Parents, does picturing your children covered in mud make you shudder? In this article, we explore why parentsstruggle with outdoor playtime despite the persistent expert advice telling them to get their kids outside more.
Kids have a bizarre fascination with dirt. Set them on a patch of manicured lawn and their childhood fantasy play will not manifest in nearly the same ways as when they are set free on a pile of sand or, worse yet, in a mud puddle.
When presented with access to dirt, mud or sand, children will play in it. We parents, meanwhile, stand aside, biting our fingernails in angst as we unwittingly espouse that most powerful parental message: “Have fun. But don’t get dirty.”
There is a glaring gap in our collective mindset — a bridge we need to overcome. The solution to getting our children outdoors is found in that space between sitting on a comfortable sofa in air-conditioned comfort as we share an internet meme spouting the sentimental reminiscences of bygone childhood days where kids played outdoors, rode bicycles and fished using willow switches with worms we dug ourselves.
Participating in an active outdoor lifestyle is a healthy way to live and a beneficial lifelong lesson to instil in our children. We know this in the same way we know that eight hours of sleep is good for us, too much coffee is bad and antioxidant-rich blueberries are part of a healthy diet. I’ve placed uninhibited outdoor playtime in the category of luxury rather than adjusting my life to include it as a necessity.
Outdoor play, getting dirty, being allowed creative endeavour and resourcefulness in the natural world that surrounds children has to come about as part of a parental psychic change and not done at the impulse of a parenting trend.
Outside play cannot become fodder for a scheduled play date where we stand at the head of a pre-screened and safetyapproved wooded trail head to hand out Tilley hats with bug hoods, travel cups filled with iced-tea lemonade, almonds and organic pre-sliced apples for snacks before using the newest GPS app on our little one’s mobile to keep track of them and post about their scripted adventures.