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Growing Up Outdoors

Many years ago before we had all the wonderful technology we have today we spent the majority of our time outdoors. I remember coming home from school, changing clothes, grabbing an apple, and heading out the door to play until the street lights came on. We played in the leaves, climbed trees, played ball, rode our bikes, roller skated in the street, and basically just used our imaginations to entertain ourselves.

Even when we spent time with our folks on the weekends we spent most of our time outside. Gardening was prominent back then whether flowers or vegetables so we were always tending the gardens. Mom was very well versed in all kinds of plants, flowers, trees, and just about anything to do with the outdoors. So the whole time we were in the garden she was filling us up with information on what everything was called and what care it needed.

We would often take walks through the neighborhood and as we walked mom would tell us the names of the trees and plants that we came across. Mom had grown up near a forest and had spent much of her time playing in the woods. Her mom and grandmother were the ones to pass on the love she had for plants and tress and anything green. She in turn was passing it to us.

When I started my family we were blessed to live close to mom. Even though technology was becoming more and more a part of our day to day world she made a point of making sure our children learned about the great outdoors as well. She often babysat for us and she would take the kids on walks and even take them to the nearby woods for hikes. When the wild berries started to bloom they would make plans for a berry picking trip. She geared the kids up with their rubber boots and gloves and the proper clothing so as not to get stuck by too many stickers and they would come home with buckets of wild berries which they would bake into pies.

The kids and mom would take trips to the local arboretums and nature/bird habitats and study the wildlife. She had a love for all things outdoors and she wanted to pass it down to the kids. They also took day trips to local state parks to take in fishing or rock climbing. It amazed me the things she could think up to do with the kids during the days she had them with her. They visited waterfalls and dams and all these things were within a couple hours of our home. I believe many people would be surprised by what natural and beautiful places of interested that is close to their homes all over the country. Sometimes we travel a great distance to see the sights when we can often just venture out of our back doors and find great beauty.

Getting our children to spend more time out of doors these days is indeed more difficult but it is not impossible. It does however require that we take part in their adventures out of doors. When parents get involved and display a love for all the marvelous things in nature it is a catalyst for children to begin their journey into the wild.

A few years back after we had our second child who came out of the womb running we decided it was time to start being more active as a family. We began one summer by taking walks to the local park and eventually riding our bikes to the park. As we would walk along or ride along we would stop along the way to check out the tadpoles and minnows in the bayou or creeks. We would pick up interesting rocks or leafs along the way to use in craft projects later. It was a wonderful time of family and exercise that really helped us to bond and also after we had been doing it for a few weeks my spouse and I felt that we had more energy than usual.

This was the beginning of our endeavor to spend more time with our family in the great out of doors. We began taking fishing trips to local lakes and rivers which our son absolutely adored and as long as our daughter had her book she was happy sitting along the banks and dropping in a line. When we got hungry we would spread out our blanket and bring out the ice chest filled with sandwiches and have a picnic. The children absolutely loved it and it was such a relaxing way to spend the day.

My spouse and I had never done any camping but we decided that we would give it a try. We began to look up state parks in our area and we were amazed at how many state parks there were in our state and all across the country! Within a couple hours of our home in all directions we were surrounded by parks, lakes, forests, and you name it we had access. We were a bit anxious about camping but then we arrived at the state parks and saw how secure they are and how nice the facilities were as well. The rangers are always patrolling and they lock the gates at night which really made us feel more secure. The fact that most of the people camping around us were families also helped to make us feel safe.

Some of our camping trips were better than others. In the beginning we did not know that leaving out food or dishes of any kind would draw the wildlife and they are not shy about coming into your campsite either! But none of the wildlife in our area is dangerous critters; they do however have a propensity to keep you awake at night! One particular night someone (we will not point fingers) brought some cookies into the tent and left them in the corner of the tent under a blanket. All night long we kept hearing scratching and tried to thump the tent to get rid of the perpetrator. We could not figure out what in the world was going on and on a couple of occasions I found myself running out of the tent with a flashlight trying to scare it off but to no avail. It kept coming back, or perhaps there was a team of them and they were taking turns, we don’t know. But by the morning there was a small hole in the tent where they almost made their way in and upon investigation we found the cookies. This is when we found out it was never a good idea to leave food inside the tent. A night of sleeplessness is a good lesson and even though it sounds miserable it was quite a bonding time for the family and we have a story to reminisce about today.

One other time we left out a pot that we had scraped the food out of but did not wash, thinking it would be okay until morning. In the middle of the night we heard some heavy breathing and when we peered out we saw glowing red eyes. When we got the courage to get our flashlight out and shine it in that direction we saw that it was merely a very large opossum with his head inside the pot licking the remains. Because his head was in the pot his breathing was echoed and it sounded like a much bigger animal like perhaps a bear. But then later we found out that in our part of the country there are no bears. See what you can find out when you start camping? Another great bonding night and a story to tell in the years to come came out of that camping trip as well.

Children need to be led into a love for the out of doors by their parents and grandparents. It does not come naturally for children to spend time outdoors with all the wonderful gadgets and entertainment in our world today. We need to lead them and nurture them in a love for all things green and natural. We as parents need to be the encouragers and examples of living healthy and natural lives in the great outdoors.


Always curious, Ashley Hardway is constantly learning and passionate about sharing what she learns with others. Based in Houston, Texas, she loves to help families grow stronger, help their environments and communities, and keep moving forward! Check out @NannyLady on Twitter to connect and find out more.

Clay Miller
the authorClay Miller
I am the creator/writer of and I'm an advocate for oceans, beaches, state parks. I enjoy all things outdoors (e.g. running, golf, gardening, hiking, etc.) I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky (Go Wildcats!!). I'm also a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky.

1 Comment

  • Excellent article. I agree with you 100%, we need to get out more. We had a camping holiday last year. You can buy large tents that have bedrooms these days. We set it up and moved it. It was great. On the way, my daughter noticed that some people on the campsite are using their laptops. She asked for internet access. I pretend to check and told her that where we are there is no internet reception. She was quick to suggest that we should move where we can get reception. Thankfully, we were so busy with our activities that we just had enough time to cook and sleep at the camp site. Getting children out is only one part of the problem. Next you have to deal with their tantrums that they want to go back to their laptops.

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