By Catherine Cameron.
The paddle pool has been packed away, sprinkler in the shed, and the hose pipe hangs in solitary. Welcome to winter in New Zealand. A winter, that with it, brings muddy boots, snotty noses, and excessive amounts of merino clothing from the latest Farmers half-price sale.
The temptation to remain indoors until the warmth of summer returns is halted by my toddler’s tendency to draw on the couch and post cat biscuits behind the fridge. So how then do we encourage our little ones outside amidst the cold and wet?
In bracing ourselves for the wintery outdoors, it is helpful to remember the difference of perspective babies and toddlers have, in contrast to our own. Where we see overgrown grass; they see a bear hunt. Where we see simple flowering weeds; they see an assortment of colours, waiting to be collected, counted and organised.
There is no avoiding wet bottoms and dirty hands. But with those, comes invaluable learning about the natural world we to live in.
Before becoming a mother, I used to enjoy curling up on the couch in winter (watching yet another re-run of Friends) and nursing a hot drink. Enter my adventurous toddler. And there isn’t a day that passes where I am not spending a considerable amount of time outdoors.
Finding things to do outdoors with your little one doesn’t need to be rocket science. Try simply taking a walk and collecting natural items (such as leaves or sticks), or, hunting for bugs. For the more energetic, bikes or scooters are a great way to burn off some toddler steam. Alternatively, transform your deck or drive into an under the sea landscape or hop-scotch challenge with chalk-art. Even though my toddler scribbles over everything I draw, she takes great pride in these scribbles. Finally, a kiwi classic, it is hard to beat the good old sandpit. Whether man made, or in a plastic shell filled with sand (be sure to drill holes in the bottom for drainage), my toddler will rarely turn down an opportunity to bake mud cakes, or drive Rubble through the muck.
Although it is not always easy to find the motivation to face the cold, what is encouraging is seeing how the outdoors alters my toddler’s behaviour. She is somehow calmer when outside; carefully picking flowers, as opposed to throwing blocks. Suddenly curious about the natural world, she asks why some leaves are green yet some brown or informs me that I need to be gentle should I want to pat a snail.
Now, although I do still grumble about frosty mornings and cold feet, I must say that getting outdoors has boosted mine, and my girl’s morale. I can’t help but look back on my life before becoming a mother and feel guilt for the hermit I had become. There were so many things I had simply stopped noticing, under the haze of stress, urgency and technology that tars our adult imaginations.
This was exemplified one afternoon when my toddler and I were caught in a heavy down pour of rain. Together, we sat under a tree and her little face was in absolute wonder at the sound of falling rain.
Something so simple became our entertainment that afternoon, and it forced me to realise just how lucky we are to live in a country where we are constantly surrounded by such simple, yet beautiful things.
But before I finish, some practical advice to see you through this winter season. In order to make the most of the outdoors, gumboots are a must. Waterproof overalls, or, a waterproof onesie is a great way to prevent a wet bottom, and a good rain jacket with a hood will help keep those little heads dry.
But most importantly, you’ll need your imagination.
And your camera.
Catherine is a first time Mother and author of the blog ‘Sweetest Devotion.’ Catherine is passionate about honestly sharing her own experiences in parenthood, in the hope to assure other Mothers that we are never alone in this crazy whirlwind we call parenting.