Review: There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather by Linda Åkeson McGurk
A Swedish woman who has been living in America for years returns to her homeland with her two young children for 6 months, taking it as an opportunity to reset her parenting methods and consider the importance of the outdoors for children’s learning and health.
Having read Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder and How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature, I was very happy to read a new take on the subject of kids outdoors. Why would I be excited to read more about this topic? Firstly, this book is by a mom, and I feel like this makes a difference. Secondly, it’s a memoir. It’s about her experiences with taking her young children to Sweden to live for 6 months; as a Swedish person who has been living in America for years, she is really the perfect person to report on the differences between the two.
McGurk returned to Sweden to be with her own parents who live in a small town there. She enrolled her young daughters in school there and went about making herself at home in her homeland. (I will go ahead and say that I am one of those people who idealizes Sweden, I admire their environmentalism and their use of government to improve lives.) She documents her interactions with teachers and at birthday parties, in other words the daily interactions that most parents have, and with an emphasis on the Swedish tendency to be outdoors. Birthday parties are outside in the winter. School children go outside in all weather, and they have drying cabinets in the classroom for their wet clothing and boots.
Sidebar: Here was the kicker for me, as a Texan: in Texas, private land may as well be surrounded by laser beams or moats. We do not set foot on other people’s land here. In Sweden, like in England, people may walk across others’ land if they do not disturb it or go near a house, and in Sweden schools will often take children onto private land to explore and to learn. This is the difference between Europe and the US in a nutshell. Anyway, it’s one reason that getting outside in the US can be very difficult, as less than 5% of land in Texas is public land. In other words, over 95% of the land in Texas is off-limits unless you own it or have arranged access to it. This is unlikely to change, but I like imagining a world where you can strike out across the landscape for a nice long walk without worry of being shot. Here is a map of public lands in the United States, taken from this website.
The conclusion of the book is clear: children benefit physically, mentally, and developmentally from being outdoors. McGurk presents research and her own anecdotal observations in a very readable book. It has definitely been on my mind when I’m spending time with my kids, I highly recommend it. Get outside!
Thanks to Netgalley and Simon and Schuster for providing me an electronic copy of this There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather. My opinions are my own.