When it's hard to get the whole family outdoors

“I’m having trouble getting my family outdoors...”

A mother wrote this in a recent comment on the blog. She wanted to get her 3-year-old daughter outdoors more. But her husband is an indoors person and spends many hours at work. When he’s at home, her daughter wants to spend time with him.

It’s a common family situation: For many reasons — work, travel, illness, or simple lack of interest — getting a family outdoors becomes a one-parent effort. And that effort can feel overwhelming.

I know the feeling. When Ursula was a baby, Jim worked long days at a job 80 miles from our home. We were new to the area, and I didn’t know many other parents. Some days, “getting outdoors” meant a brief stop at a playground in between errands, naps, and meals. Gradually I found other moms who liked to be outside, too. We’re lucky to live near hiking trails, and it wasn’t hard to plan short day hikes. Even so, I look back and regret that we didn’t do more in the outdoors together as a family during that time.

More resources have become available over the past decade for parents who want to get their children, and themselves, outdoors. I’m always inspired by the Children and Nature Network, both by the stories of parents and communities and by the research that reminds me why it’s important to get my family outside. (Two articles currently on their website that caught my eye: Turning your backyard into a discovery zone; the benefits of outdoor play.) C&NN also maintains a database of parent-led nature clubs. I’ve run into parents who have found great support within these clubs.

I’m guessing that the mother who wrote that comment lives somewhere along the East Coast between Washington, D.C., and Maine, in which case she has access to the resources of AMC’s local and regional chapters. As part of its Vision 2020 initiative, AMC is focusing on helping families and children get outdoors.

What to do, though, when one parent is, as this mother wrote, “an indoors person” who’s “hard to budge”? It could be that this dad will join in on outdoors activities once he sees how much fun they are, and if he doesn’t have to stretch to organize them. But it could also be that spending time outdoors will become something that this mother shares with her daughter. Even if the father never budges from his chair or the computer screen, the mother and daughter will have gained a lifetime of benefits from being outside together.

Advice from other readers?

Learn more
- "Getting Children Outdoors" (AMC Outdoors, May/June 2010)
- AMC family trips and activities
- Children & Nature Network

“Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

Labels: , , ,