Review by ELAINE DONG
15 MINUTES OUTSIDE
365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect With Your Kids
By Rebecca P. Cohen
At first glance, this looks like another book that lists down activities you could do with your kids, albeit outside of the house. Often, I am not inclined to look at these books, because I really don’t need any more suggestions about things I can do with my children. This is because I have ideas a-plenty; it’s finding the time to do them that’s the hard part.
I suppose that is the bane of most parents. We think we don’t have the time. Even the 15 minutes touted on the cover sounds elusive. You’re probably thinking, nah, that’ll take more than 15 minutes.
At the time of writing the book, the writer was part of a two-income household; she and her husband had full-time jobs. In fact, it was the quest to spend more time with her kids that prompted her to do something every day with them, and to do it outside of the house.
As I go through the suggestions in the book, a lot of it is surprisingly simple. It doesn’t involve hours of fort-building or elaborate projects with hammer and wood. It doesn’t mean you have to put your whole day on hold for these 15 minutes.
Instead, it is simply an organic way for parents to connect with their kids at the end of a work day. Imagine this: You come home from work and daylight is almost gone. Your first inclination is to plonk down on the sofa and ask your kids to watch TV and let you rest. What if you said: Hey, shall we go outside and collect some leaves? Or bounce a ball around outside for a while? Or make some bubbles and blow outside?
There are more involved activities like getting in the car and driving to the nearest playground, or making a bird feeder with a piece of bagel (or bread for us since bagels are not easily available), but the point is not whether it’ll be troublesome or not. The purpose of this book is to encourage parents to connect more and regularly with kids, and I would say kids are worth every bit of that “trouble.”
The book is divided into activities for the four seasons, and though some of the winter activities may not be suitable for our climate (like rolling the biggest snowball ever), there is plenty to choose from in the other three seasons.
I like that a lot of the activities involve learning something about nature and the world at large. My favourites are the planting activities, the study of leaves and trees and foraging activities. As city dwellers, we really do not get enough contact with nature. And, it is possible for all of us, even if you stay in an apartment. Plants can be planted in pots around the house. A walk to a nearby park can let you have a bountiful leaf harvest.
So, what makes this book different from all the other ones out there that suggest activities for you to do with kids? It’s the idea behind it. The author’s motivation is to connect with her kids, despite a hectic work schedule. More parents should have this mindset, instead of dreading spending time with their kids because they don’t know what to do with them.
As you start these mini-connects, you get to know your child. You start to become familiar with your child's rhythm and needs, and soon you’ll find the stress of “entertaining” her disappearing. It becomes a natural extension of your time together, which is as it should be. No parent should have to be afraid that they won’t know what to do with their kids if there is no TV around.
Each of these activities are not one-off projects; it’s not a case of setting the timer for 15 minutes and being done at the end of it. I think the author put the 15-minute time frame as a rough gauge. Each one can last for as little or as long a time as it suits both parent and child. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself enjoying the activities as much as your kid.