Living LifeWise is a regular column provided by LifeWise Ambassadors – LifeWise employees whose healthy choices are helping them live better lives. Today’s column is provided by LifeWise Ambassador Johanna Dokken.
A few years ago I had the pleasure of hearing teacher Erin Kenny speak about her outdoor preschool on Vashon Island. While we don’t live close enough for my kids to attend the school, her philosophy stuck with me and continues to remind me how important it is for kids to experience the outdoors year round.
When the weather starts to get challenging, and the temptation to stay inside arises, our family tries to embrace the climate, get a breath of fresh air, and stay connected to the beauty of the changing seasons.
Here are a five ways we meet the change in weather head on:
1. Hiking in Local Parks – This season has been all about finding a coveted chestnut tree on outings. The kids are enthralled with the spiky little balls that can be cracked open to reveal a smooth, shiny nut. My daughter’s treasure chest is full of them. Even if we don’t find one on a journey, there are plenty of colorful leaves to collect, spider web tracking to monitor and squirrel sightings to discuss. One hike we love is the North Meadow at Carkeek Park. It offers an enjoyable uphill, one mile hike through the trees that works well for my 6 and 3 year old.
2. Beach Exploration – Low tide is a blast if the day and tide are right. I usually search online to see when the tide will be lowest and then head out with buckets and shovels. With the summer crowds gone, there is a special magic in feeling like part of the expanse of rocks and water.
3. WORK! – It is lovely to watch the leaves flitter from the tree tops until they make a lumpy mass in the mix of fallen apples in my backyard. Instead of being daunted by hours of yard work, we add a timer and tackle it as a challenge. Leaves and apples in piles = sticker chart opportunity. The kids are highly motivated to collect a certain number of apples and help scoot the leaves into piles.
4. Dog Park Voyeurism - Children aren’t the only ones who get stir crazy as the weather gets worse. Dogs needs an outlet too, and are usually more energetic (and entertaining!) at the dog park as a result. Even though we don’t have a dog, my kids love watching the action of all shapes and breeds chasing, bounding and playing with each other.
5. Star Gazing – Inspired by a Fancy Nancy book, and with the earlier sunsets, we have taken to evening strolls and star gazing on clear evenings. Armed with hats and cocoa, we try to find constellations and shooting stars that we use to make wishes.
It’s my hope that my kids aren’t fazed by weather and learn to love the thrill of the mist and chill that comes with the fall as much as I do. I look around at the wonderful natural landscape of lakes and trees that this climate creates and encourage my kids to understand it and, most importantly, feel at home amongst it.
Johanna Dokken is a former college swimmer and mom of two, looking to make health and fitness a higher priority. Her inspiration to lead a more active and healthy life comes from her family’s history of diabetes and heart issues, as well as a personal brush with cancer as a teenager. She loves the personal empowerment, stress relief and community of training and pursuing outdoor activities.