Getting Dirty:: Kids in the Great Outdoors


That feeling of the cool, smooth dirt between your toes.
Maybe the sound of crystal clear water pouring over the mossy rocks as it bubbles past you.
Could be the smell of a sea breeze, filling your lungs with the salty spray.
Possibly the taste of a sweet and juicy fresh-picked strawberry turning your lips red.
Or the sight of the lightning bug just outside your reach on a dusky summer evening.

Is this stirring up memories of childhood for anybody else?

Wild and Free

There is something inherently wild and free about children. Just the way they observe, wonder, consider, and then explore. People spend big bucks to experience animals in the wild…to see them in their element. To watch them sleep, eat, play, and interact with other animals. That might be lots of fun, but here’s a money saving tip: Watch your kids instead!

Kids are wired to be part of nature. From their first breath they are seeking information about the people and things around them. My youngest daughter is still a toddler. At only 20 months she will squat down on her chubby little legs, barefoot in the grass, and watch a ladybug crawl for half an hour. My son has always been the boy covered from head to toe in dirt, mud, and most likely with a frog or lizard on him somewhere. He is fascinated by animals and wants to be right there with them.

My oldest daughter is more cautious about bugs and things that bite, but she can often be found recharging by the stream on a rock with her toes dangling in the water. She will twirl through the wildflowers. It’s her “happy place” as she calls it. And it really is. Kids get to be the best version of themselves outside.

Finding Your Outside

We are thankful to live out in the country. My kids can raise their chickens, and eat the eggs.  They can care for pets and livestock, help worm the cows, ride horses, and hunt or fish. In the spring they can help till, plow, plant, weed, and pick their garden. I watch them run through the world they live in without shoes, covered in dirt and fresh air. They can dance in the rain and watch walnut shell boats float down channels like homemade pirate ships. I treasure these things deep in my heart (except when I get to wash their clothes!)

BUT…I know everyone can’t do that daily. For some, it feels harder to connect to the world outside the walls, when work, family, friends, and maybe simply living in the city cause more barriers between you and the great outdoors. It can feel exhausting to even plan a trip outside. It can be more work to pack everybody and everything up. I know moms don’t need ONE MORE THING to do!

Here’s the Good News

First of all, those trips are exhausting but usually well worth it! Who knows, you even might find that the time spent watching them enjoy something other than chicken nuggets and cartoons somehow energizes you too. Try one of the fantastic Birmingham area parks, trails, and playgrounds for a start!

Second, look for nature right there on your stoop, porch, patch of yard, or sidewalk. Where is there grass to be poked? Dirt to wiggle tiny toes in? A roly-poly to watch? The sunrise and sunset? A thunderstorm rolling in? USE IT ALL. All the facets and parts of the natural world. Talk about it, research it, interact with it, and just old-fashioned “sit and watch” it.

Third, check out local scouting, hiking, or hobby groups. American Heritage Girls, Trail Life, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts are just a few of the organizations in our area. There are local biking, hiking, rock climbing, foraging, camping, shooting skills, and fishing teams and groups as well. These are all great ways to get kids out enjoying nature, learning, and finding friendships all at once.

You won’t be sorry. Watch your kids’ imaginations and curiosity come alive!

Dirt Won’t Hurt

I know, I know. All of you are rolling your eyes at me right now. I get that the PILES of laundry are not fun. The mud-soaked boots, shoes, socks, and jeans that SMELL are not the highlight of my day. I complain about it a lot, so don’t think I’m a super chill mom that laughs in the face of grime and grass stains. That would be a lie.

I do, however, choose more and more as the kids and I age…to remember that childhood is short and laundry will always be there. Sometimes I am reminded that the enjoyment they find in good, wholesome things now will lead to simple enjoyment in good, wholesome things as a teen and adult. After all, very few of us look back and say “man, I sure wish my mom made us sit inside the dry window and watch all the other kids play in the rain.” Even if we are now “the mom.”

There is something so organic and raw about feeling actual dirt under your feet, a seed sprout in your fingers, or chasing a butterfly through the weeds. The feeling of a moss-covered log as your throne, when you are commanding a kingdom of beetle warriors, is empowering. Learning to appreciate nature and the great outdoors, along with the hard work, dirt, and sweat are good for the body and mind. Children flourish when left to be bored…left to find what they can make and imagine on their own.

ZERO devices or electronics included!

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Ashley R
Ashley Rogers is a wife to Justin, and Mom to three busy kids. She is a southern blogger and a life-long farm girl who was raised in rural Shelby County, Alabama. Ashley homeschools her three children, Allie Mae who is 10, Jake who is eight, and Maggie who is one. She lives with her family on a farm about 30 minutes from Birmingham. This allows her to live the country life she loves so dearly, while still being close enough to enjoy the city of Birmingham and all it offers. Ashley is very involved with her church family at Crossbridge Church, teaching and learning with her kids at their homeschool co-op, and doing what needs to be done around the farm. She loves to hike, camp, spend time with her horses, read good novels, write about life as a southern mom, and cook homestyle foods her family enjoys. You can follow her blog here!


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