Kids, this House is Closed. Outside!
My recent grand nature manifesto was full of big words, grand ideas and noble intentions about getting our kids more connected with nature. But how do you actually get kids outdoors? In an attempt to turn my call to action into action, I’ve been trying some little experiments to try and get them out of their bedrooms and into the big wide world. In this series of posts I’m going to spill the beans on what I did and how it went down. Evil experiment number one involves some enforced outdoor time….
This is a public announcement
I make the announcement on the upstairs landing, within ear reach of all the kids.
“This house will be closed to kids from two until four.”
There is no initial reaction. Until I go into their bedrooms, mute their computers, remove headphones, get their attention and repeat the message.
“I said the house is closing for the next two hours.”
“You have to go outside and amuse yourself. Somewhere else. Outside.”
“Yes. Starting in ten minutes.”
Is it so hard to understand?
Dictatorship isn’t my natural style and the imposition of this arbitrary rule seems to wrankle the kids.
“Do we have to?”
“What will we do?”
But I don’t want to engage in discussions, negotiations or explanation. This is a dictat,
“Come on. No time for questions. The wifi is going off. We’re closed from two to four. It’s outside time.”
The questions don’t stop. But in the face of my insistence they do shift, ever so subtly.
“Do we have to go together?”
“Do we have to stay in the village?”
“Can we go on a bus?”
I think they’re going for it. These are boundary questions, more deserving of answers. Short ones.
“No. No. Yes.”
I think they are going for it. But there is one final question.
“Can we have some money?”
It seems churlish to refuse given the rising trickle of enthusiasm for the mission. I mean buses aren’t free are they? Or have I just been mugged?
Watching and waiting
My wallet is £10 lighter by the time I shut the front door and watch the kids head over to the bus stop just outside. I know a bus isn’t much of an outdoor adventure or nature trip, and that outdoors is supposed to be free, but I’m just relieved to get them out the door. And £10 for three kids to spend two hours outside seems quite cheap, although the precedent does concern me a little.
They are outside but there’s not much action at the bus stop. I watch them stand around there for ten, twenty, thirty minutes. I guess the bus must have been cancelled. They check the timetable, explore the telephone box, flick each others ears and then stand and wait some more. Now forty minutes, fifty and more. And then they give up and disappear. I don’t know where. And I don’t care. In fact I’m rather pleased.
An unexpected sweetener
They arrive back at five to four with red faces, cold hands and a fistful of sweets each. I am tempted to enforce the final five minutes of exclusion but relent and unlock the door.
“Where have you been?”
“Oh hanging out, the school, the playground.”
“And the sweet shop?”
“Well, you didn’t say the money was for the bus.”
They have a point. But perhaps it’s money well spent. And a lesson for me. For next time.
Have you ever enforced outdoor time? Or got another idea to help get kids outdoors more? Do leave a comment and let us know.