Explore Outdoors: Q&A with mom & nature expert - MetroFamily Magazine
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Explore Outdoors: Q&A with mom & nature expert

Mae Kiggins has worked as a park ranger, research assistant, forest policy intern and environmental sciences academic adviser. Now a mom of two (her son Macen is 5 and her daughter Sydney is 2), Mae blogs about her outdoor experiences with her kids. There’s no one better to shed a little light on the joys of outside adventures. Read her thoughts on the importance of outdoor play then plan to explore an Oklahoma state park. This new state park program should get the whole family excited about exploring a new park!

Q: Reading your blog, it’s obvious you are passionate about getting kids outside. Why is that important to you?

A: Kids don’t remember their best day in front of the TV. A majority of my special memories growing up involve my family time outdoors; playing, working, camping and hiking. I want my children to have those types of memories to cherish and to pass on to their children as well. Also, there are limited distractions in nature as we generally leave technology at home and focus on playing and working with each other. In my experience, family relationships are improved and strengthen by spending time outdoors together! 

Q: How long have you been encouraging them to explore the outdoors?

A: I have been taking my kids outdoors since they were a week or two old. Their first experiences were walks in the stroller or hikes in a baby carrier. I believe spending time outdoors is appropriate at any age! 

Q: Has their experience outside changed as they’ve gotten older? If so, how?

A: As my children grow, our time spent outdoors increases. When they were taking two naps a day it took a lot of planning so we wouldn’t miss our window of time to get outdoors. Sometimes I would have my daughter take her naps in the car on the way to or from our outdoor time. As my kids have gotten older it has been very rewarding to see their creativity and imaginations blossom. It is fantastic to see what a stick or leaf can become and how exciting a patch of trees can be. I used to have to guide them in their exploration and play, now I am amazed at what they find and how their imaginations soar! 

Q: Have you seen benefits to outdoor play in your own kids? What are some of the biggest benefits?

A: Absolutely! The most basic benefit is that my kids and I are happier. When we are at home indoors or on technology a lot they are more irritable and stir crazy. When we are outdoors, their focus is no longer on annoying each other, it’s on playing, exploring and having fun! Not to say that every time we go outdoors things are perfect but in general we are all just happier (and they are easier for me). Additionally, research shows outdoor play improves kids’ social skills, motor skills, muscle development, creativity and lowers obesity, to name only a few. 

Q: What’s your family’s favorite outdoor destination?

A: My son loves waterfalls and I have found the best way to get the kids excited about being outdoors is by focusing on what they like! So here in Oklahoma, our favorite destination so far is Natural Falls State Park. Nationwide it is Niagara Falls, which we visited a few years ago. My son, who was 4 at the time, called it the ‘humongous falls’ and cried when we had to leave. He is now almost 6 and still remembers. That is a great memory!

Mae’s blog features endless ideas for outdoor play, including fun ways to incorporate learning in your next outdoor adventure. Find her tips and resources at www.mommylovestrees.com.