If I don’t get my kids outside by 10 am they turn into wild animals and eat my house. Anyone relate?
Have you ever had a dog you've had to leave home alone while you head off to work? Then come home to find they've chewed up your favorite shoes, destroyed your freshly made bed, and peed on the carpet. I don't have a dog, but I do have children, and they do the same thing. Only, I'm not leaving for work, I'm simply taking time to shower or use the bathroom by myself. Washing my hair costs at least two bathroom drawers being emptied and tossed onto the floor. If I push further, like conditioning my hair, that's an eyeshadow art project on the walls. If I shave my legs...well, today that cost my toothbrush taking a swim in the toilet.
The weekends are the worst. And summer. Those who call summer a "break" are not parents. In these times, I'm a full-time maid, personal chef, and referee. The terrorizing begins the moment they come downstairs. They're shoving and pushing their way into the kitchen, demanding food, food that never makes it into their mouths, but always ends up smashed on the floor. Next comes fighting over which show to watch and who gets to hold the remote control, which is then followed by tattling over who hit who in the head with the remote control. Then comes the light saber battles (I curse you, Luke Skywalker), which is preceded by broken lamps, yelling, bruises, a terrified cat...and more tattling. I kid you not, chaos, madness, and non-stop noise all day long. But noise is preferred over silence. Silence is a very bad sign. I heard silence yesterday, while doing laundry, and found my 4 year old trying to tape my 2 year olds eyes shut with duct tape. Where he got this idea, I have no clue, and frankly I'm terrified to investigate further. I just locked away the duct tape along with the matches, painting supplies, permeant markers...and my freedom.
They have endless energy. I should probably stop feeding them cinnamon rolls, but that would mean I couldn't have cinnamon rolls, and those cinnamon rolls are the only thing holding me together. I often think to myself, if I could only capture their energy, harness it, and use it for good, like a super power in a graphic novel. But no...the energy goes toward destruction. Mass destruction. In my graphic novel, my children are villains. Cute villains, but villains.
In an effort to preserve my sanity, I realize I have to get control of this situation. I don't want to be a tired mommy whose days consist of endlessly sweeping her floors, picking up throw pillows, and wiping mysterious substances off the walls. I don't want to yell or discipline constantly. It's bad for everyone, most of all me. Children should be wild and free. I genuinely believe this. Running, playing, scheming, even fighting, it's in their nature, especially boys, and they need to get it out. Then it hits me. They can get it out...outside.
Yes! The wonderful world of outside where their light sabers can become sticks and twigs, the hallways can be replaced with the spaces between the pines, and instead of hunting down the family cat, they can hunt for frogs, squirrels, and snakes. And I won't have to clean up a thing.
The BEST way to avoid housework is to live outside.
The place to be wild and free is outside. It's such a simple solution but rarely a go-to. I get my kids outside the first chance I get. Even if I'm tired, even if it's cold, even if they don't want to go. Attitudes change once the sunlight hits our face. I gather up some bug catching nets, a bottle of bubbles, a few snacks, and go adventure. I get creative, telling them to collect rocks and build a tower, pick flowers for an arrangement, find unique fallen leaves for an art project, stare at clouds to find shapes or animals, see who can run the fastest (one of my favorites). Or, we simply walk and talk, spending time together in the fresh air, enjoying nature. It's great for their senses, their imagination, and their health. And it's great for me. Getting outside is the best way to use up their energy, get a positive dose of vitamin D, and most importantly, it's the best way for me to avoid housework.
Here are some of our favorite outdoor activities:
- Outdoor picnic party- Grab a blanket and some pillows and find a cozy spot to enjoy family time, even if it's just in the backyard. Fill up a basket with snacks and treats of their choosing, and let them bring along their favorite stuffed animals or action figures to join in the fun.
- Sticks and stones crafts- Who needs legos? Head outside with a bucket and hunt for sticks and stones. When you get home, use them to build a cottage or a medieval village.
- Sidewalk chalk- Remember sidewalk chalk? I do! Let them explore their artistic skills on the driveway by creating an under the sea scene or a super hero city. Or, help them layout a hop scotch game. The next rain fall will clean up the mess.
- Walk the neighbor's pets- Don't have a dog or cat? Perhaps the neighbors do and would love some help walking them. It's great exercise and teaches your kids responsibility. And if you do have your own pets, even better. The more the merrier.
- Design an obstacle course- Find an open outdoor space with fun, active elements, like fences to climb or stones to leap on. Create stations and obstacles to complete, such as using a curb as a balance beam then hoping on one foot to the nearest tree. Let the kids race to see who can complete each obstacle first.
- Colorful bubbles- Buy a large container of liquid bubbles, or make your own, and mix in a touch of food coloring to create shades of a rainbow. You'll never settle for boring clear bubbles again.
- Plant a garden- Get some seed packs, some shovels, and dig some holes! Not only will the kids love getting dirty but it's an opportunity to teach them about how plants grow. They'll also be encouraged to go outside more often to check on their progress.
- Skipping stones- An oldie but goodie. My boys will throw rocks into any type of water, even rain puddles, just to see the reaction. Give them something to aim at to practice coordination skills.
- Build a fort- Have some old table clothes or sheets? Take them outside and build a shelter. They can use old boxes, tree branches, or fences to create a play space. No grown ups allowed.
- Play tag- When all else fails, good old fashioned tag or duck duck goose will do the trick.
Mother nature is the best playground.