The warm, sun-kissed, spring days seem to linger as the sunlight stays on the horizon for just a little bit longer each day. I enjoy this time of year probably more than any other. I feel as though I am a bear emerging from hibernation. A long, bitterly cold winter season winds down as spring emerges in bright hues of green, as evidence of growth and rebirth restore the barren landscape. Just the sunlight itself seems to teem with contagious energy. I never appreciated the beginning of spring and the lingering days of sunshine in the evening until I moved outside of the South to the more wintry climate of Germany. We moved here in the beginning of Spring, and I was caught off guard by how much time the locals spent outside. I thought it was peculiar that every single one of our neighbors spent most of their evenings and weekends outside eating, walking, sitting, talking, or relaxing. I was beginning to think we moved into an area where people were on permanent strike from actually being on the inside of their houses…and then I experienced a German winter. Yes, that one winter changed my perspective and view forever on outside. The next Spring, I joined my neighbors in the “indoor strike” movement and spent as many waking moments as possible in the sunshine, soaking up the freshlycheap ralph lauren sale cut grass smell and sweet aroma of rose bushes budding. I definitely had “cabin fever” and longed for the days of blue skies and sunshine to replace the dreary gray and cold that engulfed my little slice of the world. Since then, I have learned to admire the way the Germans crave the outdoors. It’s contagious and invigorating to spend so much time outdoors, especially with little ones.
The layouts of German towns are made for people who enjoy the outdoors. As most were built with the concept of the pedestrian in mind (before people had cars) and being able to get around town by walking is actually conceivable, people easily walk places. In our town, most children walk to elementary school, senior citizens walk to the town grocery store, and the spielplatz (playground) is always within walking distance. This outdoor mindset is also evident in the pleathera of trails connecting each little town contributing to the popular Volksmarsch (people’s march), a non-competitive fitness walk.
On a recent trip back to the United States, I was struck by the lack of people I saw outdoors.cheap ralph lauren I greatly missed the daily walks and outdoor time I spent with my girls, and I yearned to get back out in nature with them. There is just something about the outside environment that allows me to let everything else go and connect with my children without being distracted. Maybe it takes me back to my own childhood days of playing in the backyard until dusk or riding bikes until called in for dinner or just a simpler period of life with less demands on my time… whatever the reason, I enjoy balancing our hectic schedule with a calm venture in creation.
Here are a few ways our family spends time outdoors:
1. Winding Down Walk: We get the girls all ready for bed: teeth brushed, face washed, jammies put on, and covers rolled back. We will go on a short walk as a way to calm down and rest our busy minds. This is a slow-paced, brief journey where we don’t have a destination, only a goal of relaxing. We are able to enjoy the beauty of creation and observe the birds, insects, and leaves that otherwise we would pay no attention to and only focus on our progress - not the journey itself. Once we arrive back home, we immediately crawl into bed and began the nighttime routine of book reading and so forth.ralph lauren australia stores When my girls were not walking, more often than not, they would be sound asleep by the end of our walk, sleeping soundly, snuggled in the baby carrier!
2. Plant a Kiss: (or a garden). This cute story by Amy Krouse Rosenthanl (who also authored was a gift from Grandmother, along with a bag of kisses to plant. This sparked a flood of interest in seeds, planting, and harvesting. So we went with her enthusiasm and let her grow her own little garden which turned out to be mainly radishes because that was about all her little attention span could handle. Radishes are quick to germinate, sprout, and can withstand a three years lack of watering and care--so they were perfect!
3. Imagination Expedition: While we are frolicking in the sunshine and going on an ordinary trek, I bring my daughters’ vivid imagination to life. My oldest very much likes the original stories of Winnie-the-Pooh, so I exercise her imagination as we, like Pooh and friends, go an expedition to find the North Pole, and sure enough, we always find it somewhere, laying around, looking quite like a large stick.
4. Art Outside the Box: There is just something about nature that gives inspiration to budding artists. On sunny days, we take our paper and finger paint, markers, or whatever medium on hand at the moment, outside for ideas. We look at the colors that we see around, the texture of the leaves, or the shapes of the clouds. Inevitably, one of my children gets interested in a bug, and we seem more often than not to be tracing insects or birds. I have found this little book here to be a great helper in my lack of artistic skills. Somehow the creature I start to create never actually ends up being the one my girls guess I am making.
5. Visit a Garden: Go to botanical gardens where you can see an established garden. This offers a rich experience by presenting wildly colorful arrangements of plants that children will adore and oodles of knowledge about plant sustainability and cultivation to grow their minds. You never know what will peek their interests as our preschooler recently has become intrigued with honey bees after seeing them countless times around flowers.
6. Park Play Date: This is not a new concept, but its just not used as often as it should. Gather everyone together and let the kids burn off that never-ending supply of energy. Grab a lunch, some stale bread for the ducks, and sand toys, and take the party outdoors.
7. Take Ordinary Outside: A change of scenery puts a fun twist on the mundane elements of the everyday routine. We enjoy jazzing up lunch by getting everything prepared, taking it out to our patio, and eating it sitting on a blanket in the sunshine. My girls beg for this, probably because it pushes naptime further back in the day! Or, you can take story-time outside to read stories about nature while you are enjoying the scenery like, The Carrot Seed, Planting a Rainbow, or The Tiny Seed.
8. Learn a New Sport Together: As a family, take on a new sport that you can do outdoors. We have recently picked up rollerblading, as many European cities in the summer will block off stretches of downtown and open them only to people on rollerblades. Another fun adventure that lends itself well to outdoor activity is bike riding. One of our favorite adventures has been riding along the Rhine River last year during the Tal Total where about 30 miles of the highway was closed to motor vehicles for a day and only open to non-motorized forms of transportation like biking, walking, running, or rollerblading. It was a big festival where every little town in the river’s bend had beer, sausage, and refreshments for you to enjoy as you continued down the river. It was great way to spend the day outdoors.
9. Meet at the Marketplace: Using sidewalk chalk, draw a downtown in its entirety with a post office, fire station, town hall, stores, school, and so on. Then draw Main Street and the other two lane roads of the town with the yellow line down the middle. Open it up to traffic from tricycles, bikes, scooters, and other things that go, and let the kids explore their town and see how their imaginations carries them on to hours of play.
10. Fresh Fruit Frolic: Pick strawberries (or whatever fruit or veggie is in season) from the local farmer’s strawberry patch. You can bring your own pail and fill it up and pay a fraction of the cost and get FRESH fruit. My daughters’ absolute favorite time to go on a little walk is during the summer when all the wild berries are blooming. The girls spend as much time eating as they do walking on these days as we live near a hiking trail that is teeming with fruit trees and berry bushes in the summer. I must admit: it is fun for me, too!
As I sit and write this article, the perfect spring day beckons me outside to play with my girls. I think we will walk downtown and get ice cream as my preschooler rides her laufrad (balance bike), and then we will play at the playground nearby with chocolate stained faces and sticky hands from the drippings of ice cream that somehow seem to not make it directly in the mouth.
Tell us campers, what do you like to do outside? Do you have any fun activities that you would like to share?? Share with us on our Facebook page!