Who’s afraid of the great outdoors…?

ig47_ant_MyrNigris1_02-1Crikey time gets away from you.  I originally posted this three years ago, but I still think it’s relevant. What say you? I think it’s worth revisiting.

The great outdoors …. sometimes the thought of allowing your child to run free outside can be a daunting prospect.  There are so many variables; so many places of potential injury.  Every stick, person, situation, insect, flower can appear to be lurking, waiting to stab, sting, abduct or poison.  And sometimes, it will simply not appeal to either of you, or finding time in the day may seem impossible.

However, outdoors is a place of wonder for children and a vital tool in helping them make sense of themselves and their environment.  By providing unstructured outdoor time, we assist them to develop confidence, a sense of spirit, independence, resilience and creativity.

My children and I live in a country that is home to some of the most poisonous creatures in the world.  And whilst I adore Australia, I do intensely dislike the deadly creature thing.  Quite frankly the thought of all those toxic critters lurking nearby makes me resentful and fearful for my children and our incredibly daft designer dogs. 020822_black_snake

Take our farm for example.  It is an average agricultural holding of 250 acres on the southern tablelands, around 300k south-west of Sydney (180k as the crow flies).  When we visit, I am very aware of the number of things that could potentially kill, injure or maim my children.  Brown snakes, black snakes, redback spiders, the occasional funnel-web spider, cocktail scorpions, wasps, earwigs, bees, bull ants, cranky cows, quad bikes, flooded creeks, dams, Rams the size of a small country – you name it – we’ve got ’em all. However, as a child, I didn’t give them a second thought.  I ran barefoot everywhere (and still do).  I fell off horses after they shied from snakes and simply jumped back on and kept going (three times with a broken arm).  I always asked my mother to shake out boots before putting them on.  If something bit me, I scratched the bite and forgot about it. I learnt to yell loudly and fiercely at both cows and sheep.  Being scared of critters was simply not on my radar.

I realise that I have my mother to thank for this.  She taught me to be aware but not fearful.  “Always look down when you walk through the bush.  Stop if you see something and back slowly away.  They are more frightened of you than you are of them”, and so on.  Now, as a mother to two children, I am determined to make sure that they have a similar carefree childhood. So, instead of dwelling on what might be, I follow the advice of my beautiful, wise mother.  My children are aware, but not fearful.  They have understood since they were tiny about the concept of responsible risk.  Joyfully, they have learned to co-exist with “the nasties” (as they call them) and just get on with free fall play outdoors.  CIMG0881

I delight in watching them spin a heavy dose of imagination into their time outside.  After all, outdoors is a place where a child’s  imagination can truly roam free.  There are wild things hiding; it’s home to fairies, pixies and the occasional troll.  There is no room for fear in this world.  It’s a place of high adventure, where they can get down and dirty with bug catcher and magnifying glass in hand.  They can become conquering explorers, artists, amateur botanists, pirates, fairies or Robin Hood all in the blink of an eye.  And what’s more, all the required costumes can be found in-situ. 33010010

So I encourage you to celebrate outdoors with your children whenever you can.  Splash through puddles, pick some blossoms or colourful leaves, help find fairies, hunt for a spider in its web, lie under a tree and daydream, hunt for weeds and other garden pests, plant a sunflower, ride a tandem bike, visit a Botanic Garden or just do nothing together.  Whatever outdoors means to you and your child, you can find something together that will delight you both.

Until next time….


  1. says

    This is such a great post! I strive to teach my kids the same idea — be aware, but not fearful. There’s a whole world waiting out there for them to discover, after all! :)

  2. Vicki Ehlers says

    Beautifully said: Be aware, but not fearful. What a wise and wonderful mother to share the natural world in this way with you!
    Vicki @VickiEhlers

  3. says

    Wonderful post.

    Back in Scotland we were chased by sheep whilst walking through a farmers field-hardly in danger but my youngest was terrified at the speed the sheep were approaching.

    Now that we live in Canada, it’s the bears and the rare Cougar that we are aware of but it doesn’t stop our adventures in the forest.

  4. says

    We came across a snake while walking on a suburban bike path recently. My three year old daughter wasn’t frightened at all. She knew to back away slowly, and not touch, but wasn’t fearful. We talked about the snake for a while, then she politely called out to it, “Off you go snake and find a safe place or a kookaburra will swoop down to eat you up.” And on we walked!!

  5. says

    Hi Caro,

    What a great article and pictures, beautiful blog and wonderful ideas!

    We came across a snake on a walk through the countryside here one day and I taught my children the very same thing. Back off slowly, don’t touch, but no need to be afraid.

    On the way back we talked about what to do and not to do in case of a snake bite, what information is important to remember about the snake to be passed on to a doctor (if necessary) and tried to find it on the internet to find out more information about that particular one we saw.

    It was a great and exciting day outdoors for the kids.

    Thanks for sharing your articles and ideas with us. Will be back to read more soon.

    The other “Caro” (Caro65) :-)

  6. says

    Me me me! I AM afraid of the big outdoors. I try hard not to instill that kind of fear into my children, so I try not to wince in front of them. “She taught me to be aware but not fearful.” I hope I am able to impart your mother’s wisdom to my children. (Congrats on the blog!!!)

  7. says

    Great article.
    Having lived in Britain for my childhood I was never afraid to go outdoors and had the best of times and fond fond memories. Especially of camping, walks and exploring- alone.

    After living in a few new countries I’ve had to learn what’s dangerous here and there and when you think about it it is paralyzing. You’d stop going out. It took a little while for me to remember what you said. My parents taught the same thing.

    We went for a walk just last week to a new area and my husband read the sign out loud- beware of snakes stick to the path. Well the boys didn’t see much nature as their eyes were glued to the ground and their ears alert to every rustle, on a windy day. Not to mention tales of the eat you alive kind….

    It took a few minutes of persuasion to refocus but we have to go back out there again to train them up. I was so surprised at their worry.

    Note to self:Need to do better from this mum.

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