Thursday, June 12, 2008


Get children outside to nurture their insides
-- Rather than overschedule your kids this summer, leave time for the outdoors

Thursday, June 12, 2008 SW WEEKLY - The Oregonian newspaper

Meet Phil Finch. Grandpa Phil, that is.

My daughter, Rachel, and I were introduced to him while hobbling through the Newport Marathon last month. As he caught up to us at Mile 12, he commented on Rachel and me looking like sisters. Flattery will get you everywhere.

Talking to Grandpa Phil helped keep my mind off how tired I was. This was his fourth marathon this year. He is a big believer in the outdoors, in recreation, in physical education and in a movement called "No Child Left Inside."

Grandpa Phil is teaching his grandkids to enjoy all aspects of the outdoors, from running for recreation to gardening to birding. He volunteers at schools to talk to children about nature's significance in our lives, something I strongly believe in.

Having kids outdoors more would cure so many ills in our society. Childhood obesity. Attention deficit disorder. Hyperactivity. Depression.

I told Finch about a book recently featured on National Public Radio called "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder," written in 2005 by Richard Louv. It helped launch the movement to get kids back outdoors.

The outdoors provides adventure for kids. It gets them away from neon lights and intensity. It does something for the soul. In our modern suburban world, we are sheltering our kids too much. We worry that they'll get hurt or mugged or hit by speeding SUV drivers. I worry, too.

Louv believes that perhaps the No. 1 reason kids are not exposed to nature is that parents overprogram children. Every last minute of children's schedules is packed with sports practices and music lessons and clubs, leaving little room for spontaneous outdoor adventure.

One mom I talked with recently remembers twirling her baton for hours outside as a child while daydreaming. Let's bring back daydreaming, unstructured time.

The weekend Rachel and I were in Newport running the marathon, my husband and his dad took our four boys fishing. I loved knowing they were outdoors, appreciating nature.

With summer ahead, it is easy to book every minute with camps and planned activity. Let's be honest: The kids can drive us batty fighting, squabbling and messing up the house. Trust me, with five kids, I am there.

But I try to resist the temptation to overplan and to just allow flexibility. To be able to wake up and say, "Hey, let's go on an adventure. Let's visit a new park. Let's see what we can discover."

It takes slowing down and retuning and retraining ourselves and our kids, but it is worth it. A few weeks ago, while we were riding our bicycles on the Old Columbia River Highway, my daughter discovered a rattlesnake nestled in the lupine. I didn't even realize there were rattlesnakes in the Columbia Gorge.

The things you discover when you are not left inside.


Rose Connors said...

Thanks for the article on Grandpa Phil. I've been on several clamming, crabbing, canoeing,and hiking adventures with "the Finchman" as we call him at my house. He is sort of a force of nature in his own right.

Cornelia Becker Seigneur said...

wow, that is fantastic. How did you get to know him?


Hidden Lake


Cousins bicycling at Champeog Park

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