When I asked my 10-year-old and my 8-year-old, separately, what they think we are like as a family, they both said with a smile, ‘We often go for walks.’
In their view, going outside is who we are as a family. Here are five reasons this outdoorsy lifestyle is so important to us.
Time well spent
With three children in primary school and one in preschool (although the Nature Kindergarten is anything but), and one husband away at work 12 hours a day, 5 days a week, time together as a family is rather scarce.
Factor in the daily chores, homework and a few extracurricular activities, and there is not much time left to enjoy each other’s company. By the end of the day everybody is going through the motions, and the mood is often more about coercion than connection.
Then the weekend comes, and it feels like an open door. Not once have we regretted going on a family adventure. We invariably come back feeling refreshed and grateful.
While the children burn off some steam, we also, as parents, are at our best in the great outdoors. Free from the incessant demands of daily life, we are present, available, calm, for a few precious hours.
No timetable. No agenda. No distraction.
Time well spent.
“Kids don’t remember their best day of television.”
But our children will never forget rolling down the hill overlooking heart-shaped Lough Ouler;
Jumping from a pedal boat into the deep waters of the lac de Lavalette in France;
Eating a bowl of steaming hot noodles by the Glenealo waterfall;
Observing adorable little puffins on Saltee Island Great;
Learning to ski with their cousins in France.
Is it the thrill of doing something different? Is it the power of sharing experiences? Is it the joy of being in nature?
Whatever it is, family adventures make for the best memories.
Pause Netflix. Shut down Minecraft. Leave the phone at home.
(Ok, the phone might come in handy for a spot of geocaching, so maybe not!)
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including you” – Anne Lamott
Away from the irresistible pull of electronic entertainment, away from the constant pings and alerts of smartphones, exploring together brings us closer as a family.
Indoors they squabble over toys, treats, screen time.
Outdoors they roam and they play and they bond.
Indoors they compete.
Outdoors they cooperate.
No more distraction. Time for connection.
It’s all very well making a paper plate craft about the life cycle of the frog. Or writing down the various parts of a tree on a school worksheet. Or learning about endangered animals through a wildlife documentary.
“Not all classrooms have four walls.”
If there is no connection to the very nature that surrounds us, all this ‘learning’ happens in a vacuum. If children don’t know, or care, about the natural world, how can they be expected to look after it in the future?
Thankfully our four kids don’t see themselves as separate from the natural world. They are at one with the mountains, with the rivers, with the forests, and with the sea. They belong.
I want to nurture this precious connection.
Let them fall in love with the Earth before asking them to save it.
Why do we like going outside so much? Because it is great fun!
Call it thrill-seeking if you like. Or rediscovering our inner child. But nothing compares to the bliss of moving and playing in nature with the children.
At the end of the day, if it wasn’t fun, we wouldn’t do it. It may seem easier sometimes to just snuggle up inside. But if truth be told, we never feel more alive than in nature.
All senses alert.
Mind at peace.
It’s time to kick open the door. What adventures will you have with your children?
Annette is a travel/parenting blogger exploring Ireland with four children and a camera. She is French, married to an Irish man, and they live in beautiful county Wicklow in the Republic of Ireland. She can be found on her blog, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.