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Go outside and play!

It's easy to think reading others blogs that they've got their "stuff" together. My chaos post left some feeling readers feeling a bit inadequate (but also hopefully inspired!). But we all feel that way. I am constantly feeling guilty that we don't spend enough time outside and look wistfully at blogs where the kids potter about outside happily.

Both Video Boy and Wombat Girl tend to naturally be "inside" kids. They gravitate towards inside activities - reading, puzzles, board games, TV and the ubiquitous "screens" (of which we have many!). My kids this morning...

Video Boy in his natural habitat...

Wombat Girl enjoyed the wonders of DSi...

I know I'm not alone in thinking that my children spend too much time inside. And to a certain extent, that's OK - they are a bit wired that way. They live "in their heads". But I have moments (well, maybe a bit more than that) where I am concerned about their indoor habits.

I do a bit of work for National Parks (oh, the irony!) and one of their big pushes is Wilderquest as part of their Children in Nature program, inspired by the writings of Richard Louv, who has coined the term "Nature Deficit Disorder" - which is the concept that, generally speaking, our kids are living more of their lives inside, doing structured, adult-organised activities far more than even our generation.

The Nature Principle, by Richard Louv - now in paperback

And I'm not the only one thinking these thoughts - my friend Hela over at Thrifty Mothers asks "How Come It Was More Fun When You Were A Child?" Within a generation things have changed so much - I was 13 when I received my first Game and Watch, Snoopy Tennis. Until then, we had a black and white TV with no remote and no VCR. No home computer. No video game platforms. No iPods, iPhones, iPads. We had to make our own "fun" because it didn't come all pre-packaged. Some of that was indoors (we lived in an apartment for some of the time I was growing up) so there was Lego, dolls, puppet theatres, cubby houses. But even that was open-ended, child-led play.

Now I'm the first to admit that I love my tech and we have a lot of it in our house. Its pull is powerful. The learning that can come from it is amazing. The connections we make to other people and the world of knowledge at our fingertips is astounding. But very often, it is all too easy to opt for it, rather than do what we "used to do".

So this spring I have been trying to encourage (not nag!) the kids to do other things and in particular, go outside. We have been gardening, going for walks and the trampoline is always a stand-by. But I'm thinking for my kids, the naturally indoorsy ones, with lots of screen temptations, I'm going to have be more thoughtful than just saying "go outside and play". And I don't want to be too controlling - banning all tech. Having adult-enforced screen-free. I need to be more....inventive? Strategic? Cajoling? Something like that.

What's a tech-mum to do? Google of course! With a smattering of inspiration from Facebook! I came across some fabulous websites (here and here) for ideas for outdoor play! Even though a lot of this is directed to toddlers/preschoolers, I think older kids given the opportunity and lack of peer pressure to be "cool" (which we see in high school very obviously) love this sort of play.

So, this morning we were having homeschool friends over to "play". And instead of opting for Ben 10 on the Wii to ensure they were occupied, I went a-strewing...

Chalk and chalk boards (and possibly bricks)

Kitchen stuff and pouring/measuring stuff

Log cabin toys, toy cars and toy dinosaurs and plastic animals

Science "equipment"
Some of these toys had not been played with for years! (bonus - I found a "lost" DSi in the log cabin box!) I left these out and just encouraged the kids to go outside and see what took their fancy.

So of course they jumped on the trampoline... o.O

And came inside to drag out the Uno Stacko and Uno Attack (sigh)

However, I persisted. Gentle encouragement and time meant that eventually everyone ended up outside...

...and looky what they did:

There was this amazing whole town going on down there, complete with signage, animals, food storage and even after our visitors left, signs drawn up by Wombat Girl to indicate who lived where (including the Mayor).

As we waved our weary visitors goodbye, Video Boy commented to me "you know, when you put all that stuff out there, I thought you were going to come out with us and be all control-freaky and tell us what to do". Wow - maybe I have to let go a bit more often. But it wasn't my intention at all to be "control-freaky" today - it was totally my intention to leave out stuff that might inspire them to play outside.

Mission accomplished and I'm so inspired to keep looking for ways that we can do this more often :-)


  1. Wow! That was some seriously dedicated strewing!

    It looks like it did the trick too.

    My boy is more of an outside person, but I know all about being an in-my-head indoors person.

    1. Nah - I just put out some boxes of old toys and stuff around the yard! Seriously! But yes, it did the trick :-)

  2. If we're outside, I feel guilty that we aren't inside doing schoolwork. If we're inside, I feel guilty about not getting them outdoors. My internal battle is a no-win situation.

    You have me in the mood to get out our Lincoln logs, though.

    1. I think all of us homeschool mums feel the guilts! And my friend was super-impressed by the Lincoln Logs and wanted to know where I got them from. She was disappointed when I told her my great friend sent them (with great postage expense) from the US!!!

  3. I should learn to get outside more often myself; being both an indoor person and a shift worker, I was told I have a vitamin D deficiency by a doctor who did a blood test on me. This is of great concern to someone of my age, particularly a woman my age. I was then prescribed Vitamin D tablets (1000 micrograms, 3 times a day for the first month, then just once a day for the second) and I am hoping it will work. But yes, that's even more of a reason why kids should get out and play, so they don't develop 'rickets' :)


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