Outdoor Children

Anecdotal evidence shows that children that spend the most time outdoors seem to have a stronger immune system. Considering that it’s only in our recent history that mankind is spending more time indoors than outdoors, I agree. We should encourage children to be outdoors. My vision of what this outdoor space represents may differ to what you might have in mind. I’m thinking of one that exposes them to the basics of nature, gardening and farming.

Let me go back to my childhood where we lived in Normandy, France.

Children spent hours outdoors, except on rainy days. In our backyard, both a climbing rope and swing could be seen hanging from a cherry tree. These were Dad’s creation for our enjoyment. In school and at home, our games involved movement: skipping rope, hopscotch, ball games, hide-and-seek, etc.

Our vegetables came from our garden. Dad spent hours tending to it each evening after work. The milk and butter came from the farm across the road from us. My parents would send my brother and me to buy the milk. The farmer showed us how to milk a cow. On another occasion, we saw how the cream was separated from the milk and how butter was churned from the cream.

At an early age, we participated in peeling potatoes, shelling peas, stringing beans, etc. I must confess, at times more peas would go in my mouth than in the bucket. I remember seeing the process of how a chook or a rabbit was transformed from its living form to meat on our plate.

Over time, we followed and adapted to the changes in our society. I, in turn, grew up and had children and brought them up in a different environment than what my life began with. Now, I’m a grandmother and together with my husband we have gone back to a simpler lifestyle of homesteading. It reminds me of my beginning in life.

A recent conversation we had with a young adult surprised us. The word “orchard” did not form part of her vocabulary. We ventured to ask other teenagers and young adults if they knew what an orchard was. Most of them had no idea. I realised how much our society had changed.

Have we gone too far? Can we wind back the clock? Do we want to go back to the good old times?

Maybe we cannot go back. We have many conveniences today that past generations did not have. It would seem that our fast-paced lifestyle is robbing us of nature’s privileges. Our society, as a whole, may not be able to go back, but as individuals, we can choose how far we are influenced by the status quo. My desire is that all children who visit our homestead, grandchildren, nieces, nephews or friends’ children, will see first-hand what life on a homestead looks like. How beautiful it is to live surrounded by nature. How peaceful it is to live with nature.