Hike it Baby Blog Team recently had the opportunity to interview Linda McGurk, author of There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather, which is publishing October 3rd. The book looks at the Scandinavian way of raising nature-loving, eco-conscious children through outdoor play and adventure. It focuses on connecting children to nature, something very dear to Hike it Baby. Giveaway Closed:
September 25-27th, 2017 comment below for a chance to win a copy of Linda’s new book.
What inspires you to get outside?
To me, getting outside every day is a primal need that I can feel in every cell of my body. My work requires me to spend a lot of time in front of screens, writing and engaging on social media, which leaves me feeling really drained and stressed. Nature is my antidote to all of that. It’s exercise, recreation and therapy all baked into one.
That’s also why I’m so insistent on my kids getting outside every day. As they get older, chances are they’ll be even more consumed by screens and social media than I am, and I hope that they’ll feel that nature is a constant that they can rely on and turn to when they’re under pressure or feeling down. I’ll go as far as saying that being in nature is a spiritual experience to me.
What was the inspiration that sparked writing this book?
When I moved to the U.S. from Sweden, I didn’t have children and didn’t think much about differences in parenting cultures or attitudes toward the outdoors, but after I became a mom I was struggling to give them the same kind of childhood I had. It struck me that many children in the U.S. seemed to live very sedentary, indoor lives and as I was standing in yet another deserted playground one snowy winter day I decided to find out if the Scandinavian parenting culture could help me and others raise children who are healthy, resilient and connected with nature.
What advice do you have for parents who might be apprehensive about taking their kids outside?
I always encourage parents to think back to the best memories of their own childhood, because we know that many of those moments happened outside. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot more fear surrounding outdoor play today than when we were kids, even though it’s statistically just as safe now as it was then. I think the best way to fight that fear is by familiarizing yourself with nature, your neighborhood and the opportunities for outdoor play that exist for your child. Read up on the benefits of outdoor play and know that they far outweigh the risks. Find out what the specific risks are in your area and how to best protect your child while giving her the freedom to play outside. And seek out other parents for support!
I’m a big believer in family nature clubs and groups like Hike it Baby, especially here in the US, where there is less access to forest schools and other nature-based preschool programs.
Your book talks about how Scandinavian parents encourage their children to love the outdoors, how is that different from other cultures?
I think what’s unique about Scandinavia is that parents don’t let the weather become a barrier to outdoor play; instead they insist that kids dress for the weather and go outside every day. They look at it as an opportunity to really experience the elements and the changing of the seasons, and engage differently with nature than you would on a day when it’s 70 degrees and sunny. Which is rarely the case in Scandinavia! And it’s not just the parents who will tell their kids that “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” Educators are on board too, which means kids are expected to be fully equipped to play in rain and snow at preschool and at school as well.
Do you think Scandinavian children play differently than American children?
Kids are wired to play regardless of where they were born and raised, but one big difference is that young children in Scandinavia seem to have more freedom to decide when, where, what and how to play than their American peers. Scandinavian parents and early childhood educators generally tend to interfere very little when children play, and give them a lot of time to do so.
I also see a lot of American children who almost don’t seem to know how to play outside, because they haven’t had much opportunity to do it. Unstructured outdoor play takes a lot more creativity and imaginative thinking than a video game or a toy that does everything for you, so if a child is not used to it, it takes a while for them to catch on. I don’t see this as much in Scandinavia, maybe partially because most children over there play outside every day at preschool as well as at home.
How do your children feel about No Such Thing as Bad Weather?
There have been times when I’ve worried about their reaction to this book when they get older, because their lives are at the front and center of it. But when I saw their reactions when the first galley copies of the book arrived in the mail, I knew that I had nothing to fear. They’re extremely excited about No Such Thing as Bad Weather and quite proud to see their names in it, and I feel fortunate to have been able to document a chapter of their childhood in such a meaningful way.
Do you have a bigger plan for No Such Thing as Bad Weather other than the book? Camps around the book? Products?
Honestly, I’ve had all kinds of crazy ideas, ranging from starting my own line of outdoor clothing for children to organizing a forest school retreat or conference. But when it comes down to it, I’m a writer at heart and that’s probably what I’ll stick to. Right now, I’m fully focused on this book and trying to get it into the hands of not only those who are already a part of the movement to get kids back outside, but also those who are new to these ideas. I would love for it to go big, so that I’ll have the opportunity to travel and speak about connecting children with nature and write more books in the future.
Photos Courtesy of Kendra Reeder
Have you ever let bad weather keep you from playing outside? Or has there been a time that you went outside to play and had a great time, even though the weather wasn’t the greatest? Share with us in the comments below and have a chance to win the new book.
Giveaway will run September 25th-27th, 2017. Comments will close on the 27th at midnight PST. Giveaway closed! Winners will be notified by email.