Nature Mom: Leaving the Stuff Behind

Every year on the Canada Day weekend, my family of five gets together with my extended family at our cottage on Georgian Bay.

Seven cousins, all 7-years-old or younger, and eight adults pile in. It gives new meaning to the term “long weekend!”

Now to me, the thought of trying to entertain seven kids for three days doesn’t sound like much fun. I usually load up our car with huge bins of art supplies, bags of games and toys, suitcases stuffed with dolls – you get the picture – the whole kit and kaboodle.

But this year I tried a bold experiment. I decided to leave “the stuff” behind to see what would unfold. Could the kids keep themselves busy without “the stuff?” What if it rained? How long would it take someone to say, “I’m bored?” It was like leaving my adult security blanket behind. But I persevered. After all, it was summer in the country. Still … yikes!

The kids got off to a great start. They spent the first morning writing, directing and starring in a play. They moved to the lawn for baseball and the driveway for basketball (okay, they need some toys). There was some serious hammock-hanging. Like a pack, they gathered round to inspect a caterpillar crawling on the low branch of a tree.

Finally, my favourite activity of all – tossing rocks into the lake. The cottage is located on a beach that is beautiful to look at, but 100 per cent rocky. Soft and sandy it is not. But the kids reminded me that rocks have their own beauty and that a rugged shoreline covered with rocks can be as exciting as a sandy one.

They filled up their buckets on shore, walked to the dock and threw rocks in one by one. They experimented with the spray-factor of each splash. They competed to see who could throw the furthest. They compared piles, big and small. And once their buckets were emptied, they walked back to the beach and started again.

I noticed that the collection process was just as entertaining as the tossing. My daughter Marley sought out the smoothest rocks. Ruby, my 4-year-old niece was only interested in sparkly rocks, especially the pink ones. Brody, my nephew was into the big heavy ones that had weight. Jude was focused on the spiders, ants and other critters crawling out from under the rocks. The kids ended up spending more time on the beach collecting and investigating the rocks than they spent throwing them!

Now I can confidently say that a weekend in the country without “stuff” can be a huge success. Our kids instinctively knew what to do and how to entertain themselves. So in the end, our “very long” weekend turned into a “not long enough” weekend!

If there’s one thing I recommend to bring along on a stuff-less weekend, try The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book: 448 Great Things to Do in Nature Before You Grow Up by Ken Keffer and Stacy Tornio. A great reference for all-year outdoor activities, for kids of all ages.

Photo: Jonni Super Photography

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