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Why I Get Outside with My Kids

I'm not an outdoorsy person. As a kid I dreaded our annual family camping trips. Hiking near our northern Michigan cabin wasn't a part of the summer I looked forward to. I preferred pools to lakes. Outside has bugs, sunburns, no a/c and did I mention bugs? And snow? Nope nope nope.

Anyone who knows me as the 32 year old mom I am today would be surprised by the outdoor avoider I used to be. The switch in mindset came primarily after my second child was born. As a first time mom I dealt with postpartum depression and anxiety. I was paralyzed with fear, to so much as go to the grocery store with my baby, how could I possibly take him hiking or camping? Thankfully, I was able to return to my new normal with intense therapy and some antidepressant medication. When my second child was born I desperately wanted a different ending. Incredibly, I found a way to get through that first year after baby as well as forge a new way of viewing nature for myself and my kids.

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Hiking was my therapy after my second son was born. We found trails near our home and I learned to use the carriers I was mostly too scared to try with my first. My kids and I all made friends in the forest through a national nonprofit, Hike It Baby, We went to local nature programs and found all the great playgrounds. I met other parents who love the outdoors and I've learned so much from them. I found the best baby friendly sunblock and bug spray, got my kids rain gear so even gloomy days couldn't keep us indoors. Getting outside, especially first thing in the morning, energized me through the day and helped me sleep better at night, both things I struggled with after my first child.

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My second son is now four, my oldest six and youngest just over a year old. We make sure to get outside nearly every day and I've found so many benefits beyond the postpartum period. As my kids get bigger, so does their energy. Even at the best indoor playgrounds, they feel like caged animals. Outside they can run free, yell and explore with far fewer limitations than anywhere indoors offers. The kids and myself all sleep better after a day spent outside. Those parenting days (that just won't end) go by faster when we can spend time at a beach, playground or forest. My kids are also much more likely to make friends, even if just for the day, outside at a playground as opposed to a library or museum. Outdoor play is also much more affordable than many other adventures with kids. Parks, hikes, even our own front yard offer countless ways to play without an admission fee. As my kids get older and their sports and activities increase, the unstructured time outside allows them to unwind in a way that I can tell their bodies and brains need. Finally, as green space and nature changes and disappears I want my kids to know what they are missing. If they know and love the outdoors then they can better act to protect it for their children and everyone else.

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