Adriana Zoder: Spend more time outside with your kids

May. 17, 2014 @ 04:17 PM

When catkins cover our driveway and pollen layers turn every car yellow, spring has sprung, finally. It's time to bring out the higher SPF sunblock and the bug spray.

Speaking of being in the fresh air and sunshine, I found this blog, www.1000HoursOutside.com, which challenges parents to spend 1,000 hours outside every year, with their children. I'll spare you the math. That's between two and three hours every day.

Why 1,000? That's the number of hours American children spend in front of a screen in a year. This is not an educational screen teaching them math, like the Khan Academy. It's the Disney channel and all the other TV channels vying for our children's minds and hearts.

Somebody once suggested that American kids should be thrown out of the house and the door should be locked behind them. I am sure the task of leading our children to appreciate nature and fresh air can be done in a more diplomatic way.

If Daddy picked up a tennis racket or a soccer ball and asked the children to step into the backyard with him, I suspect the kids would be excited. If Mommy picked up a book and a few sandwiches and said to her small children, “Let's have a picnic, and then we will read a story,” I don't think they would object. If you said to your children, “Let us take a hike in the national park,” or, “Let's go to the playground,” I don't think you would hear them protesting.

And what if they protest? You are the parent. Give them a chance to express their frustration with the plan, work through their objections, and work out a compromise solution. Then, go outside anyway.

People pay money to travel out of the comfort of their home in order to be right here where we live as locals. We are already here. Sure, it takes money to live here, too, but should we not take advantage of the scenery?

Just in case you, like me, are wondering what you could possibly do outside for three hours, let me reassure you: Ideas will come to you as you take this step. I used to complain that our lot had plenty of trees but none with low enough branches for my kids to climb them. Well, I recently found an area in our neighborhood where we can climb majestic trees with lower branches. I walked by there every morning, and I never put the two together until I became determined about taking the kids outside for three hours every day.

I used to think we did not have friends nearby to go to the park with. Since then, we have received several different invitations to go to the playground with other families. When you open yourself up to new possibilities, the universe will respond back.

Worried your children might be bored? Don't be. They will amaze you with how many games they can come up with outside. You don't even need to bring toys.

If you need help with ideas as to what to observe in the natural world, click over to www.HandbookOfNatureStudy.com, a blog that will inspire you to connect with your inner naturalist.

So what do you think? Could you do it? What would have to go out of your schedule so you can be outside with your children daily for at least two hours every day?

Adriana Zoder, a Gatlinburg resident, is a writer and homeschooling mom. She and her husband have two children. She maintains the award-winning blog www.homeschoolways.com. Her book, "101 Tips for Preschool at Home," is available on Amazon.