the great outdoors

June 8, 2010

Welcome to the June Carnival of Natural Parenting: Outdoor fun

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared their stories and tips for playing outside with kids. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


when i was a kid i spent all my days out behind my parents' house in the woods– long summer afternoons were spent exploring creeks, finding secret sunny glades of grass, stumbling upon a forgotten sandy beach, and discovering giant fallen trees. (fort, anyone?) from a kid's perspective we were lucky enough to live far enough out into the suburbs of the city that there was plenty of unused land to roam, and roam we did.  i'm not entirely sure if my parents know how far we used to walk.  in the relative peace and quiet of nature it was my first taste of freedom and exploration.

it was also a little bit of free-range parenting, back-in-the-day style.  we didn't have cell phones or GPS.  we just knew every beaten path by heart, by paths paced over and over again by little feet to get to familiar hideouts.  we learned how to be safe.  we always knew the way home.  and our parents allowed us to run about of our own accord, which mostly meant finding shiny rocks in the creek and excellent walking sticks.

i've always had that craving to travel by foot and cross the land.  there's a certain magical charm to being a woodsman, to honing survival and tracking skills.  all right, all right, i'm a little hippy-dippy about it.  that was the age when i was all fantasy-novel-y.  i was born in the wrong era, i would have TOTALLY traveled by horse and rocked some fringed leather pants.  overnight horseback camping, FTW!


that's right, i'm totally that girl.  but look how hot my forest-y outfit could be.

... please god, pretend this never happened.

but here we are now, raising our baby in the heart of the city.  we're urbanites.  i'm not sure how this is going to translate.  after years spent living downtown i'm more accustomed to the regular lurching sound of the bus going by and the sounds of our neighbors screaming.  i want jude to be able to share in the same experiences i had.  does this mean camping is in our future?  almost definitely.  outside of that, we'll figure it out as we go along.  i'm not sure that i'll be able to recreate that complete exploratory freedom.  the time may be over when that kind of thing can happen.

will i be able to let him tromp off into the woods all day without a cell phone?  maybe somewhere.  but not here.  outdoors in the urban jungle means something else entirely.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


Dionna @ Code Name: Mama

You are a woman after my own heart. I lament often that Kieran is not going to share some of my free-range childhood experiences. Part of my childhood was spent in a teeny tiny town, and I rode everywhere on my bike. My range was measured in miles - not by eyesight. It kills me that Kieran may never use train tracks to track his course, that he may never use some abandoned stoop as a fort. Where will he get a sense of adventure if I can't let him venture out beyond our street?! Obviously I'm going to have to loosen up ;)

Joni Rae

My childhood was very similar. We roamed from dawn until dusk- and it was so much fun. I wish I could give my kids the same- but we live on a main road :(

But we roam together as much as possible. WE explore as a family and that is wonderful because I get to experience a little piece of being a kid again.

Great post!


Your outdoor experiences as a child echo my own. I covered a huge terrain as a child and never hesitated to follow where the path may lead me. Though I am currently living in a rural area, it's almost too rural for a young child to wander on his own with deep woods and coyotes. As well the roads, while infrequently traveled, are narrow and twisted and when cars come, they do so blindly. There will have to be a compromise in how much freedom he has in exploring and yet I imagine they find a way to make whatever environs they find themselves into something beyond beyond.

I love your imagery and will find it hard now not to picture you as this warrior girl.


I, too, lament that my children will not have the same outdoor opportunities afforded me, having grown up on a farm in the middle of no-where. It makes me more aware, and we seek out those experiences together.


My husband and I were just talking about camping recently. It was determined that I definitely fall into the "fake camping"...err, camp...meaning I'd rather sleep under a roof once the outdoorsy stuff is over. One day we'll do it with the child in tow once he can walk and all.

Lauren @ Hobo Mama

I hear you! My parents also practiced free-range parenting, unbeknownst to them (I mean, that there was a term for it, not in the sense that they just lost track of me…). I, too, am sad that my own child(ren) will probably not be able to experience those same freedoms, given the climate of fear and my own awareness of the dangers that lurk in an urban setting. I hope not to be paranoid, though, and give in to all the fears, since so many are exaggerated.

When I was in junior high, I lived in Berlin and rode my bike all over the city alone, but I can't imagine letting my own kid do the same in Seattle. The baby steps I've taken, though, are to bring Mikko to outdoor places that I do feel we're safe in (playground, zoo, beach) and let him have freedom there to explore, not hovering over him and policing his every move but keeping an eye out. I think that's an acceptable compromise at this age (3), and I'll see what I feel comfortable with as he grows.


I have been having a hard time with a similar issue. I was raised in the country (12+ acres, woods, a creek, a river, no neighbors, etc.) and I loved it. I have wonderful memories of sleeping outside sans tent, just a blanket and a pillow, looking at the stars and listening to the frogs. I have horrible memories of playing in the creek and seeing a 4-foot-long water moccasin. I have scars from injuries sustained while swinging on a rope across our creek and zipping along a line across our ravine and building lean-tos made out of limbs and grass and twine. We had a sandbar along our creek, which was the setting for hours and hours of fun, including sand volleyball when I was older. There are also more tree forts in our woods than my dad probably knows about.

I want my son to have that. I want him to know the smells and sounds and feelings associated with nature. I can get pretty emotional about it. The Metroparks are great, but it's not the same. Camping is great, but it's not the same.

Perhaps my main problem is that I miss the country; I'd happily move if the opportunity arose. I don't just want those things for my son, I want them for myself too. I've never embraced the city; it'll never feel like "home" to me. In the meantime, I get to the parks and camp as much as I can.


Yes yes yes! I'm another rural-turned-urban mama (though my 5 year plan, if I had one, would be to return to the country and closer to my family). You reminded me of a happy memory of my sister and I stealing my dad's hammers and going out to the woods to make "totem poles" out of fallen logs. This is just another journey, one of many, that we will have with our little explorers. I also try to keep in mind that urban environments offer their own unique learning and exploring opportunities.

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