If you’ve been following this blog for some time, you’ve likely seen a bit of an evolution take place. I started this blog about eight years ago when Ryan and I first started dating, and in those past eight years, I think it’s safe to say that a lot has happened. We’ve moved across the country a few times. We’ve added three children to the mix. We’ve weathered and endured two deployments and far too many TDYs than I’d like to count. Lately, we can add a global pandemic to the list, too, though I’d definitely say I could easily have done without that one. Sufficed to say, a lot has changed. When Ryan and I were first married in the time before Spencer (or BS, as we fondly refer to it), we will readily admit that we were useless. We were lazy. We did exactly what we had to do – no more, no less. Netflix and chill was definitely a thing, and we really squandered a lot of time that could’ve been spent doing and seeing. By the time we left Fort Huachuca, we’d learned our lesson the hard way. And, somewhere along the way, I learned why you should explore the great outdoors with kids.
Let me caveat this post with a quick reminder. I haven’t always been the best at this, but I made a conscious shift in the past few years – especially in 2020 when I chose “intentional” as my word of the year. I wanted to make these days, weeks, months, and years worth more, and I can truly say that being outdoors and exploring has enriched our lives tenfold.
Why You Should Explore the Great Outdoors with Kids
If Not Now, When?
When we lived at Fort Drum, I’ll admit that it was easy to find excuses not to go outside. It was cold. Winters were long and the days were short. Two little children in sub-zero temps was less than ideal. When Ryan deployed though, I realized a few things. First, I had a choice to fill my days with good, or I could fill them with dread. Two, my kids always thrived in the fresh air. And three, exploring with them allows me to see the world through their eyes. We could avoid the mistake we made at Fort Huachuca by not taking the time to explore. Live each day to its fullest.
Kids Sleep Better When They’ve Had Fresh Air
I’m actually not kidding. Fresh air also helps boost their immune systems. Cold winter air gets a bad rap, often blamed as the cause for colds and sniffles when, in reality, it’s more likely that those colds are caused by re-breathing the air from other kids and that re-circulation of germs. Fresh air does wonders for their bodies, and I can 100000% attest to the fact that my children sleep better, feel better, and behave better when they’ve had outdoor time.
Imaginations Run Wild
When I dove into hiking with the kids in earnest this past year, I realized just how into it they get. They see the fern-filled rainforests as fairy-filled wonderlands. They see the rain and talk about the clouds crying. They skip stones, they make mud-pies, they pick flowers, and they bloom, themselves. I love watching these little delights fill them with such wonder, and watching their imaginations grow is not only beneficial for them emotionally, but also individually.
They Appreciate the Natural World
Our world continues to change and churn around us, so much of it filled with uncertainty and turmoil. In nature, my kids don’t see that. They are able to lose themselves in a collective love for open spaces, a step back from a technology-filled world, and innocent play outside. If you want to delve a little deeper though, the future of our Earth depends on the knowledge of our children. Sharing lessons of cleanliness, pack and go, and sustainability are imperative, and what better way for them to learn than by doing?
Risks, Challenges & Rewards
This one is extremely aligned with the hiking we do with our children. I want to be transparent here. My kids do whine during hikes. We do get frustrated. By the end of a hike, we’re usually exhausted but exhilarated. Playtime and adventures outside offer a unique set of risks, challenges, and rewards, many of them psychology. My kids get a great sense of satisfaction in exploring and doing things bigger than themselves, and it’s so important for them to feel and experience that.
Ultimately, parenting styles may differ, lifestyles may not align, and different levels of comfort come into play, but the reasons behind why you should explore the great outdoors with kids will never change. Not only is it fulfilling for them, but it’s an immeasurable blessing for us, and that makes every hardship worth it.