5 Outdoor activities our Highly Sensitive Child loves

A few years ago, when my 5 year old was just an infant, I didn’t know many things. I knew some, but not many. One of the things I was sure of from the very beginning was the fact that my baby loved being outside. Whenever he got restless and cranky after I had tried everything to comfort him, taking him outside for some fresh air always did the trick.

Another thing I was certain of was that my son didn’t like to be around too many people at once, and he became inconsolable if there was too much noise where we were.

To make matters worse, for the first 3 years of his life, we lived in a country where parks were extremely scarce and public green spaces virtually did not exist. The infrastructure did not support biking, or even walking, let alone with a stroller. Sidewalks were difficult to find, and if you did find them, you’d either have trees sticking out right the middle or more typically, cars parked along the whole stretch.

So what do you do with a small child who needs to get out and can’t stand noise and crowds, when the only kid-friendly places we could go to were malls and indoor playgrounds? I’ll never forget how my son fought and cried when he realized we were about to walk into a mall. He always enjoyed spending time in the parking lot watching cars go by that he did the actual mall.

After much research coupled with trial and error, we finally managed to figure out where we could take our son and what we could do with him when he wanted to be outdoors and the weather was good. These are great activities for all children obviously. But are ideal for those who enjoy a little peace and quiet when they go out, and who like to savour all the wonderful things our world has to offer.

So here they are.

5 Outdoor Activities for the Highly Sensitive Child

1. Picnics

This is one of my favorite things to do for several reasons: (1) I get to watch my kids run around with relatively low risk of them getting hurt (unless there’s a lake) without me having to constantly run after them like a crazy person screaming out “CAREFUL!” or “DON’T TOUCH THAT!”. I still do that sometimes, but it’s kept to a minimum. (2) I get to do that and enjoy the outdoors myself. And the cherry on top, (3) getting my kids to have their lunch or a snack while we all have fun (pleasant is one thing mealtime in our house is not).

Before we moved to Singapore, the “Garden City”, we always managed to find an enjoyable green spot in the wilderness for a picnic. Any safe green patch was good enough for our us and our picnic mat.

5 Outdoor Activities for a Highly Sensitive Child: PicnicsMy son, who is Highly Sensitive, has always loved picnics. Everything about them appealed to him: the green setting, the fresh air, the picnic mat, the fun snacks, and the spending quality time together. To this day, he will never say ‘no’ to a picnic.

2. Feeding the fish

There’s something about throwing bits of bread into the water and watching fish gobble them up that seems to be soothing to people of all ages. Whenever we go to a lake for this, I always see way more grown ups completely mesmerized with the fishies than I do children. I too will occasionally “forget” to hand the bits of bread to my kids so that I can get a turn too.

5 Outdoor Activities for a Highly Sensitive Child: Feeding the Fish

We are currently lucky enough to be living in a place where fish and turtle lakes are plentiful. But even in countries where they are not, one can still make an occasional trip to visit those hungry fish and make a day of it. I also sometimes find that feeding the birds (pigeons in most cases) has somewhat the same effect on people.

My son will sit and stare down into that lake for very long periods of time, and we can never have enough bread/special fish and turtle food. This is a perfect activity for those days when we need something to help him wind down after a stressful day.

3. The beach or sandpit

Even though this is not one of my favorite things to do because of all the cleaning up I’ll be doing afterwards, both my kids love it. As often as possible (and again because we are lucky to have access to this), I will take my kids to the beach. My HSC enjoys the water, but loathes being wet, or rather having to hang around in wet clothes.

5 Outdoor Activities for a Highly Sensitive Child: Beaches and Sandpits

Because I found out the hard way that it makes no sense at all to spend two hours packing for the beach, take my kids for a 3 minute swim, and then deal with an angry, wet child who needs to change his clothes immediately while chasing an excited toddler in the sand, now we will only go to the beach for the sand. If it’s not the beach, then it’s the playground with the sandpit. If I pack the right sand toys for this, the kids will play for hours. I will rarely hear screaming or crying or complaining. For hours! It makes the cleaning up afterwards totally worth it.

4. Bike rides with Mom and Dad

This outdoor activity is a family favorite. The kids love our bike rides so much that they will run to the bikes every time we step out the door. My 5 year old will often point out that we’ve run out of bread which meant it was absolutely necessary for him to go out with daddy and get some more. He will also point out that going to the store by bike is way more practical and environmentally friendly than driving there. Who can argue with that?

And what’s not to love about a bike ride, especially when you’re sitting in the back seat enjoying the breeze while someone else does all the sweating? The wind in your hair, exploring new streets, car spotting (this is a big plus when you’re car-obsessed), the sweet sounds of birds chirping that you miss in the car, the discovery of new playgrounds… The only thing the kids don’t like about this activity is the end. Almost every time, no matter how long our trip was, we will have to deal with tears and pleas to keep going.

5 Outdoor Activities for the Highly Sensitive Child: Rides with Mom and Dad

Again, we haven’t always had the luxury of being able to bike around town. In some countries, that is virtually impossible for many reasons. In this case, I have also found that putting the kids in anything with wheels (with the exception of a stroller) and pushing them or pulling them around also does the trick. They get to enjoy many of things things they do when they’re on the bike, but at a slower pace. We have one of those little wagons we take with us when we go out. I also use it to haul them to the nearest park and I always make sure the cup holders are filled with snack containers. It doesn’t get any better than this.

5. Gardening

Gardening is a proven therapeutic activity for grown ups, and given the chance, kids also seem to enjoy getting their hands dirty and making things grow.

I say “gardening” here, but I don’t really mean “gardening” in the literal sense. You don’t even have to have a garden for this, just an outdoor space where you can do garden-y things. Before we moved to a place with a garden, we had a balcony that we had filled with potted plants, a fun water table, toys and a little ride-on car. Transforming an outdoor space into a fun and comfortable “garden” area gives you the chance to be outside without going out, which is perfect for a child who enjoys being outdoors but doesn’t always want to leave the house.

5 Outdoor Activities for a Highly Sensitive Child: Gardening

Spending time in the garden gives you endless possibilities without having to spend a fortune on fancy garden or patio furniture. Kids don’t need all that. Some dirt and seeds will teach them about plants and show them where fruits and vegetables come from. A little inflatable pool or a water table filled with beach toys will keep them busy for hours. A watering can or a spray bottle will make them feel like they’re helping out by keeping the plants healthy. Bubbles will never get old! And sometimes we’ll just do outside what we normally do inside: read some stories, have fun with some play-dough, or take the easel outside and go crazy with some paints and brushes.

What I also enjoy about this outdoor activity is the fact that you don’t have to chase the kids around to make sure they’re okay. If the area is made safe, then you can just let them do what they want to do without having to constantly hover over them. It’s (relatively) relaxing for me, and it gives my kids a break from mom as well.

What about you? What outdoor activities do you enjoy with your Highly Sensitive Child? Please share them with me in the comments section.

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Facing fear to enjoy the thrill of life

Dr. Elaine Aron recently wrote about her experience white water rafting in the Grand Canyon. In a beautiful post, she tells the world about how this experience was both incredible, and incredibly scary. She shares with us the fears she had to face on this trip, and not just the fear of the risks that come with white water rafting, but also the social fear of spending 13 days with a bunch of people who are nothing like you, who might make you feel like you don’t belong there, and who wear t-shirts that say things like “The best things in life are dangerous”. While reading about her experience facing her fear to enjoy the thrill of life, I got to thinking about my own fears.

I have always loved the water. I have also always been afraid of the water, and I don’t think anyone close to me knows that about me.

When I was 3 years old, I was thrown into a pool by a kindergarten teacher, and I remember that moment like it was yesterday. It surprises me I managed to get back in the pool and learn how to swim at a young age. I always felt whole in the water. I always felt most like myself in the water. As a little girl, I was convinced I was a fish (or rather a mermaid) in a past life or in another universe. The ocean always brought me comfort; the sight of it, the sounds of its waves, the smell of its salt water, and the feel of its mist on my face. That has always been therapeutic to me.

And yet, whenever I was in it and as much as I loved being in it, I could hear my heart pound in my ears I was so scared; scared of what might be in the water, scared of what I couldn’t see. I was terrified something my bite me, or pull me down, or even eat me up (that would be none other than Jaws, of course). That fear was always there, and yet it wasn’t enough to keep me out of the water.

Jaws

This is what I imagined every time I was in the water even though I’d never seen the movie.

I can’t explain this phenomenon at all. But I can say that this was the case with everything I loved that was somewhat risky. Travel is something else I’ve always loved, and yet after having extensively planned for and committed to a trip, I would have a near panic attack a few hours before we left, and then be completely ecstatic once we got to the airport.

When we had kids, my worry got exponentially worse. There were times it completely paralyzed me and left me depressed for months until I managed to pull myself out. We recently went to Italy with the children, and months before the trip, I had to deal with an intense fear of the potential risks we were taking with them My head was filled with doubt and worry and questions like: What if the plane fell out of the sky (as we are hearing much too often on the news lately)? What if they got sick on the trip? What if they fell and we had to rush them to an ER? Do they have ER’s in Florence? What if we turned away for a second and lost them in a crowded piazza? All those things kept me up at night for months. I told my husband about them only because I wanted us both to be as careful as possible on the trip.

“Let’s smile at our fear, and, yes, take those risks we think are worth it.” -Elaine Aron

We ended up having a fantastic time… the time of our lives! And that, the thrill of life, is the reason I go back for more, regardless of the fears that drive me insane. That’s why I’ve been on 10-day sailing trips, where living conditions are far from what I need to be comfortable, and dream of going again with the kids (just the thought of the kids on a boat… oh boy); that’s why I’ve always loved hiking and camping in the wilderness; that’s why I have been dreaming of white water rafting in the Grand Canyon since I was 16 years old, and have started to look up family-friendly packages.

In her post, Elaine Aron says: “Get over it – not the fear, but the fear of fear.” And that’s what it comes down to in the end, I suppose. It’s alright to be scared, so as long as it doesn’t stop you from truly living.

I watch my son, cautious since he was an infant, afraid of so many things that mean nothing to most children. And I see him now, doing things in spite of his fear. He will do them slowly; he will test the waters before jumping in; he might try when no one’s looking, but he’ll do them. And I see the fear on his face when he’s doing something scary for the first time. But fear is then replaced with pride, and with pride comes excitement.

And then he goes back for more.

Get over it - not fear, but fear of fear

After having bribed our son into getting on the luge for the first time, we had to bribe him to get him to stop.

“The best things in life are dangerous”: I’m not so sure about that one. But I do know that it’s those adventures that come with some risk that make me feel most alive. And that is where I get the strength and will to face those fears.

And it fills my heart with joy to watch my little one face his fears to enjoy the thrill of life.

Facing fear to enjoy the thrill of life

What about you? What are the fears that you have faced?

 

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Even before Google, my mother knew

Being Highly Sensitive isn’t easy. Being Highly Sensitive and not knowing it is even less easy.

I didn’t always know what I was, or why I was the way I was. But there was a time when I wished I wasn’t.

I only discovered Dr. Elaine Aron and her work about a year ago. That was when it became clear to me why my son behaved the way he did. And through my discovery and my new understanding of my son, I realized that I was also a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), which explained why I felt the way I did growing up.
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Why we travel with a sensitive child, by guest blogger Bronwyn Joy

For those of you who missed this incredible post by my lovely guest, Bronwyn Joy from Journeys of the Fabulist.

Enjoy!


No one ever said traveling with young children was easy. And anyone with a Highly Sensitive Child can tell you that doing anything that requires leaving the house, be it flying to Italy or going to the supermarket for eggs, can be a challenge. We try to do everything in our power to make our trips, short and long, as easy and comfortable as can be. My bottomless “Mary Poppins” diaper bag (which only contains two diapers) will be filled with anything we might need: sweet snacks have to come in the chocolate, strawberry and vanilla variety and salty snacks in cheddar and original to satisfy any craving that might come our way; an extra change of clothes in case ours get dirty or worse, wet; a specific water bottle with water at a specific temperature; some favorite toys; some favorite books; and a fully charged phone in case of a public meltdown nothing in the diaper bag will stop but an episode of Tayo the Little Bus.
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If we were having coffee – A blog linkup

Last week, I read a wonderful post titled If We Were Having Coffee. It was written by Suzie81 Speaks, a fantastic blogger. It was nice to feel like I was actually sitting with someone for coffee, and to hear about all the things they had to say. It felt so natural, so friendly. I loved it so much that Suzie, being as lovely as she is, told me about the let’s-have-coffee-together weekend blog linkup, of which Gene’O is the founder and host.

I thought I’d take this wonderful opportunity to pour my heart out, meet some amazing new bloggers, and have some coffee.

So here goes.

If we were having coffee…
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Packing for a trip with a Highly Sensitive Child, and other "unnecessarily complicated" things first-time-parents do

Packing for a trip with a Highly Sensitive Child, and other “unnecessarily complicated” things first-time-parents do

I remember a day, not long ago, when packing up for a trip was something we absolutely dreaded. It was something that could potentially bring on a full blown panic attack on my part. Something that required endless lists to be put together during an entire workweek. Something so physically and mentally exhausting that I needed a week to recover, only to have to repeat the whole process again.

The “trip” I am talking about isn’t some month-long journey halfway around the globe, although it really did seem that way the way we packed. There were no ships or planes or trains or hiking or even hitchhiking involved to get to our destination. It was the short weekend trip we made to go see my parents who lived an hour and half away by car. Continue reading

Why we travel with a sensitive child, by guest blogger Bronwyn Joy

No one ever said traveling with young children was easy. And anyone with a Highly Sensitive Child can tell you that doing anything that requires leaving the house, be it flying to Italy or going to the supermarket for eggs, can be a challenge. We try to do everything in our power to make our trips, short and long, as easy and comfortable as can be. My bottomless “Mary Poppins” diaper bag (which only contains two diapers) will be filled with anything we might need: sweet snacks have to come in the chocolate, strawberry and vanilla variety and salty snacks in cheddar and original to satisfy any craving that might come our way; an extra change of clothes in case ours get dirty or worse, wet; a specific water bottle with water at a specific temperature; some favorite toys; some favorite books; and a fully charged phone in case of a public meltdown nothing in the diaper bag will stop but an episode of Tayo the Little Bus. Continue reading

Being Mean Mommy was never part of my plan

Mealtimes in our house are excruciatingly long. We could be at the table for hours at a time, try out several meals before my kids will accept one each, followed by me repeating the words “eat your food” over seven hundred times before they’ve eaten about a third of it while managing to get the other two thirds anywhere but into their mouths. My baby will magically get food in his diaper while fully dressed.

Proof that a dirty baby is a happy baby mean mommy mealtime long painful meal cleaning up

Proof that a dirty baby is a happy baby

It’s a painful process most of the time, and more than just physically. Before every meal I aim to get them to eat healthy foods, finish up in under an hour, and get them cleaned up and ready to go out and do something fun. And when one fails to reach set objectives at least three times a day, every single day, it can become an emotionally draining exercise. Continue reading

Just last year…

It’s hard to believe that just last year I had no idea what a Highly Sensitive Child was. Sure, I knew my son was sensitive about some things; I assumed he might be shy, an introvert maybe. Sometimes I just thought he was being difficult, defiant, purposefully trying to test me and push me to my limits. I was told time and time again that he was a “difficult” child, and although it drove me crazy, I eventually started to believe it. Continue reading

Pushing a Highly Sensitive Child

The last two weeks have been quite eventful, to say the least, jam-packed with incredible and surprising achievements by both our kids: milestones reached, habits changed, risks taken, fears overcome. What’s funny is that it seems that the last two weeks have been eventful for many mothers of Highly Sensitive Children. I have read a great number of stories from moms whose kids have done amazing things; things that point in the direction of positive change; things that have left these moms relieved, happy, and proud.

I don’t know what it is that resulted in so many people witnessing such great stuff in the short span of two weeks. Was it the stars? Was it the moon? Was it something we all read that resulted in some drastic change in the way we do things that led to this? I honestly can’t say. But I can point out one event that took place two weeks ago that, I believe, started this snowball rolling. Continue reading