IMG_0096Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness  Chinese Proverb

The fall of 2014 was a difficult one for our family.  Junior had just turned 3, and Little Bear was 18 months.  We had had an amazing summer filled with adventures on our boat, exploring at the beach, hiking with the dog, and just generally spending all day, every day outdoors.  As the weather cooled, I found myself feeling isolated and claustrophobic, as I was often cooped up in the house with two little ones.  I think they felt it too, as they had often emptied their toys onto the floor and were essentially climbing the walls by lunch time.

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Little Bear modeling some of the hospital’s finest jammies

To make matters worse, Little Bear was sick all the time.  First it was a cold, next it was ear infections, then it was pneumonia, and then pneumonia again.  He was sick for so long that we were referred to specialists for infectious disease and immune deficiency testing.  It was a long, hard few months leading up to Christmas 2014.

The one bright spot every week, though, was our local Forest Tots program that I brought the boys to on Thursday mornings.  Every week, regardless of the weather, regardless of how Little Bear was feeling, I packed the boys into the car and headed into the woods where we met our friends and breathed fresh air for two hours.

I know, I know.  Some of you are thinking, you brought a sick kid into the woods on rainy, cold days?!  Of course he got pneumonia!  But the thing is, I assure you, he was never cold or wet.  There’s an old saying that goes around.

There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

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Little Bear, dressed for the weather and warm inside, despite the cold outside.

I have seen this quote attributed to a number of different people.  Some even say it’s an old Scandinavian saying, so I won’t attempt to give any single person credit for it.  But the point is this – everyone assumes that when you spend time outside in cold, wet weather, you are cold and wet.  But with the right gear, you don’t have to be either.

Little Bear, who was understandably sometimes miserable and fussy at home in the midst of all his maladies, never complained at Forest Tots.  If he wasn’t in the mood to explore, he simply rode in his carrier, nuzzled against my chest for two hours of sacred Mama snuggle time.  With the right gear, the boys were never cold or wet.

When changes in our schedule meant we couldn’t continue Forest Tots through the winter, it was The Captain who pointed out that we didn’t need a program to make us get outside more.  Ding, ding!  Lightbulb moment!

365Outside was born.

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January 1, 2015: Our very first day taking the 365Outside Challenge!

On January 1, 2015, we took our first family winter hike to kick off the 365Outside Challenge.  It hadn’t snowed yet (there was plenty of that to come) but it was frigid and the ground was frozen solid.  The boys stomped along, picking up sticks,
kicking at rocks frozen into the mud, and generally enjoying themselves, oblivious to the fact that we were the only people outside enjoying the sunny day at one of our favorite conservations.

As the months wore on, it was not always easy to get outside (have you tried wrestling toddlers into snowsuits?!) but the benefits we noticed for our family were undeniable.  We were not suffering from the winter doldrums anymore.  Junior would sometimes gasp after lunch and say, “Mama, we haven’t played outside today!” and out we’d go.  I felt more energized during the day.  Little Bear was healthier.  And everyone started sleeping better.  Sleep!  It’s like a currency for parents of young children!  I had started to think that the boys might be done with afternoon naps, but once they spent their mornings outside, they went back to being champion nap takers, and still slept through the night.

Of course, these are just our personal experiences.  But there are many proven benefits to spending time outdoors.  To find out more about them, click here!

As I write this, it’s the fall of 2015.  It’s been almost a year since 365Outside began, and we are still going strong. I believe so strongly in the benefits of getting outside that I’m starting this site to share our experience with others.  I hope you’ll follow along, and go out and play today!