I have a confession to make—I am the mother of a child without a backyard.
It’s not that I want it to be this way, in fact it’s the complete opposite. I wake up to a daily dose of mom guilt over it nearly every day, with a big ole extra spoonful on nice days when my daughter pleads with me to go out and play like the other kids. While we do have some common outdoor green space near our home, it is definitely not a backyard.
Believe me, I know the importance of outdoor play and natural environments for the health and development of children, and really, well, all of us. I’ve even researched and written on the topic, but childhood is changing and it is now more common than ever for children to grow up without a backyard of their own.
I am sure that many of you, are like me, in that I hope to someday provide my children with a backyard of their own, where they can play and explore for hours in a safe, natural environment. But that is currently not our reality, so the question becomes what do we do in the meantime?
I do the best I can with what I have, and ignore all the naysayers, confident in the fact that I want what is best for my child and work hard to achieve that goal.
How exactly do I plan on doing this?
How do I plan to reduce screen time, engage in an unplugged relationship, and spend more time outdoors?
Here is my plan for providing my child with opportunities to engage in the outdoors, socialize with other children, and stop feeling guilty over the fact that I am the parent of a child with no backyard.
Are you ready? Here goes…
- I resolve to ignore anyone who makes me feel like an ill-fit mother because my family currently resides in a home without a traditional backyard.
- I will make a commitment to my child and myself to devote more time to getting outdoors, meaning that I will try every day to spend time outside.
- I will make use of the spaces I do have, by spending afternoons playing with bubbles, water, sidewalk chalk and whatever else may fit in the small spaces around our home.
- I resolve to take walks around the neighborhood and the town, while encouraging my child to notice, observe, discuss and appreciate the animals, trees, flowers and even the clouds.
- I will help my child make regular use of neighborhood playgrounds, to encourage socialization, decrease stress, practice motor skills, and just have fun!
- I commit to making regular use of local, state and national parks, to explore, swim, fish, canoe, hike, bike, and just generally help my child to learn more about the natural world around her. I will do this to build an appreciation for all that nature has to offer, while fostering her sense of wonder.
- I resolve to visit nature or environmental learning centers more often so that my child may come to appreciate nature in ways that I may not be able to teach her.
- To accomplish this goal, I will schedule each of these activities into our week, but always be open to taking advantage of additional opportunities as they present themselves.
I realize that this action plan may seem a bit overwhelming, but it is flexible. While I am committing, and in fact my whole family is committing to this plan, I can assure you that we definitely do not complete all of these tasks on a daily basis.
Realistically, there are days where we don’t get to any of them.
But that is not the point.
The point is that I stay focused on the positive changes we are implementing, stay dedicated to the cause and the plan, and enjoy every second of childhood wonder and joy that I see on my daughter’s face.
I am determined that someday, my daughter will get that beautiful backyard but until then, I am casting aside my guilt and choosing to enjoy the outdoors with my family in our own special way.