As a mom of a curious and thoughtful toddler, pediatrician, and new member of the Project Nature team; I wanted to take the chance to introduce myself and yell from the porch “HAPPY SUMMER!”
As my introductory blog post, I wanted to write as a mom and take off my pediatrician “hat” for a bit (we’ll save that for future blog posts). Parenting a toddler can be taxing, no doubt. My daughter Enli and I are in the thick of tantrums, learning how to express our emotions, and working on transitioning to preschool this fall. While the weather can certainly be on our side in the summer to get ourselves outdoors; doing so can still seem daunting with a toddler who refuses to get dressed in the morning. Know that some fresh air helps both you AND your toddler re-group and tackle the day. Here are a few of my go-to tips for getting outside in the summer:
Start small! A picnic on the back porch or in the closest green space. Take your snack and water bottle outside for a change of pace. Sit in the grass and talk about what you see and hear: crows, flowers, bright green grass, spider webs, and worms all FASCNIATE toddlers– and will keep them engrossed for several minutes while you do some deep breaths and wiggle your toes in the grass too.
Water the plants outside. Take small cups and a big bucket to your nearest greenspace. Most neighbors will thank you. If you have an extra empty spray bottle laying around to recycle/re-use bring that too! Toddlers love spraying water and it promotes good eye-hand coordination (pediatrician hat, sorry).
Go on a nature scavenger hunt on your block. I like to re-use small black plastic plant containers (anything with individual compartments will do). Task your toddler with finding and collecting 3-4 items: black rock, small rock, yellow leaf, purple flower. It’s been a great instruction to the “I spy” game for my daughter.
Use your mom allies, friends, and resources to support you! Plan a playdate at your closest park (many have free summer lunch programs and fun activities and crafts—even for toddlers). Check the Project Nature website for local places and activities to get outdoors and find a park or beach closest to you! You don’t (and shouldn’t with a toddler) need to travel far in the car to get outside and enjoy it!
Always have on hand an outdoor play pack that includes snacks, water, sunscreen, sun hat, and a change of clothes. Know that kids need more water and snacks in the summer as they sweat and run! Bring enough to share; and don’t fall prey to my usual mom-brain fault: pack some for yourself! Add a life-vest if you’re traveling to water/lake.
Enjoy it, savor it, and drink in the summer bounty!
Dr. Hauff is a Pediatric Hospitalist at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. She went to medical school at Tulane University in New Orleans; but returned to her Husky roots at UW for pediatric residency training—and has been in Seattle ever since. She is an active board member on the Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Her community efforts are close to home in Columbia City, Seattle and always involve her active 2yo daughter. She was born and raised in Alaska; and loves getting outdoors and in the snow with her family and 2 older dogs. Her passion for the outdoors, motherhood, and seeing inequalities in her neighborhood and in her Pediatrics practice are what sparked Kim’s involvement in Project Nature. She hopes to continue writing blog posts, and work on expanding Project Nature’s community partners so your children have more places to play and experience the gorgeous Pacific NW!