Thursday, September 24, 2009

Raising kids to be stewards of the earth: GO OUTSIDE!

Reduce Footprints has issued another great Change the World Wednesday Challenge. This week it's all about raising kids to be green. Just because my little girl is a week away from her first birthday doesn't mean she's too little to do eco-friendly activities with. Don't forget: children love to mimic their parents. So at her age it's all about what I do, everything of which she sees and stores in her little developing brain.

So just in this week alone Lizzie and I have:
  • picked up our local farm share from Green Meadows, and while there we said hello to the pigs, chickens and her favorite, the turkeys.
  • eaten homemade organic food as a family (all of us, she rarely eats store-bought jar food and we rarely eat take-out).
  • left the car at home many times and walked to the post office, bank, library, and local coffee shop.
  • picked produce from our organic garden, ok, I picked produce and Lizzie tried to eat the grass.
  • but most importantly: we went outside.

It's this last one that I feel will leave the biggest impression on her. Before she was born my husband and I already spent most of our free time outside. I hope Lizzie will grow up to be the same. There are alarming data showing kids these days are actually vitamin D deficient because they spend too much time inside watching TV. How are they going to learn to appreciate nature if they only see it on television? Show them a real frog, butterfly, turtle, piping plover or beaver and watch their faces light up.

Every morning Lizzie and I walk the 100 feet to the end of the street and look for birds and frogs along the river. Then every afternoon we walk to the park and play on the swings and look for grasshoppers. If I'm lucky and there's enough time between morning nap and lunch we go for a real adventure. This morning we went to Crane's Beach, a short drive to the other side of town and one of the most beautiful stretches of sand for miles.

We picked up lots of soft shelled clams and I explained how the holes in their shells were made by the drilling, toothed tongue (radula) of the moon snail. They drill the hole, injected the clam with hydrochloric acid, and then suck the dissolved meat out through the hole. COOL HUH?! I know she probably didn't understand a word of what I said but someday she will.

And then we found a real live moon snail buried in the sand waiting for the incoming tide, its foot all tucked up into its shell as far as it will go. We touched the slimy foot and had a few giggles at the texture.Then we found a nice wet puddle left behind by the tide and put the moon snail back, only to find another one already sitting in the puddle! So we waved them around a bit, got all wet and sandy, and then let them be.

So go ahead and send your kids outside and let them get dirty. And don't be too quick to pull out the Purell every time they touch something. I neither own hand sanitizer nor allow it to be used on my child. Let her eat dirt, it's good for her immune system and will lower the chances of her having allergies. And the more they play in the dirt the less they will fear nature and the outdoors. If you freak out every time they get mud on their faces they will learn to be afraid as well. Touch shells and acorns and frogs and slugs and bark and even slimy moon snails. Your kids will grow up to love and appreciate them and they will become stewards of our beautiful world.

Visit Reduce Footprints for more Change the World Wednesday challenges.


  1. Yes Yes Yes. You are absolutely correct and Lizzie is so lucky to have a mommy who understands the importance of it. For sure she is learning by example. I don't think we give children credit for how much they know. Just because they can't verbalize it, doesn't mean they don't understand. She gaining knowledge everyday. She is a gorgeous little girl too!!!

  2. Beautiful and charming, just the antidote to the article on the news today about old-growth forests being cut down to make toilet paper.

    Thank you for the optimism.


  3. I remember playing outside most of my childhood and cannot imagine what it must be like not to have experienced that. I remember making mud pies, and playing with my dolls, my sister and me, all outside. Bikes came later, but before that, we were always outside. I am happy, Kate, your beautiful daughter is learning that from you... growing up to love and appreciate our world is so important.

  4. You had me up until the touching slugs part.

  5. Good subject. Looks like you guys had a great time.

  6. I couldn't agree with you more on this one. I grew up playing on a farm and exploring the nearby woods.

    Getting dirty should be a part of growing up, even slimy slugs have things to teach us. It looks like the two of you had a great time.


  7. Rae: thanks! I think she's cute, but then again I'm her mom!

    Cow: WHAT? I will look for that article, another reason to use 100% recycled toilet paper!

    DJan: sounds like you and I had a similar childhood! If I didn't come in from playing outside completely dirty my mom knew something was up :)

    RT: I promise not to show up at your house with slugs ;)

    Squirrel: we did have a blast, but it's hard not to with that happy kid!

    SQ: you are so lucky to have grown up on a farm! I am envious.
    Thanks for reading everyone! -kate

  8. Great post. Love your writing and photos. Fun to find you through a post on SOUNDBOUNDER and he must've found me through doing a Block Island search. Love the internet. I had no idea moon snails made those holes in clams. Fascinating. Wow. Love your header and name of your blog too!

  9. I love this post! And may I say that Lizzie is a doll!!

    I read, awhile back, that being so concerned about dirt and germs actually hurts our kids ... they need to be exposed to germs so that their little bodies can build up defenses against them. So, in reality, keeping them clean and germ-free may make them sickly later in life. Love your kids? Let them get dirty! And besides ... getting little fingers dirty as they explore teaches them so much about the world they live in.

    Wonderful post! :)

    Small Footprints

  10. Bethany: Isn't Soundbounder fun? I've never met Matthew in person but he seems like the nicest guy to. Moon snails are some of the coolest animals and super slimy too!

    Small: you are so right. Lack of germs, and therefore an unchallenged immune system, is being blamed for at least part of the explosion in allergies among kids these days. As soon as Lizzie is old enough she's going to volunteer at our local farm with the chickens, pigs and sheep. And if she doesn't come home dirty she's grounded! :)
    Thanks for visiting! -kate

  11. I am blushing!

    But seriously, what I would add to this conversation is that I think children learn at an early age to be consumers. Fast food, toys, sugary cereal, etc are all targeted at them from an early age. How you handle that, I think is important.

  12. matthew: well you DO seem like a nice guy! :) And I completely agree with you, it makes me sad to see other mothers buying way too many toys, turning in their perfectly good station wagons for giant over-sized SUVs and letting the kids watch too much TV (on their giant plasma screens of course :). That's a message kids will most definitely pick up on.

    I hope the chill isn't keeping you off the water!


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