When I wrote this post last week so many of you got it. You really got it. But most of you probably did before you read it too.
Blogs are so often like that. We are taking to the people who are already there. Because that's why so many of you come here. It's familiar. It's reinforces what you already believe.
But one mama wrote something about that post that I couldn't shake.
"It's beautiful. But just reminds me where I fail. We live in an apartment, in a bad neighborhood. I can't send them outside to explore, by themselves."
That reality of so very many parents in the world. Where it is safer indoors than out. Where there is no backdoor to throw open; no grass to run barefoot through. And even if there were, you wouldn't. You couldn't.
And if this mama assumed I was writing with a picture in my head of kids living in safe, green neighborhoods, well… she was right.
That was humbling.
I didn't picture a child living in the inner city or on the fifth floor of an apartment building.
I didn't picture a child at school all day and at after-school care until seven.
I didn't picture so many of the stories that are reality for so many families.
I pictured my family. Here. In the country.
And I pictured the countless backyards devoid of children in neighborhoods where it is perfectly safe to venture out and play.
The more I sat with her comment the more I felt that what I said might have missed the point for some of you, simply because of the context.
So today I'm giving it another go. This time written more for those of you without a yard or other safe place to run free.
Because giving your kids just what they need does not require special tools or a fancy environment.
It doesn't! You can rock this gig anywhere. Yes, even in an apartment in a bad neighborhood. Even without extra cash. Even with little spare time.
So thank you, mama, for reminding me to think outside of my small green box. This post is for you.
Here is another take on giving kids what they need – no matter where you call home.
Ten Ways to Rock Your Parenting – Wherever You Are
1. Put down your phone.
2. Turn off the screens.
If you're going to go, go big. (See discomfort acknowledged in step 1. Ahem.)
Curb your own screen addiction and that of your child. I know. Media is easy. It's relaxing. (Sort of.) It's like a mini vacation.
But it's not the best way to spend your free time. Especially when you're a kid.
I've always taken a pretty radical stance on media for children. Turn off the screens and they will become more grounded, more imaginative, more present. And in that space life will bloom.
3. Embrace boredom.
4. Find nature where you live.
Nature can be found in big expanses of green or in a clay pot on your windowsill. Heck, nature can be found in a crack in the sidewalk it you just take time to lay on your belly and look.
Do one of the items on the list below, or do them all. It's up to you.
*Watch clouds drifting across the sky and imagine aloud the magic pictures they contain. You can even make cloud art with your child, painting with a teased apart cotton ball instead of a brush.
5. Create rituals to celebrate the seasons.
Pagans celebrate the turning of the seasons at eight points in the calender. At the start of each season and at the mid-point. You don't have to be Pagan to celebrate the turning of the year!
These celebrations can be as simple as making a season painting together at your kitchen table, gathering with friends to celebrate, or taking a walk on the same path to take note of the turning of the year.
Put these on your calendar as you would an important birthday. Make time to celebrate the turning seasons.
6. Keep a phenology journal.
7. Make art together.
We thrifted a big stack of old nature magazines recently. With some scissors and a little diluted white glue we could spend all day at our kitchen table, creating collages on old boards and pieces of cardboard.
Stock a drawer or shelf with some basic, affordable art supplies and let art replace screen-time. You'll all be glad you did.
Supplies to keep on hand: watercolor paint, tempra paint, thick paper (watercolor or other painting paper is nice), white paper (we use regular office paper), colored pencils or markers, and a few jars of random extras – buttons, glitter, acorn caps, etc.
You'll find lots more tips over here.
8. Grow food, prepare food, and eat together.
This is a powerful act.
You can grow food in a big garden outside or right on your kitchen counter.
Sprout seeds in a mason jar or grow edible herbs in pots. Re-grow celery from a cut off stalk.
Growing and eating food is a wonderful lesson to empower us in our lives!
9. Embrace unscheduled time.
We tend to over-engage, over-schedule, and over-plan. Childhood is no exception. Let your kids have free time. Lots of it.
They don't need more activities. They need more undirected free time. (Yes, even if it's happening inside the walls of your flat.)
10. Let them explore.
Give your kids a bucket of rocks to play with. Or their own bin of flour in the kitchen. Or some clay pots full of soil.
Fill the dishpan with soap bubbles and a pile of yogurt tubs and measuring cups. Stick them in the bathtub with a cup of baking soda and a bottle of vinegar.
While my kids love playing mud kitchen, they also love what they call "potions". And this, friends, is like mud kitchen without the mud. And, um, indoors.
Potions involves vinegar, baking soda, beet juice, food coloring, stale spices, flour, water, cut grass, seeds, a mess of little jars and bowls… you get the idea.
Just let it flow and let it be and allow them to explore their world. Don't tell them what to do. Just let them go.
Clean-up can be epic, but it's worth the mess.
(We often do this in the tub.)
11. Love yourself and your life.
Okay, make it 11.
Know that life is imperfect. It's meant to be. There are lessons to be found in your less-than-ideal life, home, or schedule. Embrace the imperfection while you sift through for the magic within.
To live in a fifth story apartment means that when you do run barefoot through the grass it can be ecstasy. Even if it only happens once a year.
Originally published in 2013.