I am a stay at home mom to a soon-to-be kindergartener in the Chicagoland suburbs. I must admit that without the schedule of preschool three times per week this summer, I have been struggling a bit to find activities for us to do without spending tons of money or setting an expectation of “super fun adventure summer” for my little guy. I’ve been consciously trying to incorporate exploration and learning opportunities into our day while keeping his time with his favorite “shows” at a minimum. It’s summer after all and my mom kept us engaged during the summer without the Wild Kratts or Crossy Road, so surely I can too. But some days, the struggle is real.
Something that has helped me keep our days busy and our expectations realistic is to increase our time outdoors. This is no small feat because we are already a naturally outdoorsy family, heading outside to hunt for worms in rainstorms and bundling up to look for animal tracks in 10 degree Chicago winters. But I have found, time and time again, that if I can just get us outside, the hours fly faster and excitement finds us. Here are a few ways that I’ve been getting us outside more often.
Make it part of the routine
Every morning, I drink my coffee while watching the Today show and talking about the previous nights’ dreams with my still sleepy son. We both tend to do better with a slower start in the mornings, but instead of heading to preschool after our coffee date, we are now heading outside. Barefoot and in our pajamas, we mosey out to the backyard to dead head our flowers, check our rain gauge, water our garden, see if we can find our praying mantis pals, and determine if the squirrels have dug up our pots full of moss roses. This routine usually leads to some hammock reading time or swinging on the playset and the next thing I know, we are halfway through the morning without watching anything more than the weather with Al Roker. This morning time outdoors sets our day off in the right direction and we both tend to be in better moods.
More walks, less destinations
Don’t get me wrong – we take lots of walks already. But, we take walks to a particular destination. We walk to the park or to drop off Daddy’s dry cleaning. We walk to the sandwich store for lunch or to the salon to get haircuts. We never just walk to walk, and this summer we have started. On these no-destination walks, we tend to look around more. We tend to stop and say hello to neighbors who are out in their yard or headed out to work. We tend to stop and balance on curbs or pick leaves from trees more so than if we were walking to a particular place. It’s working for both of us, and we have Daddy in the act too. After dinner, we have been replacing our usual walk to the park with a walk around. We visit and chat with each other and let our son pick the direction of where to walk. Walking “around” and not “to” or “from” has been a revelation this summer.
Meals al fresco
While it was common for our family to eat dinner on our patio a few times per week, I’ve increased that dining time this year. We are eating dinner outside, and breakfast, and lunch. We eat on the patio, on the hammock, on a blanket in the front yard. We tuck sandwiches in our bike pack and picnic at a new park or eat our toast on a bench in front of the library before story time. Dining outside more often, and in different ways, has given us a closer look at ants and bugs, the opportunity to determine the shape of the clouds, and talk about what squirrels have for breakfast (usually my moss roses). Once we are outside eating, we are more likely to hang out afterwards to chat, relax, and enjoy the scenery.
How will you get outside even more than just at the pool or park this summer?
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