baby steps

May 2nd, 2011

A little while ago, Zibby and I went to participate in a research study on “nature”. I decided to do it because I thought it would be interesting, it was for both of us to do together, and we would get 25$, which I was going to give Zibby to spend at the American Girl store for her birthday.

First: We drove to a local college, met the lady and went into a room with a table and a tv. Zibby and I sat on one side, and the lady sat on the other side and she filmed us. She gave us a stack of laminated photographs and asked us to sort them as we wanted. I have never seen Zibby act so weird. She was acting shy and goofy, talking in a high pitched voice, baby talking, and kept hiding her head into my body. It was completely unnatural and odd for her, and was obviously about this encounter, “being tested” or being asked to perform. The lady was completely non threatening and hardly talked to us at all, and was really friendly and non committal about anything. I was glad she didnt comment or otherwise make a big deal about how Zibby was acting.

The photographs were of different scenes. Some were animals, some were trees or lake pictures, some were birds or fish. Some were of flowers. Some had multiple items in the picture, some had just one. We sorted them a few different ways.

Then I had to fill out a questionaire about our level of physical activity, interaction with nature, outdoor activities, now and in my own childhood. It made me realize a couple things.

For one, while I do really value the idea of being outside and doing stuff outdoors, it does not come naturally to me (har har).
We live in Chicago. When its nice (may-october) we go to the playground several-most days a week, and the beach usually once a week. But we drive everywhere and hardly ever go for walks. There are several reasons I can think of. Im sure there are ways around every objection I have, but I just havent thought too hard about any of it, to be honest. I mean, I just thought, “well, we live in the city!” but I know plenty of people in this city with kids and they do lots more than we do outdoors. but another real limitation is that my children really really do not want to wear outerwear. Neither willingly consent to jackets, coats, mittens, hats, etc. Its hard enough to get clothes and shoes on them. Sometimes I wonder if I can ever civlize them, or if we need to move to warmer climate. :)

When its not nice, its MUCH harder to do anything outdoors. And lots of indoor activites cost money. I do try to get the kids into gymnastics classes, or other physical activity classes, but thats usually once or maybe twice a week for less than an hour.

Doing the questionaire, I realized that this is pretty much how I grew up, although I did grow up in a suburb. As a child, I had TONS more time outdoors by myself or with other kids and no adult supervision, in yards, in the neighborhood, on bikes, etc. We did walk to places as kids together, like the school playground, to other kids houses, to the candy store. We walked to school. We had free reign for approximately 6 blocks radius of our house, Id guess.

But as a family, we did not walk places, and we did not do sports or outdoor activities together, except going to the beach. I think we went tent camping once. maybe twice. Our vacations were to our condo on the beach or west to visit family. We were a family of board and card games and watching tv and movies. I think that me and my siblings probably participate in one sport type activity a year, but I dont think that was particularly encouraged and not pushed, ever. We had a pool, but it was indoors.

Id like to be more active, myself, and Id like to give my kids that experience, too. Try hiking. Try walking along the lakefront. How do YOU do it?


One Response to “baby steps”

  1. Hilde on May 3, 2011 4:03 pm

    What an interesting story and an interesting post.

    Here are some things we do as a family, outdoors, including when we lived in the city:

    during clement weather, we went to the park every day for 1-2 hours during the week(from approx. 3-5, sometimes all the way to 6pm when I don’t have to make dinner). Now it’s more like just an hour.

    walks after dinner – exciting destination like ice cream shop or bookstore or park always a benefit

    at least one outdoor excursion every weekend – lakefront, forest preserve, neighborhood walk, long walking destinations like Millennium Park or the Zoo. We plan our weekends together and everyone contributes what they would like to do. We try to accomodate everyone – but even if it’s board game sometimes we bring it with us to a park just to get moving outdoors

    gardening together

    “urban exercise” in the form of no stroller (mostly) once Karl was 3 – took the bus or train to various museums, to a different branch of the library, or just to explore. At 3, he could easily walk a mile. At 5, he can walk about 2 miles before complaining. The great thing about living in the city is you can break it up! Walk to bus stop, ride for a while, walk around at destination, ride home, walk home from bus stop

    We play together, too. Soccer at the park, flying a kite. Modelling the behavior is key.

    I did not grow up playing soccer, but Karl likes it. A lot of girls I know Zibby’s age get into basketball. I have tried it myself and it is an awesome workout, but fun, too.

    We joined both the arboretum and the botanic garden. The Botanic Garden is our favorite place to take walks. Again, lots to see and explore in every season.

    Even with all this conscious walking and moderate exercise (and now we sometimes bike together), it has been a new experience for me to actually get my heartrate up and/or do strength training. So lately I have been talking a lot about that with Karl.

    Karl really enjoys the accoutrements of magnifying glasses, binoculars, bird identifications books and the like. If he has a job to do it keeps him motivated.

    Indiana Dunes national park has some great trails. As with every national park, you can earn a junior ranger badge by completing some activities on your walk – Karl loves this.

    Have you read Last Child in the Woods? I loved that book. The author wrote a new one and is giving a talk in our area mid-May.

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