Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Nature in our Backyard

I have been spending a lot of time lately thinking about how much I appreciate my very own yard. We absolutely love adventures and traveling, and I really enjoy sharing those moments with you. But there's nothing easier than spending time in the backyard, and maybe that's as far as some people are willing to "travel" with their kids.

Outdoor dining with a friend. How sophisticated.
This being the week of Earth Day, I wanted to share my family's strategies for giving the arrow an appreciation for the great outdoors. We think it starts at home. So I kept my camera handy for the past week to capture some of the fun. It starts with one very basic principle. We have no outdoor toys. No playhouse, no swing, no trampoline, nothing. I know this will change as he gets older. In fact, don't tell him, but he's getting a tricycle for his birthday next week. And occasionally I bust out some sidewalk chalk or we blow bubbles. But for the most part, he's free to wander wherever he'd like around the yard without any man-made entertainment devices. I usually bring out a soccer ball for him to play with, but he almost always abandons it within the first few minutes we're outside.

Lonely soccer ball
This leads directly to my second strategy. Lighten up. He plays in dirt. He gets crud all over his hands and clothes. He whacks our trees with sticks. He sometimes rips grass right out of the yard, and has mangled a few flowers. But he's exploring, and I think that's totally worth a yard that won't be winning awards from Better Homes and Gardens anytime soon.

Third strategy? Back off. I typically sit on a patio chair with a magazine in hand. Early in the spring, we established the principles of "stay where mommy can see you" and "don't go beyond the sidewalk." As long as he continues to obey those rules, I leave him be. Not only does this foster independent play, but did you catch that I spend an hour reading a magazine? God bless you, Great Outdoors.

That's not to say that kids won't enjoy some organized activities outside in the yard where you can engage with them, like starting a garden, hunting for bugs, or birdwatching. I'd love to start composting again, and I think the arrow could be my helper. There are a lot of great resources out there if you need ideas to get started. Nature Rocks and Go Explore Nature are two of my favorite sites when I need some inspiration.

Stay consistent. Unless it's raining or the temperatures are below freezing, we spend at least 20-30 minutes outside almost every single day. It's just part of our routine.

I think you'll find, like I have, that your kids will soon develop their own outdoor interests. Lately, the arrow is obsessed with finding pet rocks. He brings them to me, one by one, and shows them off. He hugs them and kisses them, and then he lines them up as if they were on display. I think it's totally adorable.

Our pet rocks
I know that the number of outdoor toys we have will multiply (and that's totally fine), but I hope we've cemented a love for outdoor exploration in the arrow. May his love for those rocks be just the beginning of a love affair with Mother Nature.

Plus, I just love that smile.

Don't have much of a yard? That's ok! Find a nearby park or open, grassy area and claim it as your own!

I'm linking this post up with I Should Be Folding Laundry's You Capture and Adventuroo's Capture the Everyday. Nature is the theme of both memes this week!


  1. I LOVE this! Thanks for spreading the word about the importance of playing in nature right in your own backyard. You have inspired me to write a post sharing a little more about what my backyard space actually looks like. We don't have many toys, either, or much in the way of natural landscapes, but the kids still love playing in the dirt, climbing trees and searching for bugs. Thank you for the mention!

  2. Awesome post!

    We finally got a playset for our kids (a bit of money from Grandma specifically for that purpose). And most of the time? The kids are off running through the field or climbing in the lilac bushes or harassing the chickens. And I wouldn't have it any other way! :)

  3. I really love your tips! Especially backing off. I tend to hover over the little guy but am backing off more and more!

  4. There is something about little boys and rocks!
    Well done :D

  5. I love the way kids are completely fascinated and amazed by every stick, stone and bug. And I have a boy too so we are totally comfortable with dirt:) I so wish we had a yard for the Bubs to roam, your little guy looks like he is having the time of his life!