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Too creeped out by my Nature Walk Suggestions?

You aren’t alone!

Keeley at Wanderer in a Strange Land confessed a certain angst brought on by my list of 19 Can-Do Nature Walk Variations:

The HUGE problem is that when I get outside I’m just like “uhhh…ok, now what?” and April’s suggestions 2 and 3 make me want to run away screaming. Not that they’re bad suggestions! I’m just slightly bug and creepy thing phobic. How in the heck do I *not* pass that on to my kids? I really don’t want to!

Keeley is referring to my suggestions to turn over rotting logs to look for bugs, worms, and fungi, and also to look for places that animals and insects could make their homes, such as in shrubs, under rocks, in hollow spots in trees, etc.

One size definitely doesn’t fit all

I’m so glad she brought up this point, because it is important to remember that these suggestions are definitely just suggestions, not one-size-fits-all prescriptions for what a good nature walk has to include. Few of us are perfectly comfortable with all aspects of the natural world, so I think it’s important to play to our strengths here, instead of feeling inadequate because of some perceived shortcoming!

For instance, I may not mind bugs, much, but snakes give me major heebie-jeebies. I also have had fairly severe vertigo since I was a teenager, so I struggle quite a bit to avoid passing my discomfort with heights on to my kids. Seeing them play on the monkey bars makes me cringe all the way down to my toes.

My point in bringing all this up is to say that we shouldn’t beat ourselves up too much – What good can come from that? Just do the best you can. I try to be matter of fact about these things as much as possible, so that I don’t make my children think my little phobias are attitudes that they need to copy.

I tell them that I would love to be able to walk across the mile high swinging bridge, or ride on roller coasters, but that my body just doesn’t like heights. I try to let them know that it is something peculiar to me, and I also tell them that I admire how they are not bothered by such things. (They are roller coaster fans, like their daddy.)

I think the same tactic could potentially work for bugs, snakes, or many other disproportionate or misplaced fears. If you can’t help showing your discomfort (and you know those smart little scamps will probably sense it) just admit that your brain doesn’t like whatever it is, but that you wish it wasn’t so bothered by it. I think honesty is probably important, here.

Ideas for making nature less “icky”

One of Keeley’s respondents suggested that she could set aside a particular pair of jeans for her nature experiences, so she doesn’t have to be apprehensive about damaging or soiling her clothes. I think that is a really fabulous idea.

That plan would work for the kids, too. Pick up some old play clothes from a consignment store or garage sale, and let the children wear those old clothes when you go out on your walks. You won’t be cringing quite as much when they end up with “nature” all over them!

I’d also recommend focusing on the parts of nature that are more interesting to you. If you like birds, notice nests (winter is the best time of year to find these, since the leaves are off the trees). Hang a feeder outside your window, and start getting to know nature from the comfort of your family room!

Finally, especially if you are worried about feeling bored or uncomfortable, I’d suggest that, in addition to the activities I mentioned in the 19 Nature Walk Variations, you try some of these suggestions:

  • Bring a blanket and a (simple) snack. This gives you something to do when you are bored with nature but still want some more outside time. Go ahead and bring hand sanitizer if it will make you feel better.
  • Go with friends. While we most often do nature activities or walks on our own, I must admit that it is usually more interesting for me if there is at least one other adult along as well. And that’s coming from a natural introvert!
  • Start with short sessions only – even 5 or 10 minutes is a good start. If you think your walk needs to be too long and overwhelming, you likely just won’t do it.
  • Take a book with you, or something else to distract yourself. You know how people say, “I can’t look!”, when something is too scary or gross? That can actually be a good strategy. Keep a general idea of where your children are and what they are doing, but distract yourself from knowing too many of the details if you think you might not like them. This is usually my strategy when the kids get on the climbing wall or the monkey bars at the playground. (I know you won’t interpret that to mean that you shouldn’t watch your children at all – just that you give them some breathing room to do their own thing!)

Romance vs Reality

I think many of us have romanticized visions of the ideal, “Charlotte Mason sanctioned”, gold star nature walk experience. The reality is, we are all at different points along the “comfort level with nature” path, and we need to start where we are comfortable, and then begin gently expanding our horizons from there. If we think we aren’t really “doing” a nature walk unless we meet certain standards, well, we are selling ourselves short, big time.

Your nature walks don’t have to be one hour, three times a week to be effective. They don’t even have to be once a week for you to get some great benefits. The important thing to remember is that you should get out there when you can, and have fun when you do!

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2 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Oh thank goodness! =D What a relief it was to read your post – thank you for your comforting suggestions. I think I can handle a 5-10 minute nature walk once a week and go from there.

    Ritsumei also suggested Keeping a Nature Journal which has some suggestions that I think I could probably handle ok as well. =Þ

    It was a big comforting relief to read that it’s ok to not go on a gold star CM walk and instead just do as much as I can. =)

  2. april

    Thanks Keeley! I forgot to mention the Keeping a Nature Journal book suggestion, but that was a great idea, too. I love that book, and I get inspired every time I just flip through it.

    Good for you, and have fun “doing nature” on your own terms!

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