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Enjoying Summer

Here in the American South, summer is settling in all around us. Eighty-five degrees is considered a cool day, there is forever and always a 50% chance of scattered showers/storms. I strive to get my run in before 9am or after 8pm, else it will feel like running in a sauna. It is during this season that I find spending time outdoors with my son to be a bit more challenging. The woods we love romping through are suddenly filled with critters that fly, slither, or crawl out from every corner and even spending a few hours in the garden can leave us feeling spent due to the often high humidity.

Still, I know time outdoors is so important, regardless of the season. And I strongly believe that seasonal adaptation to climate requires spending time enjoying the outdoors in order to adjust/adapt to temperature changes. It’s certainly better than what often becomes the alternative for many children – watching television and/or playing video games.  According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology, “Children in the United States watch an average of three to four hours of television a day. By the time of high school graduation, they will have spent more time watching television than they have in the classroom.” I find these statistics unbelievable but notice that the higher our temperatures rise, I see fewer children and/or adults enjoying outside time. In our neighborhood, the hum of air conditioners replaces the sound of children running and playing outdoors each evening. It’s suddenly still and quiet. My son asks, “Where is everyone?” 

“Indoors,” I respond. 

The changing seasons are part of the cycle of nature and not something I believe we should shield ourselves from. There are simply too many benefits to spending time outdoors to avoid it for the entire summer! Some of the health benefits include, but are not limited to –  improved concentration; greater levels of happiness and feelings of mental wellbeing; improved overall health through exercise and outdoor play;  creativity (my son created an entire ‘house’ using found objects in our woods last year, a project he worked on for the entire summer!);  a love and appreciation of – as well as knowledge about – the flora and fauna in one’s environment; and according to Harvard Health Publications (via www.health.harvard.edu) with exposure to natural light, you may even heal faster! And that’s just a very brief compilation of the benefits of spending time outdoors.

While summer is upon the Northern Hemisphere and in many places people are flocking to lakes, pools and beaches, in warmer climates like mine the tendency can be to turn up the AC and spend three months avoiding the outdoors as much as possible. However, I have found that the more time my son and I spend outdoors in summer, the easier we adapt to the temperatures as they rise. Our time outside is not always about being physically active or going to some ‘wild’ local. Our time outdoors often consists of simply:

– Taking a long walk in our woods or neighborhood

– Dining outdoors

– Enjoying time on our patio, where we often  just sit and talk

– Working in the garden

– Going to a local park

– Bird-watching at the edge of the pond

– Reading outdoors

There are so many other ways to enjoy all the benefits of being outdoors, even in summer!  Be creative, protect your skin from the sun, and remember to have plenty of water on hand, and get out there!

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©photo by James Young is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Me

Amy L. Alley is mother to one son, works full-time as an educator and is also a freelance writer. Her blog, www.panpanstudios.com, focuses on maintaining a healthy, balanced, holistic lifestyle through embracing simple living; love of the handmade and homemade; quality time with loved ones and quality time just with ourselves; finding everyday adventures; time in nature; making our homes into sacred spaces; trying new recipes and knitting patterns; and finding beauty and joy in the moments that make up our daily lives. She loves to hear from her readers at amialley@hotmail.com, and you can find her on Ravelry.com under Zenmamaknits.

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A Minimalist Approach to Toys

The words minimalism and toys are rarely put together, instead, when we think of our children’s playthings some more appropriate words may be clutter, spreading, jumbled, vast, or even just “AAAGH, they’re everywhere!”

We live in a world that prizes possessions and puts huge value on the giving and receiving of material goods. Toys are considered educational, stimulating and above all necessary, and as such most children have an ever growing collection of their own.

We certainly have our fair share of toys in our home too, and I definitely do see the benefits they can bring to a child’s world, but in this article I want to talk about the benefits of de-cluttering and taking a minimalist approach to the toys you keep in your home.

 

A Calmer Environment

Fewer toys equals less clutter and leads to a calmer environment, both for the parent and the child. This in turn leads to less stress, fewer disagreements over mess and tidying up, fewer lost parts and an increased feeling of serenity. And who doesn’t want more of that?

More Engaged and Focused Play

When there is a mountain of toys to choose from, children can become totally overwhelmed and this can lead to unfocused play. Pulling out box after box, tipping the contents out aimlessly without stopping to explore the resource, and flitting from one thing to the next with no real sense of purpose. When you cut down the “stuff” there is so much more opportunity for focused and engaged play, and this is where learning and development really come in to their own.

More Quality Resources

When you are making a choice to have fewer toys, you will likely put far more thought into which ones you decide to keep. Toys which are going to last longer and that your child is going to get the most out of are likely to be those which make the cut. Open ended resources made with quality natural materials are a great way to get endless hours of play from one item. And when you buy less overall, you can pool your funds and put them towards something that little bit more special.

 Fewer Disputes Between Children

You may think that fewer toys will lead to more arguments between siblings, but the reality is that the opposite is actually true. With fewer objects to argue over, along with the resulting calmer environment, children have less reason to fall out with each other and play becomes far more harmonious and cooperative.

Greater Levels of Imaginative Play

When a child is presented with a simple resource, such as a basket of wooden pegs or a cardboard box, they are challenged to use their imagination to create their own play experience. They have to decide what the peg will become and create a story around it, which is just what children do best! When they are given a toy which does it all for them at the push of a button, their imagination is not triggered to quite the same extent. Instead they fall into passive play which is far less enriching and valuable. Imaginative play feeds the mind, enables children to explore their world safely, play out frustrations and fears, work though strong emotions, test boundaries and be in control of their own world. A simple, uncluttered environment is perfect for encouraging imaginative play.

To a child, everything has the potential to become a toy. It doesn’t have to be complicated, noisy, flashy or brightly coloured in order to capture their interest and engage them in play. They don’t need endless boxes of different toys to play with. Sometimes it really is the simple things that are the most well used and loved. Our favourites are good old wooden blocks, a bowl of rice or lentils with a selection of jars and spoons for scooping, a stick and some mud and of course the unlimited environment of the great outdoors – Surely the greatest playground of all?

 

©photo by James Young is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Sam Vickery is the author of Trust Me I’m a Toddler a guide to parenting gently and peacefully through the toddler stage. Follow her blog at Love Parenting to get her latest articles on Natural Parenting straight to your inbox and start creating a family life you adore!

 

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