Just Bad Clothingfrom Becky
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In New Zealand, we have stunning natural environments and endless opportunities to be outside. But, like many other countries, our outdoor time is being replaced with television, computer, phone, and car time. It is up to us to understand the importance of being outside and continue to prioritise it.
For this first issue of our magazine, Helena Larsson- Allen shares her experiences of growing up in Sweden as an outdoor kid. She gives us a new view of bad weather and offers ideas for creating an outdoor life with kids. I love the attitude of wonder that she has. It’s so easy to forget. Thanks to Helena for being “first”.
No Bad Weatherby Helena Larsson- Allen
I often think about how a lot of people and societies these days are so detached from nature and everyday things like trees, rocks, dirt, grass, lakes, rivers, and even, sand. I live in Queenstown, New Zealand and a lot of tourists that come here have never walked on uneven ground, been in a forest, seen a lake or river, touched grass, or seen sheep. Crazy, unbelievable, and a little scary to me, but it’s true.
I think it is really important for people to interact with the earth that we all live upon. With respect for it, perhaps our earth might stay earth for longer. One way of starting the process of connecting is to make sure we spend a lot of time with our kids outside and let them discover the beauty as well as the discomfort of nature.
I grew up in Sweden on an island outside Stockholm. I spent most of my childhood playing outside, rain or shine. We just put on a PVC raincoat and rain pants, hats, gloves, gumboots, winter boots, long johns, neck warmers, earmuffs, wool socks, and whatever else we could find. Mum always made sure we had two of everything so when we came in for lunch and it was all wet, we would eat, get changed, and go out again. At my childcare centre, we had to play outside for part of every day, in fact, we could be inside for only a small part of most days.
My parents took us cross country skiing in the forest, ice skating, swimming, biking, fishing, and out picking wild berries, mushrooms and flowers. They also showed us things like beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and so many beautiful views and sites. We looked for wild animals, listened for birds, collected bugs and stones. All of this has definitely helped me feel connected and to appreciate nature. It has also helped me realise that we have to look after ourselves and where we live.
It may seem easier to go out and play when the weather is fine but don’t get stuck on the bad weather issue. We have a saying in Sweden that translates to something like, “there is no bad weather, just bad clothing”. To me, this is SO true. It is not necessary to complain about the weather or use it as an excuse for not going outside. Put on some extra clothes, get out there, and embrace it. Feel alive with Mother Nature rather than fight her or hide from her. It’s ok to get really wet in the rain, feel that wind blowing in your hair or even right through you. Do you remember the wet tar or grass smell when it pours down? When it snows it is so quiet, all other noises disappear except for that unique squeak from your footsteps.
I have endless suggestions for what you can do with your kids outside (if you don’t have kids, borrow them!). Here are just some. An umbrella can make a walk in the rain more fun for kids. You can send leaves or sticks down some running water, jump in water puddles and splash around and get wet. You can collect water in containers or make rain shelters with sticks and branches. Fly kites on windy days. Throw autumn leaves around and watch them blow away. Wind is a natural for pretend flying and running races into it.
Kids will cue off of you. If you are having fun in the rain, they will enjoy it too. If you have fun getting your hands mucky with mud, they definitely will too! If you like looking at leaf colours and shapes, they will begin to notice and appreciate what you see. They will also see the outdoor world through eyes of wonder, as well as respect.
If you don’t already, I encourage you to spend more time outside. Everyday. Regardless of the weather. It will be a good investment in yourself, your kids, and for the future.
Helena was born on an island in Stockholm archipelago in Sweden. She first came to NZ in 1992. Queenstown has been her base since then but she still has very Swedish identity so this has meant lots of traveling back to Sweden and around the world to catch up with family. Having spent most of her childhood in the outdoors cross-country skiing, ice skating, picking mushrooms, wild berries and swimming has taught her to really enjoy the four seasons and all their beauties. She is fascinated with human nature and behaviour. She is very passionate about bringing up her kids in the best possible way with healthy food and good values and life skills. She is always looking for the natural way of going about things and does really enjoy the challenge of trying to grow her own veggies in pots on top of the cliff they live on. Life is always busy and never boring in her family.
Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.
– A. A. Milne, Pooh’s Little Instruction Book