surprised by questions like "you went out today?" and "what did you do outside for 3 hours?" And I can't tell you how many times I've heard family-child-care providers say they don't go out because it's too hard to plan around varied nap schedules (here's my solution to that), or because it's too much to get all the kids ready and out the door. Well, I'm here to say it is possible to get 6 kids ages 0 to 5 out the door on a daily basis. I like the idea of a month of daily photos to document what that looks like.

(Lucy shakes a sapling to ring the wind chimes hung there for the children)

So, let's just pretend that I managed all my 30 days of beauty photos before spring (I tried!) and I'll start fresh with this challenge: an outdoors-with-kids photo every day in April. I'll share Lucy photos and some of the other kids (although those photos will be cropped to protect their identities, as they're not my children).

Here's to getting off the computer and getting outside!

(Scroll on down; I posted twice today for 2 challenges.)


5orangepotatoes said...

FANTASTIC post!!! Child of the 70's here too with sisters as well that frolicked free range outdoors all the time.

Your photos and words are wonderful and point well made. Thanks for participating in this much needed necessity in our children's lives.


Luisa said...

ok Lise I think I can definitely handle this challlenge. I'm usually not up for new challenges but this one is absolutely possible. I'll try to bring my camera too. I can't wait to see what your kids do outside

SPTsmama said...

Ooh - I am so glad I found your blog! My son and I spend large chunks of many days outdoors and I am learning to love unstructured time. As a newbie mom, I thought I had to have every minute planned or I was a bad mama. After reading the Continuum Concept, I've given myself permission to drop the schedules. Ahhh, yesterday my 21 month old son and I ended up spending the afternoon by the creek, splashing, throwing rocks and sticks, poking, pulling, stomping. Thoroughly enjoyable, but alas, no camera to capture the moments.