As a family, we try to make outside time a priority. We’re typically outside twice a day and try to make the most of our weekends together. We do this by having systems in place to make time for big adventures. These systems include having a routine, getting housework done on weekdays, staying organized, and setting aside blocks of time for the weekend for bigger adventures.
HAVING A DAILY ROUTINE: I will admit that I like having a routine. I like my day to have a natural, progressive flow to it. It makes me more productive and helps me know what I need to get done each day. It’s not just me who benefits from having a daily routine. There are huge benefits to having a routine in place for the early childhood years. Daily routines have emotional, linguistic, and social benefits. Routines also help children with self-control and reduce power struggles. I’ve seen the benefits of having a solid routine in my own kids’ lives. They know what’s going to happen next and can anticipate when different events will be happening throughout the day. Now I’m no expert at creating the perfect routine. My ideal routine happens sometimes, but more often than not we have little disruptions in the day to slightly change the flow of events. That’s normal and that’s why I call it our routine, rather than a schedule!
An essential part of our family’s routine is having daily outside time. Every morning after breakfast I get the kids dressed, we do calendar time, and sing some songs. Then we get ready to go outside! They expect outside time to happen after we get dressed, and the transition to getting out is typically easy for us. (Obviously, there are exceptions to this, and I’m going to do a whole post on the going outside power struggle!) Our first outside time usually looks like playing around camp and going for a little walk. I don’t really put a time frame on our morning outside time. Some days are cold and we don’t make it long. Other days we can spend a few hours outside before we need to head inside for lunch.
We usually get outside again in the afternoon. Once nap has wrapped up and the kids have had their afternoon snack, we go back outside. Depending on the day, we will sometimes make the afternoon playtime more of an adventure. Sometimes it’s a hike or canoe trip with dad, other times it’s biking around camp. Often during the afternoon play, my husband and I will switch places. He will get off work and join us outside and I will go inside to begin dinner.
CLEANING ON THE WEEKDAYS: You may be wondering when I do the cleaning with this much outdoor play scheduled into our routines. First of all, I will admit I hate doing housework. Always have! I also hate when things aren’t organized. So there’s a double standard for you. I break down our weekly housework into one task a day during the weekdays. I usually get it done quickly after we play outside in the morning, but before we have lunch. We also do a quick reset after lunch and before bed, then I run the robot vacuum. Laundry, honestly, is the bane of my existence. As I type this I have a basketful staring at me with smugness only a basket of waiting clean laundry can make. Also, I try to do a load of laundry a day. 4 people, millions of kitchen towels for constant spills, and cloth diapers mean an endless flow of dirty laundry!
GETTING ORGANIZED: NOTHING is worse than getting ready to go out to play and your kid can’t find their mittens, but it’s 20 degrees out! Or, suddenly you look around and realize you can’t find the sunscreen. It can throw a wrench in the whole getting outside hype. This also goes for when you look out at your living room and it’s become strewn ankle-deep with dinosaurs and toy trucks. To mitigate these disasters, I try to keep our things organized. I keep all the toys and art supplies organized in bins and tucked into a closet. We pull out a selection for the day and the kids are always free to rotate to something that isn’t out. I also have our coat closet organized to include baskets and shelves for everyone. These hold mittens and hats in the winter and sunscreen, bug spray, and sunhats for the summer. There are plenty of places in the house that aren’t as organized. (Ahm. My husband’s things.) But, at least these spaces are easy for me to maintain quickly throughout the day and make getting outside quicker.
I also meal plan help make more time for the outdoors. I typically do grocery pickup and run any other errands for the week on the same day. We have a 30-minute drive to get to town and I try to cut down on the number of trips we take. When I plan the meals for the week I take into consideration our outside plans. Typically in the summer, I try to make a few meals boat, campfire, or picnic-friendly for outdoorsy dinners. During the winter I always plan quick, easy meals for after the ski day.
SETTING ASIDE BLOCKS OF TIME ON THE WEEKENDS: Weekends are also where our routine can diverge quite a bit. This is where we do bigger family adventures. In the winter we spend most of our days at the ski hill. We bring our camper to help facilitate those same routines that are so important to us and to have a great chill space between runs. (Check out my previous post on our skiing strategy here.) In the spring and summer, we spend a lot of time hiking or on the water. If we are planning an all day adventure, like a long hike, we will cross our fingers and hope the kids nap in the carriers. We pack plenty of food and plan for picnics out and about. If it’s a shorter activity, we will either do a morning adventure or an afternoon adventure, working around our kids’ naps. We are incredibly fortunate to live on a lake, which makes getting out on the water quick and easy. A lot of times we will go boating for a few hours during a summer afternoon and be back with plenty of time to get dinner on the table. Before we lived on a lake we would plan for naps on the boat, even once having a successful nap in a raft! Our weekend trips are successful because we’ve put in the work before the weekend. The housework is done, the meals are prepped, and we are ready for fun outside!
What do you do to create more time for the outdoors? Do you have any strategies that I didn’t mention? Comment below and let me know!