Motherhood Mondays: Being Outside

I really, really, really don’t like winter. Grey skies and snowy streets make you feel cooped up, and I’m already getting nervous about having a busy energetic walking baby boy indoors! So, I have a plan…

I’m going to take Toby outside to play for a long time everyday, no matter what.

In Scandinavia (the land of all things good and true:), parents take their babies and children out for ages everyday, rain, snow or shine, according to my lovely friend Lee, who grew up in Copenhagen. “You just wrap your babies up in whatever you have,” she says. “You stick them in the stroller and take them outside. Bigger kids wear full snowsuitsevery Danish kid has one—and ‘elephant hats,’ which go over your whole head with your face peeking out.” Another friend who lived in Sweden told me that every Swedish child wore rain pants, and grown-ups wore waterproof clothing. “In Denmark, you can’t be afraid of the weather,” Lee says. “Otherwise you’d wait six months to go outside again.”

There’s even an awesome Scandinvian expression that says, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes,” (which I first heard from the Swedish children’s store Polarn O. Pyret). What an inspiring mantra. We just have to bundle up! Plus, isn’t it kind of wonderful to go outside on a cold winter day? Or during a light rain? The air feels crisp and pure!

The most fascinating thing I learned from a baby book is that, for children, being indoors is both overstimulating and boring at the same time. Isn’t that interesting? Throughout history, “children spent most of every day frolicking outside,” writes Harvey Karp, M.D., in his brilliant book The Happiest Toddler on the Block. “Our homes are boring because they replace the exciting sensations of nature (the feeling of the wind on their skin, the brilliant sun, the soft grass, etc.) with an immense stillness (flat walls, flat floors, no wind).” Yet at the same time, being indoors is overstimulating: “It bombards them with jolting experiences that kids in the past never had to deal with: crazy cartoons, slick videos, clanging computer games, noisy toys, and bright colors everywhere…which can make many little children feel stressed.”

Don’t you feel the same way, even as an adult, when watching TV or being on the computer for too long? And Toby is always much calmer and happier chilling outside than in our teeny shoebox apartment.

So, my darlings, let’s do it! I’m excited to try to play with Toby outdoors everyday this fall and winter–having adventures, getting fresh air, feeling energized, meeting other brave valiant mamas. Even if it means shivering a little, getting rained on and coming home with a wet baby (not to mention frizzy hair:). I’ve been a wuss in the past about spending hours outdoors in bad weather, but I think it will be fun and (dare I say it) almost makes me excited for the winter.

I’m really curious: Do you already take your children to play outdoors in the rain and snow, heat and sunshine? Where do you live? Did you spend a lot of time outside when you were growing up? Will you take your kids outside everyday in the winter, too, or would you prefer to stay cozy indoors? Do you live in a place that has rough winters? I would love love love to hear your thoughts…

P.S. Danish women ride their bikes in snowstorms, and their babies sleep outside.

(Photos, from top, by Matthew Hranek, Kasia Bloom, Jenna Park via Momfilter, Elizabeth Dunker, Charles Gullung and Jenna Park)

  1. morri says...

    my kid in a forest playschool. 6h fresh air from the crspest winter to sweatiest summer days.

  2. We live in Montana and winter is challenging! We are not skiiers like many in our town, so we have cabin-fever often. Spring comes and goes between snow, mud, sunshine, rain, snow, mud, more snow until June each year… but I require my kids to go outside if they want any screen time! I have found that with multiple children (all young) getting bundled to be outside is even more difficult. In the semi-nice and very nice months, though, we LIVE outside hiking, swimming, riding horses, picnicing, laying in the grass, and visiting every park in the city.

  3. Dee says...

    Great blog and a good push for the new mom in me! I definitely got stir crazy on maternity leave in Chicago since it was too cold to take a newborn out in but he’ll be older by next winter and hopefully we will have the appropriate snow suit for my little mushy man.

  4. We live in Colorado and I get outside with my 18=month-old everyday – even when there’s feet and feet of snow. It’s sometimes a struggle to motiveate and go through the struggle of getting a snowsuit, gloves, hat and boots on a squirmy moody toddler, but it’s usually worth it. It’s funny that today it’s raining and I don’t feel like going out, but four feet of snow doesn’t seem to bother me. This is inspiring me to just go for it, though.