It’s only 2:37 and more than one of us has cried today. This whole “remote learning” thing, during the whole “working from home” thing, while balancing the whole “curious toddler who gets into every cabinet” thing, isn’t easy. For any of us. You parents that are helping your kids learn about long division, dangling participles, or algebra? You are the true heroes of 2020. After a morning of virtual school sessions, too much homework time on the tablet, and the baby ripping up a pile of worksheets, we all start to feel a little frustrated.
That’s when I know we need to get outside.
While I love piling into the car for a big adventure, most weekdays it just isn’t feasible to be gone from home for more than an hour or two. Instead of big day trips outside to play, we’ve learned to find ways to incorporate “micro adventures” into our week.
Schedule Time for Adventure and Play
With all the assignments, emails, errands, and chores, we often forget to prioritize outdoor play. In our home, I often fall into the trap of saying “after we finish ____ we can go to the park”. If I’m not careful, I’ll get pulled into emails and errands, and realize it’s time to start cooking dinner before we’ve made it outside to play.
Choosing a window of time to commit to going outside helps our family get out and play. I literally schedule it into my “to-do” list. In our home, we usually plan to get outside after we finish our morning session of remote learning. I’ve set a boundary where I take a break from email from about 11AM-1PM, where we take time to get outside, have lunch, and get some wiggles out after a morning of work and learning.
Pack for Success
Even if you are out playing for one hour, there are a few tried and true items that your kiddos are going to want. Pack your reusable water bottles, a few snacks (like sliced fruit, crackers, and cheese), and some jackets. For most days, that’s it. Keep it simple. Even though we haven’t had to use it for anything major, I have a first aid kit in my minivan, just in case somebody skins a knee or gets a “boo-boo”.
Look For Adventure Close to Home
Instead of planning an epic day of outdoor adventure, most weekdays we focus on an adventure close to home. This means we visit our local open spaces, the neighborhood pond, or the walking trails/bike paths in our area. A few months ago, I realized my children were acting less excited to go to the park in our neighborhood. I did a quick google search of parks in our county and found many that had walking trails, streams, and ponds, in addition to their playgrounds. It’s been fun to research a new area with my son, and plan an outing and go play together.
The AllTrails app has also helped us find some new walking trails in our county. You can also use the Merrell Voice App on Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to find a trail near you. Many of these trails would not be rated as “epic” by any means, but have taken us to explore new open spaces or green spaces in our area that we didn’t know existed.
Take the Learning Outside
The outdoors can be one of our most impactful classrooms. To encourage your little ones to stay curious about the outdoors, help them slow down and take time to study the moss, rocks, and beetles they come across. When visiting a new trailhead or open space, take a moment to read the sign at the trail, letting our little one learn about the ecosystem and the local wildlife. We’ve had fun learning about the type of microorganisms that live in ponds, migratory bird patterns in our area, and about the three kinds of rocks (and how to identify them).
Let Them Take the Lead
Look, if it were up to me, we’d be getting to a summit every time we got on the trail. Instead of making time outside “goal-oriented”, step back and let your little ones take the lead. They may want to run, dance, and skip along the trail, leaving you out of breath trying to keep up. On other days, they may be more focused on collecting rocks and sticks or balancing across a log. Remind yourself that all paces of play are important for children- even the days when they want to take off their socks and squish their toes in the mud.
Don’t Be Afraid to End the Day With a Treat
If you ask my kid what his favorite thing about hiking is, he’ll tell you it’s getting ice cream on the way home. While we don’t stop for ice cream after every hike, I do try to plan for a yummy snack after the kids have played hard. And a bonus? I usually treat myself too 🙂