Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to do more things outdoors as a family? Are you filled with dread at actually doing that because, secretly, you hate being outside?
I love being outside, but I get this. I really do. It’s hard to get your kids to do what you know is good for them when you dislike those things yourself, whether we are talking about eating broccoli or hanging out in the dirt with bugs. I know this, because I hate something, too.
I hate crafting with kids. I really hate it. When I read parenting articles and other bits of advice about child development, they always focus on how important it is to encourage art and craft projects. Kids need the tactile sensation of working with materials, the practice at hand-eye coordination, and, of course, the chance to expand their brains on open-ended creative endeavors. These are all important things.
But I hate it. Paint, glue, and paper bits getting everywhere irritates me. The clutter of supplies and drying projects take up precious space in my small house. Crafting takes up time that I’d rather be spending outside, cooking, or reading. It requires more patience and tolerance for imperfection than I can summon. And, of course, there’s glitter. Do we really even need to talk about glitter?
But it’s important to make sure my kids were getting this experience, so I developed some strategies to allow my kids that all-important arts and crafts time while keeping myself sane. I think all of them can apply to getting outside, too.
Outsource the outdoors
What I do: It’s a truth of life that people like different things. That means that there are people out there that love to do art and crafts with kids. They incorporate it into school days, they run after school programs, and sometimes they even hold special workshops. The day I realized that my kids were getting near-daily craft time at preschool and I was off the hook…well. That was a good day.
What you can do: There are also people who like to spend time outside with kids. They lead scout groups and outing clubs, hold nature walks at land trust preserves, teach snowshoeing during gym class, and host kids-only nights at the climbing gym. Keep your eyes open for kid-focused workshops and sign them up. It takes a village, right?
Pick what makes you hate being outside the most
What I do: My two biggest hates are playdough and paint. They make the biggest mess and then I’m forced to suffer through the drying/admiration period while projects clutter up my kitchen table. So I just…stopped. One day during yet another clean-out of the art cabinet, I threw every pot of playdough and paint in the trash and never looked back.
What you can do: Maybe the thought of fishing makes you feel vaguely ill or hiking up a mountain is the highest level of misery you can imagine. Don’t do those things. It sounds ridiculous, but taking a moment to consciously say: “I am accepting that I’m not doing that” is important. In part, this is because it frees you up to…
Find the things you [kinda] like
What I do: After thinking it over, I realized have no problem with basic drawing supplies like crayons and colored pencils, so that’s what we have in excess. Then one day, someone gave my daughter watercolors and I discovered a paint we could live with. It’s one that I actually find kind of magical, so now when they ask to paint, I’m far more likely to sit down with them and let creativity flow.
What you can do: As you are assessing why you hate being outside, think about what you don’t mind all that much. Find what you like (snowshoeing? Observant walks through the neighborhood? Drinking tea at the kitchen table while they run around and build a snowman for you to admire?) and do it. But don’t forget, once in a while, to try something new to expand your repertoire.
Learn to be an adult about it
What I do: Sometimes, I just have to let my kids hack up construction paper and get little bits of it every where. I had to accept the existence of a “craft drawer,” which is little bits and bobs of ribbon and fabric that get hauled out periodically. Occasionally, I have to set down my overloaded weekend to-do list or give up my dream of a hike in order to construct a fort out of leftover cardboard.
What you can do: Once in awhile you will have to deal with mosquitoes. You might see a spider or snake, or be colder, wetter, or warmer than you ideally prefer. Your legs might be sore or you might get a little lost. Don’t make a big deal out of it or spend all your time complaining. Just…do it. Be a good role model. Show your kids you are someone who is up for something new, different, and challenging once in a while. Maybe you’ll enjoy it, just a little bit.
Now. Who wants to come teach my daughter to sew like she’s been asking? I’ll happily take your kids hiking in exchange.