Why I Rely on the Outdoors as a Mother
When I was pregnant with my first child, I read that if your baby won’t stop crying, take them outside.
I didn’t truly appreciate at the time what world that one piece of advice opened up for me, but five years and two kids later, it’s my answer for just about everything.
Bored? Go outside. Lonely? Let’s go outside. Overwhelmed? Let’s take a walk outside. And when my first had croup, can you guess what her pediatrician recommended? Go outside.
I began to rely more and more on Mother Nature in my parenting, and I couldn’t help but notice that it wasn’t just my kids benefitting from consistent time outdoors.
I felt happier. I felt a lot of the daily stresses of life melt away as I moved my body in the fresh air. Things in my life that felt insurmountable ten minutes ago, now, through the lens of dirt beneath my feet and sunshine warming my skin, didn’t feel quite so impossible.
And if you are a parent who has already discovered the benefits of bringing your children outdoors as often as possible, you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that a child’s wellbeing increases drastically after spending time in nature.
In fact, in a 2019 study, 79% of school-aged children said that they felt more confident in themselves after spending time outdoors. Of the same group, 79% also reported that they felt more connected to their classmates after spending time outside with them.
Connection, self-confidence–these are things I hope for my children. And these are just a few of the benefits that come with giving your children opportunities to play in nature. (While it isn’t a top concern for me with my young children, it’s maybe worth noting that academic success drastically improves for students whose education is integrated with time spent outdoors.) Mother Nature offers my children more life lessons in a single day in her presence than I alone could ever give.
Prioritizing time in nature has added so many irreplaceable memories to our life.
In my children’s eyes, we have conquered grand adventures like climbing mountains (short, family-friendly hikes), braving the stormiest seas (picnics along the James River), overcoming monstrous obstacles (that one time my daughter *definitely* saw a shark but still bravely dipped her toes in the ocean), and, of course, collecting the rarest treasures (dandelions and more dandelions).
These outdoor adventures become stories they tell over and over again, permanently weaving them into the tapestry of their childhood.
With news that often makes this world that they live in feel relentlessly scary, I’m thankful that there is a place where my children can exist that is simply good.
Spending time outdoors doesn’t ask much of you. It doesn’t require an elaborately planned itinerary, or your wallet, or even hours of your day. Really, nature simply requires your respect, and taking the first step out your door.
Give yourselves five minutes outside the next time it feels like the walls are closing in a bit. And watch as your children breathe a little deeper, laugh a little lighter, and tap more into the true nature of being a kid. And if you’ll let her, watch as Mother Nature helps you remember for a little bit how it feels to be a kid, too.
Taking my children outdoors as often as possible has made me a better mom simply because it has made me a happier one.
So true! We find lots of peace outdoors. We love our water table, and I got my child a kids watering can so she can “help” me water the plants. 😂 We also play with chalk and check on our garden!
I remember taking my children outdoors a lot from birth through preschool. Then, mostly we went outside for sports related activities and vacations. I hope others won’t let the business of K-12 stop the family outdoor fun. Like the author, I got as much from outdoor time as they did!