You may have noticed that Kolcraft is “a twitter” over the Hike & Seek event that is coming up in October. As we have partnered with the National Wildlife Federation, we have gotten to know Meri-Margaret Deoudes, Senior Director of Corporate Relations & Special Events. She is passionate about being a mom and raising her son to love nature. We had to share her story with our Kolcraft fans.
Where did you receive your love for nature & being outdoors?
From my parents. Neither are traditional conservationists, but both encouraged us to go outside and play. My dad is a real beach person and taught me to appreciate the magic of the ocean. My mom is a master gardener and we had vegetable gardens (and sometimes fruit) everywhere we lived. I went to sleep away camp on Lake George in Upstate New York and we spent most of the days and nights outside. I have always found the water and nature to be relaxing and rejuvenating.
How did you become involved with NWF?
Like many pregnant moms, I began to look at the decisions I was making to welcome the new baby. Although I am a runner, I switched to walking during pregnancy and really enjoyed my time outdoors. Like many moms, once I had my son, John Robert, my priorities changed. About the same time, I started looking for my next professional challenge. NWF had a position open that combined many of my professional interests, but most importantly addressed my personal interests in conserving beautiful places and creatures for the next generation, including John Robert.
Would you say your mission at NWF inspires your parenting? How?
Yes, definitely. NWF’s mission is to protect wildlife for our children’s future. A large part of that work is our new Be Out There movement which aims to re-connect children and families to nature. Central to this program is 60 minutes of green time, or unstructured outdoor play, per day. Studies prove that this type of activity nurtures a child’s body, mind and spirit. As a parent of a young child and employee of NWF, I am conscious of these studies, but also see the positive impact on my own son.
What are the biggest challenges to getting our children back outside & in love with nature?
There are so many challenges these days. First there is the fun and allure of electronic entertainment – TV, DVDs, i-Phones, i-Pads, Wii, etc. Kids are actually spending close to 7 hours a day with electronic media and only 4-7 minutes outside in unstructured play. The hours they are inside is comparable to the endless hours we would spend outside when were kids riding our bikes, building forts, playing hide & seek/kick-the-can, etc. until dark.
As parents, we are busier than ever. Many more households have single parents or parents that both work outside the home. The demands on our time are enormous and sometimes it is easier for us to entertain our kids inside while we are busy with other tasks.
Finally, many parents worry that our neighborhoods aren’t safe and are worried that children may be at risk if they play outside. To help overcome these obstacles, we all need to take responsibility for playing outside with our children and/or creating neighborhood networks to create safe environments for outdoor play.
What would be your advice to parents who want their children outside more, but aren’t sure where to start?
Don’t make it too complicated and try to let go. Getting outside doesn’t have to be a planned weekend or even a weekend activity. It also doesn’t have to be an excursion. Just a few minutes at a time can make a big difference. Try to work it into your schedule, go for a walk or bike ride after dinner, stop at a park on the way home from Saturday morning errands, point out the birds and flowers in your yard.
It is difficult for me, too, but we need to let our kids be kids. If they want to dig in the dirt, chase fireflies, gather sticks and rocks, we need to let them explore and get dirty. In this day and age, there is a soap, a wipe, hand sanitizer and a laundry detergent that will ensure they are squeaky clean again.
NWF has some great events and resources to help parents get started. We are launching Hike & Seek, a cross between a hike and scavenger hunt in nature, starting October 2nd. As part of our Be Out There movement to re-connect families with the outdoors we have ideas for outdoor activities and our Nature Find program can help find nature in your neighborhood.
Now for a quick glance into Meri-Margaret’s life.
What’s the one thing that never gets checked off your “to do” list? Since I became a mom, there are a lot more things that don’t get checked-off, but I have learned it is a trade-off. If certain things (like filing) don’t get done, I have more time to spend with my family.
If you had a “free day” with no commitments or obligations, what would you do with it?
I would pack the car and my family for a ‘venture and probably end up at the beach or on the lake. During the winter, I love to hang out at home, cooking/entertaining and watching football.
What is your favorite time of day? Seeing my son first thing in the morning and after school/work.
What’s your favorite “no-fuss” meal that you fall back on when things are really hectic? That’s an easy one- PASTA. I am half Italian and pasta is simple, healthy and there are so many variations.