Thursday, September 25, 2014

Meals Outdoors...And Allergies?

Ok, you know how in Momworld there's all kinds of chatter about how children need more freedom? More time outdoors? Periodically it seems I see social media posts on helicopter parents, on the need for free range children, or posts mulling over why our kids are so unfamiliar with the great outdoors. They ask questions like "Is it because we're afraid our kids will get hurt, so we keep them indoors playing with tablets or other forms of media?"

I was reading something written a century ago about children and the outdoors. The author, Charlotte Mason, discusses the advantage of country children who practically live outdoors. She discusses how "hectic lives" (wow, imagine that! 100 years ago a complaint about life being hectic! Nowadays we long to go back a hundred years to a "quieter" era) can be eased by spending as many hours as possible outside. And no, she's not talking about the 1-2 hours we are so thrilled over if our kids are outdoors. Every. Possible. Waking. Hour. When not at studies or work. Like six, seven hours. As much as daylight and temperature allows.

She's not done there. Time outdoors, she says, is so healthy for both body and mind why not take your meals outdoors in decent weather, including breakfast and lunch? To me a picnic is a treat. She would have it be the norm. How very unusual. Would you consider it practical, or advisable?

Now, this author lived in the UK, in England to be precise. Temperatures there are much milder than here. Much more steady too. Here temperatures vary wildly, ranging from potentially dangerously cold in winter if you get a nice arctic front through to high humidity 100F days in the summer.  At the same time, I remember reading an article about children in a Scandinavian country who nap outdoors in cold weather.  A major question is: how to safely follow such advice in a land of extreme temperature fluctuation?

It's interesting to note that these long afternoons outdoors are not to be unsupervised, even back then. I know I have a mental image of pre-1960s as the era of kids wandering at will pretty much anywhere. Yet she talks about supervised, directed yet hands-off time outdoors. Directed yet hands-off? Yes, basically it reminds me a bit of Montessori here but outside instead of in. She advises parents to accompany their children, to watch them, and to let them "wander and dream" as they will.

To this end she says leave the books indoors. Mom (or babysitter) isn't outside to entertain. Feed them outside, then send them off to explore. But from time to time she says the parent can take hold of little opportunities to train their power of observation pointing out what they are seeing "a cedar waxwing!" and hearing.

Long hours outdoors. I've noted on here before the seemingly magical powers nature has to calm the spirit. There are so many questions though regarding spending much of the non-work hours outside. Meals too. One of which isn't mentioned in a single websearch of Charlotte Mason sites and forums. Is the value of eating meals and long hours outdoors for health changed if the family has bad environmental allergies?

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