Balancing Acts

Australia's red heart

Exploring Australia’s red heart

We all want our children to have a balanced childhood right? But how often do we consider how much time they are spending in varied environments? Last night, I did just that and was somewhat upset with the answer.

At the moment I am uncomfortable with the amount of time that our daughter is spending in structured, adult almost sterile environments. Our time is spent primarily in the air conditioned house or in the chlorinated town swimming pool. Free time to play outdoors, get dirty and explore her boundaries is extremely limited. This is not the type of childhood that I want for her, nor is it our version of normal.

Even when my daughter was a newborn we spent a lot of time outside. Lying on a rug in the garden watching the light dapple through the leaves, hanging out in the Ergo and having her feet splashed by waves at the beach and picnicking on rocks in the middle of nowhere…

The reason for our current housebound condition is simple. Weather! Every day for the past fortnight the temperature has been over 40 degrees by about 9am and doesn’t get back below 40 until 8pm at night. Much though I am all for my daughter being able to cope with natural temperature variations, it’s simply not an option for her to play outside for extended periods of time in this sort of heat.

As a result, I’ve built (and she’s destroyed) countless block towers, we’ve read lots of books and my rendition of ‘Old MacDonald’ is now almost faultless. Yes, these are all good things and thus far we have managed to avoid the dreaded television. But… we’re still inside.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have issues with soft fall playgrounds, indoor playcentres and the god awful plastic merry-go-rounds found in most shopping centres, so admittedly my vehemence in this area may be a little extreme.

Children already spend most of their lives in environments conceived and controlled by adults, often playing with toys that have been constructed to avoid sharp edges and any possible dangers. Why should they spend their play time also in adult environments?

I’m trying to find a compromise to get back outside, so this morning I spent almost an hour sitting on the front step slowly sipping a cup of tea and watching my daughter play under the sprinkler with the dogs. The temperature was already scorching but the shade from the eucalypt and the sprinkler provided some respite. I was presented with mudpies, leaves and sticks by a little girl with a soaking wet dress and dirt covering every surface and it was truly a joy. This evening we will do the same.

I’d love to hear from anyone who is regularly stranded by heat in summer or snowbound in winter. How do you give your children outside time?

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