Motherhood has challenged my mindset in so many ways.
It's like this re-birth of self, where you start to let go of expectations, get used to slower days, build acceptance for a new normal for routines, and practice patience. Lots of patience. But one thing I never let go of was my love and appreciation for the mountains, nature, and the outdoors. Integrating these things into my daily routine are essentials for happiness, growth, and peace of mind.
Before having kids, getting outside daily seemed easy. All I had to do was grab my basics and walk out my front door. Once I had a baby, that became the hardest part of my day because it took so much time, effort, and planning.
Remembering all the things I needed and calculating my plans around feeding and changing my baby made getting outside complicated, and most of the time felt overwhelming. But I did it anyway. Each time I got into the fresh air, I felt like I had conquered the world and felt so productive. Plus, it was rejuvenating!
With my first child, Koa, who is now three years old, I set a goal to get outside each day even if it was just for 15 minutes. I noticed that as soon as we left the house, we usually were gone for hours of exploring new places or things... like ants on the ground or birds chirping in the trees. The outdoors became even more vibrant than I had noticed before because I started seeing all the magical wonders of nature through a child's eyes.
How I Made It Work
Time-based planning was a key unlock for me to structure my day. I would typically try to time adventures outside around his naps, so he would sleep and I could get some exercise. Then he would usually wake for a feeding, and I would sit down against a tree and embrace our surroundings while he nursed. If he needed a diaper change, I would lay my jacket or a blanket down on a soft patch of ground, quickly change the diaper, throw the dirty one in a smell-proof small stuff sack, and then continue with the outing. I know for some people the schedule of naps in a crib made getting work done at home way more manageable, but for me, I liked the excuse of taking advantage of that quiet time in the fresh air and found that it made both of us feel better to be in nature.
Don't get me wrong; it wasn't always easy. I found that I overprepared each time we headed out of the house in case it was cold or hot. I had changes of clothes in case of a blow out. I packed extra water and a few Clif Bars for me so I never had an excuse to head home earlier than expected. Being overprepared made my backpack or stroller heavy, but I just thought about it like extra training weight. Even on those days where Koa's nap was unexpectedly shortly than normal, or his blow out got all over my clothes... it was always worth it!
Tips for Getting Outside
Through structuring my life around the outdoors, I have a few tips I’m happy to share for families trying to get more nature time. It doesn’t need to be the most intense activity of all time to benefit both you and your family. Here’s what I suggest.
1) Make it About Exploring.
Start a list with things you can see in your neighborhood. When you take your kids outside, check off all the things on the list, kind of like a scavenger hunt. For example: 5 pinecones, 4 ants, 3 trees, 2 mailboxes, 1 bird. This will encourage you and your children to slow down and take in your surroundings. Each day you go outside you can switch up the items on your list.
2) Keep It Interesting.
Set up an obstacle course in your yard and have each person in your family add onto the game by picking things to do: Balance on logs, hop on cracks, climb over rocks, skip down your driveway, zig-zag around trees, etc. See how many times you can complete the obstacle course or see who can do it the fastest.
3) Set Some Goals.
How many minutes do you think you can stay outside with your kids? Start small, and see if you can reach your goal or if you end of beating even your own expectations. Then you can look back and see how often you’re meeting your goals and reflect on how far you’ve come.
Adding To The Family
Now that I have two kids, Koa, who is now 3 years old, and Zeppelin, who is 2 months old, I’m realizing all the practice I had getting Koa out the door has paid off. Now with two, I’m still finding a way to get the two of them, and myself, into the fresh air. I see Koa wanting to show his brother all the magical wonders of nature and I see Zeppelin's wide curious eyes soaking it all up. Looking back, I am so grateful of the work I’ve put in to maintaining the value of getting outside. I’m doing my best to keep it up, even when nap schedules don’t align, and their needs are so different. The reward is seeing them fall in love with the magic of the outdoors and rekindle my love for them too.
What are some of your own tips and experiences with getting your little ones outdoors? Leave a comment!