Last spring when I attended the annual Children & Nature Network conference in Vancouver, B.C., I met Linda McGurk, a Swedish-born, Indiana-living freelance journalist and mother of two girls who writes the blog Rain or Shine Mamma. We had been connected on social media for some time before then, and I always appreciate getting to meet people in real life:
She was in a poster session sharing her views on the differences between how parents and teachers in the US and those in Scandinavia provide opportunities for children to play and learn outside. She grew up in Sweden, and when she became a parent in the United States, the freedoms of her childhood spent outside were not the same as where she was now raising her daughters.
I’m about half-way through her new book – released today – based on her experiences here and having moved to Sweden with her daughters for a period of time. So far There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather is balanced mixture of narrative regarding her experiences as a parent (observing her own and other kids at play in communities and at school) and a great overview of relevant research and commentary on the ever-growing movement to reconnect children to nature. And just as Linda encourages parents and teachers to let kids play not just when it is dry out, her style of writing is anything but dry – it’s sharp, humorous, and full of insight.
Linda Åkeson McGurk, There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom’s Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids (from Friluftsliv to Hygge) (New York: Touchstone, 2017), 304 pp.
Publisher’s description Bringing Up Bébé meets Last Child in the Woods in this lively, insightful memoir about a mother who sets out to discover if the nature-centric parenting philosophy of her native Scandinavia holds the key to healthier, happier lives for her American children. When Swedish-born Linda McGurk moved to small-town Indiana with her American husband to start a family, she quickly realized that her outdoorsy ways were not the norm. In Sweden children play outside all year round, regardless of the weather, and letting young babies nap outside in freezing temperatures is not only common—it is a practice recommended by physicians. In the US, on the other hand, she found that the playgrounds, which she had expected to find teeming with children, were mostly deserted. In preschool, children were getting drilled to learn academic skills, while their Scandinavian counterparts were climbing trees, catching frogs, and learning how to compost. Worse, she realized that giving her daughters the same freedom to play outside that she had enjoyed as a child in Sweden could quickly lead to a visit by Child Protective Services. The brewing culture clash finally came to a head when McGurk was fined for letting her children play in a local creek, setting off an online firestorm when she expressed her anger and confusion on her blog. The rules and parenting philosophies of her native country and her adopted homeland were worlds apart. Struggling to fit in and to decide what was best for her children, McGurk turned to her own childhood for answers. Could the Scandinavian philosophy of “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes” be the key to better lives for her American children? And how would her children’s relationships with nature change by introducing them to Scandinavian concepts like friluftsliv (“open-air living”) and hygge (the coziness and the simple pleasures of home)? McGurk embarked on a six-month-long journey to Sweden to find out. There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather is a fascinating personal narrative that highlights the importance of spending time outdoors, and illustrates how the Scandinavian culture could hold the key to raising healthier, resilient, and confident children in America.
I have a history project deadline coming up, and look forward to getting back to Linda’s book after that (and so many others I wish to read!). Until then, here are some reviews to look over, and a cool GIVEAWAY on my Facebook page Children at Nature Play (US & Canada only)!