The outdoorsy type

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When Henry was about nine months old, we left him with some friends of ours while we went on a date. We told them that if he cried, they should take him outside. They sat on their porch with him for two hours.

Fresh air cures almost everything for Henry. He often goes onto our back patio to play as soon as he finishes breakfast. This created a lot of battles over shoes and jackets during the winter. I usually won on the shoes. He usually won on the jacket, which is to say that he didn’t wear one. He was perfectly happy to play barefoot in 40-degree weather.

He had Monday off of preschool because of the flooding that has been going on, and after taking him out to run errands, I sent him into the backyard with a bucket.

“I’m playing in the rain, Mama!” he said when I went out to check on him.

“I know. Is that good?” I asked.

“Yeah, I feel better,” he said.

I laughed and laughed. He has been feeling that every day since birth, and he finally has the words for it.

I started to ponder what kindergarten will mean for him. That’s still years away, thank goodness, but when Eleanor started school, I was not worried about her having to spend too much time inside. She’s really happy to spend hours coloring and making up stories with her stuffed animals.

Henry, on the other hand, needs to move. And he usually seems much more content and engaged when he’s outside. He’s easier to handle. Maybe that’s because he can no longer jab a screwdriver into an electrical outlet. Or slather his face and hair with the hand soap he found. But I think nature is his happy place.

I know a handful of boys already who have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. I don’t have any reason to think that Henry has either of those conditions. But a lot of researchers and parents agree that a seven-hour school day is too much for any 5-year-old to sit through, and this seems to be especially true with boys. I imagine that someday the pendulum will swing back the other way and kids will be given more outdoor playtime. Not soon enough for us.

Eleanor is really into the Little House on the Prairie books, and I’m astounded at how much time those children spent outside. Don’t misunderstand. I do enjoy central air-conditioning, and I have no interest in dressing my own meat. But those books provide plenty of proof that humans, especially children, are not adapted to sitting at desks for eight hours a day. How do we help kids cope with our current system?

4 thoughts on “The outdoorsy type

  1. So, so true. I recently attended a kindergarten readiness seminar at our preschool where they discussed the impact of academically rigorous programs for very young children: burnout by age 7. Our county had a half-day kindergarten program when I was growing up and it’s now the same length as grades 1-6. Somehow, we all made it through life on 3 hours of kindergarten, which wasn’t even required when our parents were that age. And I love that Eleanor likes _Little House_. I have such good memories of those books. She might also like the _Little Maid_ series by Alice Turner Curtis about girls living in Colonial America.

  2. How old is Henry? My Benjamin just turned three and he is the exact same way. He is so much happier — and easier to be around — when he is outside. We have a fenced in backyard and on my maternity leave, in the winter time, he would pile on his snowpants and boots and go outside to play… I would watch him running around with the dog from the kitchen and he was just so much happier than if he was stuck inside.

    But I hadn’t thought of worrying about him in kindergarten yet! He is in daycare all day typically but they get outside often…

  3. Anne – I hadn’t heard of the Little Maid series. I will have to check that out.

    Heather – He is 2 1/2. I wouldn’t say that I’m worrying yet, more that I had the realization of how unnatural it is to try to teach young children while they sit inside at a desk all day. Those outdoor nature schools are on to something.

  4. Barnes and Noble sells the republished versions. They are an old series – my mom read them when she was young and then as an adult hunted down and bought the originals and that’s how I came to know them.

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