Toddlers napping outside in winter, for their health, and children spending more time each day in nature is the basis for a local author’s new book, out Oct. 3.
Author Linda Akeson McGurk, a native of Sweden and resident of Covington, will talk about her new book, “There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather,” at the Covington Library, Oct. 5, at 5 p.m.
The book is a nonfiction account of a Scandinavian raising kids in America, while trying to instill in them a love for nature and outdoor play, in a sedentary society.
“I feel nature is an important part of a good childhood,” McGurk said in an interview. “I hope I can inspire people to get out there.”
Her experience, growing up in Scandinavian culture, was that people there felt inspired to make outdoor play and connecting with nature a priority, in their lives and their children’s lives, she said.
“In Scandinavia, little toddlers and preschoolers spend hours outside every day,” she said. “Everything about that was just so different here, where outdoor play didn’t seem to be valued as much.
She said she did as much as possible to compensate at home, but it was difficult.
Her outdoor winter walks, towing along two children in a stroller and two dogs, were abnormal by Indiana standards, and drew well-meaning attention from passersby.
“People thought it was pretty odd that I was out walking with my young children, especially in the middle of winter,” she said. “I got a lot of comments and shout outs, just shouting friendly comments, it was clear that I was an odd ball.
“I’ve had people take my picture when I was walking through town, with my two black labs and my two kids in the stroller, and one of those platforms.”
And trips to the playground weren’t much better with her children, who are now six and nine.
“We were often the only ones out there, especially in the winter,” she said. “I’ve been to so many deserted playgrounds.”
When her father developed colon cancer, McGurk spent six months back in Sweden to see for herself if childhood there remained the same as she knew it.
The eight-month process of writing the book, she said, happened mostly in Sweden, though she wrote the final chapter when she came back to Indiana.
While in Sweden, she was able to take her oldest daughter to northern Sweden, where her grandparents and parents took her as a small child. That area is about 160 miles north of the Arctic circle, a very desolate, mountainous area.
“There’s not a lot of people up there, just reindeer, more reindeer than people,” she said.
The vast majority of Sweden, in the south, is farmland and woods, mostly pine trees.
McGurk said she came up with the idea with her oldest daughter was born, when she noticed American parenting culture differed greatly from Scandinavian tradition.
Her children napped outside in winter, while American moms thought they needed to wait for spring to venture out with their babies.
“I wanted to raise my kids the way I was raised,” she said. “I wanted them to have the same childhood experience, I just found it difficult to do here.”
McGurk’s book is available, for signing, at the book talk, and on Amazon. It is published by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. The book is available for purchase.