Q&A: Do I have to go outside?

If you watched "Persuasion" last night on PBS, check out the piece I wrote for the PBS.org blog.

Christiana writes:

"I am 33 weeks pregnant with my first child and have been reading books/websites on pregnancy, breastfeeding, and child-rearing for awhile. I love Ask Moxie and am hoping you can help with my current question that I haven't yet seen in any of my books.

I'm not an outdoorsy person. At all. Never really have been, though I remember spending the normal school-time amounts of time outside, going to parks, etc. as a child. But I was always of the opinion that if I could have the choice of indoor or outdoor activities, I would always choose indoor. (Part of this may be attributed to my extremely fair skin that would burn easily and I have always lived in FL so sun and heat have always been a big part of the weather here, but part of it was just my personality. I don't like heat, to sweat, to get dirty, etc.)

But I know it's healthy for kids to spend time outside and not cooped up indoors 24/7. So what do I do about exposing my child to the great outdoors while not driving myself insane? I'm obviously capable of slathering on my own sunscreen at this point in my life, so I'm not quite as worried about getting my own self sunburned (and I know there are plenty of parks and the like that have a ton of shade to keep the sun away from the children). Am I one of the few mothers that deal with this issue, or are there plenty of others who can't really bear the thought of spending tons of time outside with the bugs, the dirt, the heat and the like?"

I am fair-skinned and light-eyed and burn easily, so I hear you on the sun aversion thing. And I'm not crazy about bugs and sweat, either.

The good news about little kids, though, is that for a long time they don't really care where they are, as long as they're with you. And then by the time they're old enough to care, they're taking naps during the hottest time of the day. So you can be outside playing in the morning, but then by 10 or 11 you have to go inside so you can have lunch and then have naptime. And by the time naptime is over the worst sun of the day is over.

If you do have to spend time outside in the sun and heat, your own problems with it will probably help you know how to pace your child. Both of my own kids would just play and play outside until they keeled over from heatstroke, so I think my built-in annoyance with too much sun was good for them. They learned pretty quickly that after awhile out in the sun at the playground we'd go inside to have an ice cream, and I've never had more than a slight pinkness on either one of them. You'll be happy to be so aware because it'll help you avoid problems.

Every locale has areas that parents and kids congregate in to beat the heat, whether it's the public library, a chain bookstore, an indoor farmer's market, big box retailers, museums, the mall, or any other big building. If you can learn to balance time in these big spaces with outdoor time at non-peak hours, your kids will be happy as clams and never notice that they're not spending eight hours at the playground.

People in hot climates: What do you do to beat the heat, since you can't stay in your houses 24/7?

People in cold climates: What do you do when it's cold, so you don't end up with cabin fever?

(One of my favorite indoor places in NYC is Chelsea Market, between 15th and 16th Streets and 9th and 10th Aves. It's just a big long food court, but there are plenty of nooks and crannies for kids to play in, an amazing ice cream place, and enough other food that you could spend the entire day there eating.

Another one of my favorites is the Natural History Museum, because it's just so cavernous, and kids love all the dioramas and the dinosaur bones.)