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Adding on nature to the everyday

Boys running down a path, hand in hand, autumn leaves

My family and I love being in nature. We can’t get enough. I’m not sure if it’s my passion that has rubbed off on my children or if being boys, they need to be outside and moving their bodies. Whatever the reason, we are all happiest when we are out in nature.

I have been inspired by Ginny and her 1000 Hours Outside challenge and global movement. We love tracking our hours and it helps motivate our boys to get outside. Often, that’s the hardest part. It can feel all too hard to put on the socks and shoes, put on the hats or beanies, apply the sunscreen or insect repellent and in cold weather, put on all the layers.

It can feel easier to just stay indoors. Stay where it is more convenient. Where you don’t have to pack all the things and get out of the house.

It’s always worth making the effort though. (Almost always.)

Homeschooling is becoming more popular, especially among families desiring a slower childhood. There are more podcasts and social media pages advocating for making the switch and highlighting the many benefits. There is no race to learn by a particular timeline. There is time to play. There is time to daydream and explore. There is time for siblings to connect and children of different ages to engage.

Although I like the idea of homeschooling, I know it’s not for me. At least not right now. My eldest thrives in school and our family is happier when we have some time apart during the day.

It has got me thinking though. How can I adopt some of the benefits of homeschooling without actually making drastic changes to our schedule? How can I continue working part time, my eldest in school, middle boy in kindy and youngest at home whilst still getting time in nature? What can we do differently?

I realised that there is something simple that I can do. That other parents can do. Something so effortless and almost obvious.

We can ‘add on nature’ to the everyday.

By simply making the most of our daily routines, we can still spend wonderful time outside together in nature. All it takes is a little intentionality. Although we’re not homeschoolers, I’ve made some intentional decisions to get to know our school community well. We are lucky enough to have a creek opposite our school and most afternoons we stop to play there.

By adding on nature to school pick up, we are getting more hours outside in and building a wonderful community. This has enabled us to build in regular outside time in nature without needing to drive anywhere or plan a play date. I love how it’s enabled my son to get to know other classmates better. Watching my little boys play with the big kids makes my heart sing. They just interact so beautifully and help each other out.

Our boys love playing in the creek

We’ve tried to be intentional about not signing up for too many extracurricular activities. Even just doing swimming once a week was getting too much. It didn’t seem like much on paper but having to be somewhere in the afternoon after rushing much of the day was too much. It meant we had to rush home and get changed, and we couldn’t stay for the creek. I didn’t like having to nag them to get ready. They didn’t want to be rushed.

When I mentioned it to our OT, she said that she no longer books in extra curricular activities with her young children. She explained that she’d often felt stressed or would yell to hurry them up and the girls just wanted to relax.

She mentioned that Ed Sheeran didn’t pick up a guitar until the age of ten. She said this was a turning point for her. It helped her realise that we don’t have to rush our children, especially while they are young. We don’t have to give them all the opportunities. Simply being in the fresh air and playing with their peers was enough.

My husband and I have tried to get the balance right but it’s easy to doubt yourself. We see other parents busy and stressed, driving their children to all the things and you wonder if you are somehow letting them down. We don’t want to restrict opportunities for them.

This conversation, along with podcasts like 1000 Hours Outside and Minimalist Moms has really helped to bring back confidence to our parenting. We can back ourselves, knowing that we are making the right decisions for our family at this time.

During the recent school holidays, I booked in some fun activities. We visited playgrounds, met friends for playdates, had a session at the road safety centre and went on a train. My children took part in a cricket clinic, come and try tennis and participated in a five day block of swimming. Although it was busy, my boys loved having places to go each day. We had less fights and meltdowns because they had routine.

The primary reason that I booked so many activities was to free up the term. We have no commitments after school. This frees us up to go to the creek, head home or go for a bike ride. We have no regular commitments on weekends. This means that we can sleep in or have relaxed mornings, play in the yard or go to a playground, attend parties or whatever we like. I’m happy to do a little more during holidays to ease pressure during the term.

This won’t work for everybody. As children get older, sporting commitments invariably become more demanding. Many parents work in the school holidays so are unable to take children to activities. For our family in this season, this just works for us.

I encourage you to find the right balance for you and your family. Try some things out.

Perhaps you can have try a mix of both. Whatever helps reduce the stress and rushing whilst increasing time together in nature. What a wonderful addition this has been to our lives.

Trying to do all the things or make big changes can seem impossible or overwhelming. I’ve often heard Diane from the Minimalist Moms podcast talk about habit stacking. It is a clever way to kill two birds with one stone. It is especially useful for those in a busy stage of life, such as raising young children.

This has inspired me to do bench push ups while waiting for wheat bags to heat up or read a book while on the exercise bike. It can really be applied to any facet of our lives. We can start small and simply add them on to what we are already doing.

By adding on nature to the everyday, we are effectively habit stacking. We need to drop off our eldest child to school each day. Why not keep the balance bikes in the boot to go for a ride on the paths afterwards? We often do this or watch the ducks or play hide and seek. We don’t always need to take a seperate trip. After it rains, my boys love to watch the water rush down the creek. They stand on the bridge, throwing a Bluey-inspired barky boat in and watch it race down.

We need to pick up our children everyday. Why not tack on some outdoor time to this? We love to stay and play with a bunch of other school families. We take turns bringing snacks. The parents (mainly mothers) catch up on the goss. The kids run off to play. We hear giggles and laughter, counting down from twenty while the rest hide, looking for tadpoles and spotting cute little ducklings.

Seeing our two year old run up to the big kids, call them by name and get swept up in a bear hug just makes me so happy. Seeing them play hide and seek together brings me so much joy. The little ones love being included in the play and adore being allowed to get muddy. The older ones enjoy showing the younger ones how to do things.

They play chasey, build forts and find buried treasures. They play shops, find feathers and look for insects. Our children climb trees and dig holes. They balance on rocks and navigate crossing over water.

By including time for free play each day in this way has enabled such beautiful play across the different ages. They build on their imaginative and collaborative skills.

I like that ‘our creek kids’ as we affectionately call them are having an idyllic childhood. They love time to play in nature. There’s true joy in the simple. In getting back to the basics, how things used to be. It doesn’t replicate playing with neighbourhood kids for hours on end but it’s a step in the right direction.

I’m trying to join in rather than stand on the sidelines. I love chatting with the other mums and dads and enjoying the yummy snacks. I also wear my gumboots to most pick ups or have spares in the boot, along with ones for my boys. I’m a bit of a planner so I have wet weather pants, beanies, hats and snacks ready to go. We have nappies and wipes, towels and blankets, sunscreen and water. I never want to race home simply because we don’t have the right gear.

I find that when I am intentional and organised, we can be more spontaneous. I don’t have to rush to all the after school activities or remember to pack all the things. I’ve cleared the schedule and packed in advance. We are free to stay and play which makes us all so happy.

There are times when I’d rather go straight home (and sometimes I do). Some days are hot and the flies are sticky. We feel sweaty and grumpy.

Other times it’s bucketing down and the ground is muddy. Everyone leaves straight away.

There have been times where our kids have had great fun in the creek and are covered in mud from head to toe. We’ve passed around the towels and laughed while attempting to clean off the excess before getting in the car. My boys have tipped their boots upside down and watched the brown water rush out. Wet clothes and slimy socks are removed and tossed on the floor of the car.

We wave goodbye and laugh at how crazy this is, drive our separate ways. My boys get in the bath or shower to clean off while I do several trips to the car to remove all the things. Despite the extra washing (and lost socks), it doesn’t really bother me. There’s something about this that feels right. Kids and dirt and mud are meant to go together.

I’d happily prefer to wash an extra load each day, knowing that our boys had fun with their friends at the creek, than rushing out somewhere to an organised activity. This nature play aligns with my values. It fills our cups. It’s the way I was made to parent.

I love we have created this wonderful routine. I hope and pray that this becomes a tradition. That it doesn’t fizzle out when life gets too busy. I feel that we have something so special, something almost rare in this day and age. Our time at the creek together is so precious and I don’t take it for granted. I cherish these moments and know that we’ll look back on these memories as the good old days.

I hope this is an encouragement that you can start small and add on nature to your everyday.

Maybe you don’t have a creek near where you live. 

Maybe you have a forest or beach or lake. 

Maybe there’s a park.

How could you add on nature to your everyday?

Wanting inspiration to add on nature?

Ginny is one inspiring woman. I love the movement that she has created and all she stands for. It makes me so happy seeing families around the world spend time outside in nature.

If you’re looking for ideas and inspiration to get out in nature more, here are some fabulous resources.

Ginny hosts the top rated 1000 Hours Outside podcast. She is the author of two books; 1000 Hours Outside and Until The Streetlights Come On. Ginny has an amazing blog with numerous articles and book club resources. She is active on Instagram and Facebook, and there’s a group you can join there too.

I was humbled to be a recent guest on her show. You can listen to the episode here.

You can track your hours outside by downloading printable trackers or purchasing the 1000 Hours Outside app via the App Store or Google Play. We tried the printable tracker for a while and though fun to colour in, it quickly had something spilt on it. I was happy to pay the $2.99 AUD fee to download the app and like that it’s simple to use when out in nature. Even time spent outside in the yard all adds up.

I’d love to connect on Instagram or Facebook. Come and say hi!

Melanie Wegener

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