What’s so great about being outside anyway?

When my daughter was about a year old I started taking her for walks outside at 5 AM. We lived near Marina del Rey, Los Angeles, at the time and going outside was the best thing I could think to do to minimize the noise in our one-bedroom condo and give my wife a longer sleep period. My daughter and I went to the North side of the jetty and often discovered streetlights glowing, seagulls and sea lions barking, and views of passing boats. We made friends with a lot of dogs and their owners. We played in the sand. Being outside with my daughter day after day, sunrise after sunrise, transformed my mornings. Rather than incessantly hushing and saying “no” to keep her from making noises while on my morning watch, we enjoyed the freedom that being outside provides.

The built environment, especially inside your home, is designed for adults. Everything requires expert skill to navigate and manage. There’s a lot of investment into the “things” in a home and proper handling is mandatory. Outside is far different. Things are built tough.  You can run and jump and yell at the top of your lungs and the giant space just absorbs the vibrations without even flinching. There are less rules. It’s harder to get hurt. It’s harder to make a mess than needs cleaning up. Dirty outside is cleaner than dirty inside. There is more to explore. It’s hands on. It’s slow. It’s present. It’s perfect for children.

Because outside is such a good environment for children, I find my daughter doesn’t need my attention every millisecond. I can walk with my daughter and enjoy a cup of coffee while she explores something that strikes her fancy. Or, I can hold a conversation with another adult where we reach the end of our sentences, repeatedly. Yet, at the same time, with dramatically less technology and “things” present, there is less fighting for our attention and so we are all more focused on each other and the task at hand.

Being outside makes being a parent really enjoyable. Hiking is a vehicle to get there.

This is part of a series of Hiking with Preschoolers.

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