Last Mother in the Woods (Or: Getting Your Kids Outside When You Kinda Hate It There)


last mother in the woodsI’m indoorsy. I like my animals domesticated, my lawns manicured, my flowers planted intentionally (or more honestly, arranged in vases) and my outdoors time to be spent sitting outside for hours on a patio. Grass makes me kinda itchy and I hate bugs. I faked the bug thing well for 5 years to my son {look mom, a giant beetle! That’s awesome, bud! (Gag)}.

When I was newly employed after college had just moved to CO and told some young colleagues my husband and I had spent the weekend camping.


They asked what we did during our trip and I explained how we played board games in the kitchen while we baked pies. They informed me I had not, as I had thought, been camping. Whatever. I’m indoorsy.

Living in Colorado helped me grow in my appreciation of the outdoors but I’m still not jumping up when my kids ask me to go down to the creek with them. Have I mentioned bugs are nasty? I want my kids to appreciate the outdoors. I want them to know their way around (an outdoor) campsite. It was these desires that caused me to read Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. It was a great perspective on how technology is impacting our children’s connection to nature. But what do you do if this ability to appreciate the outdoors is something you want for your children, but you haven’t seriously cultivated it yourself? Here are 5 easy ways that I have gotten my kids outside:

5. Nature scavenger hunt. (Here’s one that’s good for littles who can’t read yet). Download and print and take it outside. Bonus points for having kids do it with headlamps at dusk. Kids love headlamps without exception.

4. Take a sketchbook. It was harder for me to just go sit outside with nothing to do. I love this one because kids can practice writing about what they see. Leaf or bark rubbings and rock tracing are great for younger kids. Lying down and looking up to draw clouds is always fascinating for kids as well!

3. Props — make a nature backpack to take with you. Magnifying glass, bug catcher, binoculars, books about the type of space you’ll be in, etc all help the time feel more purposeful.

2. Remember CORD: collect, observe, research, dissect.  You can collect and observe and then come back inside (to the A/C) to research and play with your findings. We like to collect things in a bag (or take our shoes off and collect specimen on our socks!) and come back inside and glue it all to a sheet of paper. My kids like to “dissect” (hammer apart) rocks and do hardness and streak tests. (I’m aware this is a ruse to use the hammer and I’m ok with it). Paint with things you collect, trace them, rub them on foil. Ta-da! You just brought the outdoors in.

1. Do more of what they already like. Accommodate them without trying to force it. If they want to go to the creek, get over yourself (talking to myself here!) and take them. If they hate the creek, take them somewhere they like (Arbor Hills, the Dallas Arboretum, and  lots of other great ideas here). It gets so much easier as you see the joy and learning that take place in your child through outdoor exposure.

get over yourself

I am a significantly more outdoorsy person than I was when I went “camping” a decade ago, and I consider it growth. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still take my favorite napkins when we go camping:

i love not camping



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