We had an unplugged summer and this is what happened.
Earlier this summer, I wrote a post about my family’s “Summer Rules” for electronics. Basically, my older two have to complete a list of daily tasks before they get to use any electronics for the day, and electronics are limited to one hour.
Now, previously, screen time was an actual free-for-all. No limits on anything. Countless hours have been wasted through TV shows, movies, and games. My children were irritable and always sucked into a screen, paying little attention to the world around them.
That was not the summer – or childhood – I wanted them to have. So, I implemented our summer rules and cut back the allowed screen time from unlimited, down to one hour a day. I wanted to focus on any kind of activity that had nothing to do with screens or electronics. All the things of summers past, before Kindles and iPads and Netflix existed.
Needless to say, the kids were less than pleased. My daughter took it best, but my son – good Lord. He. Was. A. Mess. Initially, the first few weeks were tough. He told me daily that he couldn’t wait for summer to be over so that the Summer Rules would be over. But then I noticed they both started to change. They played with each other nicely (for the most part), and creatively invented their own games and projects. Independently.
And me? I still wasn’t satisfied. I wanted them active, outdoors, exploring. I spent my childhood summers in the forest behind our house, making mud pies and potions. So, slowly, I started integrating more and more of the outdoors into our days.
We started with breakfast “picnics” outside. There is nothing like the fresh morning air for little ones. With dew still on the grass, and before the humidity reaches its peak, we would head out with our breakfasts in tow, onto the front lawn. The kids would play, then eat, then play, then eat. We added in “yard picnic” snacks, lunches, and dinners too. If we were eating, I tried to do it outside. Bonus – if they make a mess or drop food, you’re not stuck scrubbing the floors after.
I hunted down some local nature preserves and walking trails for us to explore. I let all three roam wherever they wanted, provided they stuck together (ish), and stayed close(ish) to me. We discovered different bugs, new flowers, sticks, and rivers. Being in nature with children is nothing short of magical. Something about it feeds their souls (and mine, too). They are endlessly curious about the world around them, and giving them free reign to explore – well – it’s a gift.
I used this free printable for a “Nature Treasure Hunt,” that all three of them adored. I chose this one because it had words for my oldest, who is learning how to read, and pictures for my middle. With some extra yarn from my craft boxes, I made some necklaces with crayons tied to them, so they could check off their finds as they went along, without worrying about losing the crayons.
For other free “explore the outdoors” ideas, click here.
I’m trying to spend a lot more time outdoors with the kids. I grew up spending summers entirely outside, endlessly exploring, playing in mud, making potions, etc. I found a nature treasure hunt printable on Pinterest, quickly cut some yarn, tied crayons to it, and turned them into necklaces, picked a random preserve, and we were off! I forgot to bring bug spray, so we didn’t last very long, but it was so fun, and the hunt helped keep them entertained (and not asking where the nearest Kindle was 😂). Definitely going to try this again throughout the summer! And can we discuss how frigging cute they are?!😍 . . . . . . . #benjamincole #juliarose #williamjohn #cfbsummer2018 #cfbsiblings #childhoodunplugged #childhoodmemories #childhoodeveryday #childhooddays #momswithcameras #motherhoodrising #mothernaturerocks #motherhoodintheraw #naturalmom #crunchymom #crunchymama #letthembekids #letthembelittle #summergoals #screenfree #screentime #getoutdoors #treasurehunt #lovewhereyoulive
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I even applied this unplugged summer to myself. If we’re being honest, I have dreadful seasonal depression every year. Living in New England, it’s just rough. We get about four months every year where I’m completely in my glory. The rest of the time, is a gray & brown, cold, snowy/rainy challenge.
This year, I’m beyond fed up with the gloomy months, and I’ve decided to spend as much time outdoors myself as possible. I want my tank to be full, so to speak, before we enter the cooler months.
I have struggled a lot with where we live, 150% due to the fact that the weather is enjoyable mayyybe four months out of the year, tops. Seasonal depression knocks me off my feet like OMG every year. But I ADORE these four months of amazing, and taking in beautiful scenery like this. New England – you’re rough and hard on your people, but views like this, our amazing autumns, Cape Cod beaches, and everything else that’s quintessential NE, make it a bit more worth it. Capturing this now so when I want to stab myself in the eyes with an icicle in a few months, I can remember this 😂 . . . . . . #newenglandliving #newenglandweather #newenglandsummer #summer2018 #cfbsummer2018 #masshole #summergoals #lovewhereyoulive #staycation #staycations #thegreatoutdoors #summerunplugged #getoutdoors #mothernaturerocks #mothernature #seasonaldepression #mentalhealthmatters #liveinthemoment #massachusetts_igers #ig_photooftheday #momswithcameras #motherhoodslens #perspectiveiseverything
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On a rare kid-free weeknight (thank you, grandparents!), my husband and I explored a new-to-us bike trail that is less than five minutes from our house. We were shocked that we’ve lived here for five years and never even knew about it, much less explored it. It was glorious and breathtaking and invigorating to be surrounded by green trees, nature, bunnies, with a cool summer breeze on our skin.
We rode almost 8 miles, discovered a new ice cream shop and playground for the kids, and reconnected with each other. All while taking in some stunning views and history, right in our very own backyard.
I’m a huge believer in “grounding,” or “earthing.” Essentially, you try to spend as much time as possible, connected to the actual earth, with nothing between your body (like shoes or concrete) and the earth. It’s a fascinating concept, and you can read more about it here. Given the level of seasonal depression I experience year after year, I’m determined to fight back and absorb as much of mother nature as I possibly can, and I want my kids to do the same.
Soon enough, we’ll be trapped indoors when it’s too cold to go outside, and I want to fill our “reserves” with as much nature and grounding as possible. I’ll set up a beach umbrella in the yard for shade, watch the kids chase Stomp Rockets in the yard, and breathe in the bliss that only unplugged time can provide.
This summer, I have no regrets. In summers past, September would arrive, and I would be full of shame that we didn’t take full advantage of the incredible summers we do get here in New England. And then I’d spend all winter grumping about it, and promising myself that I’d never let a sunny day go to waste again. No. Regrets. Now.
The kids have enjoyed nature like never before. They currently delight in finding new species of bugs, playing “fireman” on our playset with the hose, splashing in puddles, and making mud pies. My son actually begs to go outside in the afternoon after lunch and my littlest’s nap. I will always give an enthusiastic, “Yes!” to more outdoor time. And I’ll even jump in and join them.
Health and wellness isn’t all about nutrition and fitness. It’s about finding other ways to be of sound mind and body, and finding your joy along the way too. Spending time with our great Mother Earth is one thing I’ll never regret doing with my children, and the benefits I’ve seen them experience – well – they’re countless.
For more of my personal column, click here.