I grew up in the triad of North Carolina where winters are mild, summers are hot and humid, and it rains quite frequently. I also remember getting snow at least once a winter, which made for an epic outdoor playday. Regardless of the weather, I remember that as soon as my homework was done, I was free to go. And, fortunately, we lived in a neighborhood with lots of kids. The houses were close together, so it was easy to find opportunities to play. During the summer, we would stay outside until it was dark- usually 9 pm or so. When the weather turned cold, or rainy, we would certainly spend less time outside, however, it would take a serious thunderstorm, or bitter cold to keep us from at least attempting to play outside. I have always had a fascination with the weather, so I think I was drawn to being outdoors even if the weather was not perfect. Now as an adult, I use the inclement weather as an excuse to purchase new gear, as it prepares me for whatever Mother Nature may throw my way.
Although my wife and I grew up in the South (her in GA, me in NC), we met in Montana, where winter usually lasted 9 months or so. If you didn’t like the cold or snow, it was a very lonely place to reside. And you would inevitably spend a majority of your time indoors. Fortunately, we both love the outdoors, and everything that goes along with enjoying time in nature. Initially, we decided that we would raise our kids out west, and just bundle them up so we could continue to immerse ourselves in the place we had grown to love. We found used bike trailers for the summer, along with a fancy covered pull-behind sled so that the kids could ride along wherever we skied (cross country skiing). However, about two years ago, we decided to move close to family and found the High Country of NC, where there are four beautiful seasons. Now we are spoiled with pleasant summers (rarely gets above 80 degrees), colorful autumns, just enough snow to call it winter, and endless recreation.
Still, it can get rainy, windy, cold, snowy, foggy, and occasionally hot. While it is not always easy, and full disclosure, our kids occasionally resist our good intentions, we get outside just about every day. Here’s why this is so important for us:
1. We want our kids to experience the wonders of each season
There is something about exploring our yard, the woods nearby, and the local park trails in every season. There are different views, different bugs, and different activities depending on the season. Our kids get to experience hiking, riding bikes, skiing, sledding, collecting leaves, finding rocks, and everything in between. It can even be as simple as sitting under a tree and watching the clouds wisp by above our house.
2. We want our kids to be active and healthy
What parent doesn’t enjoy tired kiddos? If my kids are up before me, then I know they needed more exercise. I can always tell when they are tired, as they fall asleep fast, and get up at a reasonable hour in the morning. Keeping them active keeps us active, which allows for a healthy lifestyle. The whole family seems happier when we have had some time outside. Tired kids= happy family.
3. Reduces screen time, as well as dependency on devices
The more time we spend outside, the less time our kids have for television or any other device. We have seen the tables turn when someone has been under the weather or is hurt. We spend more time inside, and then it makes it that much harder to go back outside. On the flip side, once we get everyone outside, no one wants to come in either. The trick is doing whatever we can to just get outside for at least a half hour a day. It becomes routine, and then our bodies and minds crave that vitamin D, and fresh air.
4. We want our kids to be resilient to change
Being resilient is an important life skill that develops at an early age. For our kids, enjoying time outside with one another regardless of the weather has allowed them to build confidence, and not be as sensitive to small challenges that may have deterred their approach. We also do our best to make it fun when the weather turns on us. Although our floors might need to be wiped down after we come in, we would much rather play in the rain and mud than miss out on some great memories with the kids. Then, the first thing they want to tell others is that their Mom and Dad let them play in the mud and get really dirty. We are certainly not the coolest parents out there, but we have fun. We make memories. For me, that is certainly enough right now.
5. We want them to develop a love for our natural world
Having worked in the tourism industry in Montana, one of the State’s selling points is that they have a more unspoiled nature in the lower 48 states than anywhere else in the United States. There is a lot to be said about natural wonders versus man-made ones. As parents, we enjoy both, however, we want our kids to find exciting things to love as we explore the mountains around us. Our kids love to collect leaves and rocks. I don’t know why they have such an attachment to leaves, but they do, and I am ok with it. I would rather them be obsessed with keeping a rock or some leaves than always asking for a new toy (they have plenty as it is).
The weather up here in the High Country is amazing. We enjoy a little bit of everything, and while there are certainly some days that make it a challenge to get outside, those days are few and far between. If the weather does get rainy or snowy, we still enjoy the out of doors for a little while, and chances are, we will have the woods or parks to ourselves. There is so much to discover, and, as we all know, kids won’t be little forever. The memories in nature that we create now will hopefully last a lifetime, or at least guide them to desire more memories with you while enjoying the great outdoors.
-PJ Wirchansky, Director of Sales & Marketing, and champion rainy day dad