Why Go Outside When All the Electrical Outlets are Inside?- for Kids (adopted, foster)

Hi, thanks for joining me. Positive Adoption is focusing on PLAY for the month of May. If you missed some posts, you can start with

Why Go Outside When the Electrical Outlets are Inside?- For Moms

and then check out

Take a Hike, Kid!

Congratulations to Lori Shaffer who won a copy of :cover

My adopted children had their beginnings in a culture where going outside was not only a necessity, it was a daily practice. Their orphanage was two kilometers outside a Sulejow, a small village in Poland. Moms went out and in the middle of December, wrapped babies tightly in blankets and put them in the stroller and set off for daily errands on foot.

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The children in the orphanage returned home from school and ate the main meal of the day about two in the afternoon and then headed outside to play at dusk. The sun set by 3:30, but this didn’t stop the playtime ritual. Outdoor play was the as much the norm in twenty degree weather as it was in warmer temperatures. Going outdoors was a way of life.

The kids went outdoors, but there wasn’t much time for creative play. there was no time to frolic in the woods, to explore a stream or build a fort out of sticks. The play of the orphanage resembled Lord of the Flies on the basketball court. There were no rules and not enough staff to pay attention to everyone or to ensure that every child went outdoors. Fifty-seven kids fought over a few sleds and threw rocks at each other while some children hid inside. The kids had a fear of the woods similar to that of the characters in M. Night Shyamalan’s, the Village. They stayed in the open expanse of the yard behind the orphanage. Both of to-be-Guire boys panicked when Jerry and I suggested a hike in the woods.

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Just being outside does not give a child the creative playtime that they need for optimal development.

Children from hard places (such as an institution or multiple foster homes) need to be introduced to nature in a new way. Fears must be calmed. Kids need to feel safe and they need to learn to play in creative ways.

“Nature inspires creativity in a child by demanding visualization and the full use of the senses.”-Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods

Once my new Guires came “home” to the states, fear ruled in erratic ways. I quickly learned my children did not understand the physical laws of nature and therefore could not play safely.

  • fireflies became giant trucks speeding down our meadow at them
  • a whirlwind of leaves became a tomato (tornado) causing hysterics
  • boots and other belongs were thrown in the creek and floated downstream never to be seen again
  • a child rode his brothers bike straight toward the trampoline and almost decapitated himself
  • a child started a forest fire with a stolen lighter and burned an acre of ground

I didn’t have a Rachel Lynde reaction, “Mark my words, Marilla. That’s the kind puts strychnine in the well.”

I didn’t think my kids were reckless deviants who would kill me in my sleep. NO, these were adventure seekers who didn’t get the foundations of nature in their early childhood. Every child naturally desires to explore the expanse of nature.

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So, why take these nature deficient children outside? Why not keep them inside where it is safe and introduce them to some other advantages they had missed, like technology. Gaming, computers, internet, DVDS and not so dangerous occupations? Most importantly, nature has healing and restorative powers. The biggest issue these kids need to overcome is their faulty foundation concerning nature.

Most kids get the foundation of physical laws when they are toddlers. When a tow or three-year old climbs the first branch of a pine tree and fall six or eight inches, she gains a healthy respect for gravity. When a toddler eats a few bites of sand or dirt covered rocks, she sees minerals and elements for what they are, NOT FOOD. When a five year-old wades in the stream and slips on a moss-covered rock, he appreciates and knows intimately what slippery means. He may walk away with a couple of scrapes and some wet clothing. These experiences are priceless and, met with the proper reaction from parents, build a healthy respect and love of the outdoors. When kids are NOT introduced to nature at a young age, (like my adopted kids), there will be misconceptions, fears and bigger or more serious mishaps. See the list above.

Fear should not keep your child from nature, from experimenting with its restorative powers, using all the senses, washing away all their cares, and developing a healthy respect for the laws of nature. It is especially important for hurt children to get outdoors and experience creative play.

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If your child is struggling with nature deficit disorder or has some major misconceptions about nature because he was an institution or busy just trying to survive in multiple placements, start small. Their fears may not seem real to you, but they are real to them. Go outside holding their hand. It may take weeks or months of this before the child feels safe enough to let go (true story). Watch the fireflies with them. Talk about it. Wade in the creek with them. Talk about it. Throw rocks in the river with them. Talk about it. Build a dam in the creek. Talk about it. Throw sticks in the creek and watch them float down stream. Talk about it. Jump over things. Talk about it.

“Given a chance, a child will bring the confusion of the world to the woods, wash it in the creek, turn it over to see what lives on the unseen side of that confusion.”-Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods

Linking up with these lovely ladies today! Come join us!

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Take a Hike, Kid!

Yesterday, Kathleen blogged about a mother’s need to get outside. Spring is rolling in here and Totally Broke Tuesday is also about nature. Hopefully, it’s getting sunny and warm where you are, too! Enjoy this post about how to engage with nature for little to no money and read through to the end for details about a book giveaway!

One of the things that you can do with nearly any age and on a limited budget is take a nature walk. If you have a printer and paper, or twenty-five cents to print something at the library, you can print the one we used on our walk today. If you don’t have a library to use or a printer, just make a list on the back of an envelope or receipt! You don’t need fancy paper or notebooks to get outside and look around.

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Getting outside and walking can stimulate brain activity and creativity, as well as engaging the physical benefits of stretching and moving. Hiking or walking on uneven terrain promotes development of balance and coordination without expensive therapy equipment.

One of the great things about heading outside specifically for a nature walk is that it makes the area around you immediately more interesting. You don’t have to travel far or even get in the car. If you have a small yard, maybe you’ll have more of a nature crawl! If you live in the city, don’t discount the wonder of city plants and weeds. If it’s growing or moving, take time to look at it! An old landscape or path or environment has the potential to feel new and exciting.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my own childhood experiences in nature and the fact that they don’t automatically transmute to my children. Is there anything you consider a staple of your childhood that you haven’t exposed your kids to? There are dozens of little things, little pieces of knowledge, little experiences, that I don’t think to mention or describe. Today for us, it was finding onion grass growing wild by the Rail Trail we walked on near our home.

“Look, guys, onion grass. It smells like onions.”

“Ew,” chorused my kids, who don’t share my love of cooked onions.

But a second later, the questions started: “What is onion grass? Is it onion? Can you eat it? Do you cook it?”

“You chew on it,” I told them. “It tastes like onion. I used to chew it until my stomach hurt. I didn’t want my stomach to hurt, but I loved the taste of onion grass.”

“You chew it,” T said dubiously, looking at the piece in his hand. “Do you eat it? Why?”

They all came home with pieces of onion grass in their backpacks.

Don’t neglect to share experience. If you’ve never experienced nature in this way, then experience it for the first time with your kids. In The Handbook of Nature Study, by Anna Botsford Comstock, the author writes,

“In nature-study any teacher can with honor say, ‘I do not know’; for perhaps the question asked is as yet unanswered by the great scientists. But she should not let her lack of knowledge be a wet blanket thrown over her pupils’ interest. She should say frankly, ‘I do not know; let us see if we cannot together find out this mysterious thing. Maybe no one knows it as yet, and I wonder if you will discover it before I do.'”

Preschoolers love the thrill of searching for something. Even if they drag their feet at first, encourage them to keep looking and find what you can. Take water bottles or cups of water with you and stay hydrated and keep hunting. I didn’t think we’d find acorns or spider webs today along the trail, and we found both!

Print or write down some things to hunt for if your kids are little. Even my two-year-old was excited to search for clouds and sticks and leaves. Hunting for those things made every leaf and stick suddenly exciting and worthy of attention.

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If you have older kids or a limited area in which to hunt or walk, introduce another kind of challenge. Find five, or ten, or twenty, plants or bugs or bridges or rocks you don’t know the names of and look them up online. Take pictures and check field guides at the library. Maybe the sidewalk is overgrown with weird, viney weeds– have you ever stooped to look at them? To study the tiny ants that use that weed for shade? The veins in the weed’s stalk? What is that weed called? What is the tree it’s creeping alongside?

If you are parenting a child with attachment issues, being out in the bigness of nature examining the small and large life around him is a wonderful thing for body and mind. Even if he forgets by next Tuesday what the name of the plant he looked up was, the natural world is becoming less foreign to him. The effort is good for his brain and his body and it’s shaping a connection to a healthy place to destress or unwind. If you have little or big kids and a limited budget, this is an education that gives your kids confidence and a sense of place in their world.

Outside, we meet both challenge (a hot day, the bigness of the world) and solace (the care of God’s creation and His care for us in it). And it doesn’t have to be expensive or far from home!

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Finally, today, we’re doing a giveaway of Kathleen Guire’s book Positive Adoption.

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To enter to win a copy, all you need to do is comment on this blog post with your name and email address (you don’t need to leave it in the comment, just be sure to provide it in the comment author info) and answer the question: What is your favorite memory of being outside? Is it taking walks by yourself? Running through a sprinkler when you were five? Cookouts before a football game?

A winner’s name will be randomly drawn old-school from a hat or bag at 3pm Tuesday (today!). The winner will be mentioned in a comment and contacted via email for shipping details.

That’s all! Now go outside!

Why Go Outside When the Electrical Outlets are Inside?- For Moms

We Moms sat around the picnic table with coats wrapped tight and chatted between taking photos of our teens/tweens at the WVU Adventure Challenge Course. Our offspring scaled a tower and rappelled down while peers belayed them. Down in the lowlands it was a comfortable sixty-something while up in the highlands it was bone-achy cold and yet such an enjoyable day just being outdoors.  (Okay, I moaned a few times about needing a hot espresso, but other than that….)

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We Moms compared notes about our early outdoor experiences. We all had the common denominator of spending multiple hours outdoors (at our parents’ insistence). It was a building block of our childhood. We spoke of building pine needle forts, climbing trees while watching younger siblings, playing in the creek, eating lunch in an ancient graveyard. And the lists continued for hours. I picked their brains for this month’s focus on Positive Adoption- PLAY. 

“Many members of my generation grew into adulthood taking nature’s gift for granted; we assumed (when we thought of it at all) that generations to come would also receive these gifts. But something has changed. Now we see the emergence of what I have come to call nature deficit disorder.”- Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods

 Today, I want us Moms to chew on these questions: Why go outside when all the electrical outlets are inside? Why should moms play outside? Nature deficit disorder is not just for children, it affects us moms too!

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“In the space of a century, the American experience of nature has gone from direct utilitarianism to romantic attachment to electronic detachment.”- Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods

We live in a new era where yards are smaller, green space more limited in suburban and metropolitan areas. We have everything at our finger tips. YouTube and Animal Planet provide plenty of the footage of the wild world. Servants like dishwashers and clothes dryers do our dirty work. No need to pound the rugs outside with a rug beater when Mr. Dyson will do the work, we just have to plug him in and give him a little push. We can chat for hours with friends on our Ipads without ever stepping out the door.

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During my childhood years, my parents took us kids on five- and six-week vacations across the nation, from the east coast to the west in a VW van, camping in a tent most nights with an occasional hotel night. There were no electronics available. The places we went you couldn’t view online (there was no online, only real life). You had to go there. We threw snowballs in July in the Grand Tetons, stretched our bodies over New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado in the Four Corners, swam in frigid waters with pebbly beaches, watched Old Faithful erupt and stood face to rock face with George Washington,Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, at Mount Rushmore. From the Redwood Forest to the beaches of Virginia, Maryland and the Carolinas, my family experienced it all.

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When we arrived home with Grandma in tow (we picked her up in Arizona), we aired out the tent and the sleeping bags,unpacked and got back to the outdoors, weeding the garden, moving, and my younger siblings’ favorite, catching crawdads in the creek. Then there was apple picking! My older brother climbed the tree while we girls held a sheet below. He shook the branches and apples rained down on us.

Fast Forward to my early Mommy years. I was home alone, with a baby in a townhouse, suffering from postpartum depression (though I didn’t know it at the time). I didn’t see the necessity of going outdoors. I had my childhood memories tucked safely away to pull out at will, but I didn’t really think about the message my parents taught me: Go outdoors, often. Unplug. I worked indoors with my servants and caught up on Brady Bunch reruns. Then one day, a wise, more mature Mama told me I needed to get outdoors to lift my mood and restore my sanity.

Outdoors I went, with kits, cats, sacks, baby and blankets to sit and enjoy nature. Jerry or I strapped Audrey on our backs while we hiked up back country roads. My mood improved. My house left behind, I enjoyed fresh air and gained a new outlook. Sticky floors didn’t bother me while I played outdoors. They were in another time and place indoors. And I started back down the road of my childhood, trading four walls for an expanse of sky, trees, birds and the gift of NATURE.

As I write this, I am sitting on my back deck, birds are chirping, my laundry drying in the sun and I don’t want to go back inside. Nature is my medicine. It calms me. It is my playground. Why do I go outside? To restore. Renew.

I logged fifteen miles of walking outside last week. It is my necessity, not my luxury. Nature sedates parts of me that need sedating and invigorates the parts of me that need invigorating. And the play in my flower garden, clipping a bouquet, pulling out weeds, eases the tension and brings my world back into perspective.

I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.-e.e.cumings

Why do you go outside? What do you consider play outside?

Tomorrow,  we will be giving away a free copy of:

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