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Isolating with kids? Learn to love the outdoors

Parenting in a pandemic is hard. Parenting in isolation is harder still. If you can use the outdoors as part of your isolating space, no matter how little of it you have access to, it can help your kids be calmer, and you find more space as a parent.

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boy playing in dirt next to bike

Finding outdoor activities for the kids is more crucial than its ever been. Parents are struggling. At least, I know I am. School is out for summer and that normally means camp, fun trips, and vacations. This year, it’s a very different story.

We’ve already been socially distant – not seeing many friends, and taking the kids to public places as little as possible. And after someone we knew tested positive for COVID-19, we went into full isolation, waiting with trepidation for any symptoms.

It felt as if we had only come off the lockdown at the end of the last school year. And after spending most of their time at home anyway, the thought of doing it more was causing a significant backlash from the kids. Plus, the normal childcare option that allows me to work had now disappeared for 2 weeks. It felt like March all over again, and none of us were happy about it. For me, as an Outdoors Mama, I knew that we had to get outside as much as possible, but I also knew that would be harder than ever. So how did we survive the 2-week isolation?

Plan outdoor trips when you can

Luckily we live at the edge of a city, with beautiful and relatively quiet foothills all around. We planned hikes and bike rides for early morning (we’re early risers anyway) and picked the routes we knew would be quiet.

Even if you don’t have access to wild spaces, you can still do this in your neighborhood – taking early morning walks on the sidewalks near your house or even in a different neighborhood that you think might be quieter.

Make the most of the outdoor space you own

If you live in a high-rise condo, this one might be harder. But if you live in a house with a garden, then really make the most of it. Have meals outside, talk to neighbors over fences, set up activities in the garden. Even the act of moving in and outside the house made it feel as if we were transitioning from one activity to a fresh, new one and kept some of that isolation fatigue at bay.

Do indoor activities – but outdoors

There are so many normal indoor activities that you can take outside. From meals and snacks (my kids love the idea of a picnic, even if it’s the same lunch we were going to have at the counter) to reading, painting or playing with cars or Lego. If you’re worried about losing pieces of a toy set or precious items, bring a blanket or tray to contain everything. We’ve ridden our bikes to the park with a small art kit before, and painted what we saw. From the large scale majesty of the trees around us to the tiny details of blades of grass, sitting down and taking it all in revealed lots of new things to look at and think about.

And when you’re back home again . . .

. . . everyone is more calm. I really believe there is something grounding about kids spending time outside. They generally have space to be physically more separate from each other, which reduces the sibling squabbles they can get into at home. They see things from a new perspective. They run and move and use their bodies, using up some of that energy that just bounces off the walls when we’re stuck in the house. And usually, when we come home there’s relative peace as they get stuck back into something they had forgotten about, if even for a few moments. And if I’m lucky, that’s when I can get some work done.

photo credit: Glean + Co, Boise, Idaho

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