Get the kids outside!

Today is March 1 and we all know what that means! There may be snow on the ground and snow in the forecast but spring is on its way.

March is a great month to get the kids outside. There’s so much to see and do and new sights and sounds are arriving daily. The best parts of just getting outside? it doesn’t cost a penny, needs no special tools or knowledge and it’s fun!

DSC01005The hardest part of getting kids outside these days is actually getting them outside. Inside they have many easy distractions, as do we. Just get them out the door and ignore the pouting and whining. And yes, pouting and whining does happen.

Kids are natural explorers. Just go for a walk. Pick any place you like. Be prepared for exuberance and lack of direction. Be prepared for early complaints but by the end, be prepared for a hard time getting them ready to turn back around and head home. Let them poke about, look under and over stuff, inside stuff and around stuff. Let them laugh and hop and holler, too. I know, many birders have a hard time with this philosophy but I’m betting most birders did a little whooping and hollering when they were kids outside….

DSC05484Some kids like to write or draw when they are outside but many do not. Many prefer to climb and jump and look under rocks. Try not to correct them too often. I always give kids the rules of the path, beach or pond before we head out. I tell them to be kind to all living things, plant or animal, no matter how big or small. I ask them to return rocks and logs to their original spots gently so they don’t disrupt too much and to be mindful that even the smallest patch of grass or dead branch is a community to some living being. Even very young children can understand this and need few reminders. They probably need more reminders about their own physical limitations such as their lack of ability to really fly like a bird.

DSC00945If you see something cool, point it out! Let them point things out, too. Many kids like to collect rocks, leaves or shells. Just remind them not to put live things in their pockets.

I am out with kids a lot and even the oldest ones that whine the most about how boring it is to not have their video games or phones on hand will be enjoying the walk before they know it. Older kids rarely get outside any more unless someone takes them so if you know an older kid that is turning into a couch potato, take them out. Let them bring a friend but leave the phones at home. They may grumble but probably not for long. There’s freedom in not being connected all the time, a valuable lesson that you can give them for free.

025If you know how to skip a stone, whittle a twig, make a whistle out of a blade of grass or acorn cap, by all means show a kid how to do it. Let them build a fairy house or a tower of stones and let them show you how to hop across rocks to cross a stream. Never mind that you’ve done it before. Let them be the first to have ever done it. While they’re at it, show them how to make little boats from twigs and leaves and have a little race.

Even in March we can do all these things, though maybe not the wading at the beach part. We can, however, walk a beach looking for whale spouts and other wonderful signs of spring. We can watch thousands of sea ducks gather to fly north and we can watch for the first ospreys to return to the Cape once again.

Dress warmly, get a kid and go have some fun. Get outside!





Let the kids loose….

This post was originally published in the Cape Codder on August 10, 2012 as my column, Nature’s Ways. It has been a popular column so I am reprinting it here for readers who do not get the Cape Codder (since it is not available online)

Gather any group of folks of a certain age and at some point in the conversation the point will be made that when we were young our parents sent us out for the day and told us to come home when the street lights came on. Some had a bell to listen for, some had a lesson to be home for but mostly, we ran pretty freely through our neighborhoods, the woods, the fields and around the ponds. It doesn’t take long for these same groups to lament the lack of freedom today’s kids have accompanied by a lot of head shaking and making of concerned faces but no solutions are really offered. Everyone just agrees that the world has changed, alas….. Continue reading