Summer is here and families are looking for healthy ways to play outdoors with their children. There are so many benefits to being outside! Children play harder outdoors than indoors. Especially without the structure of preschool, school or after school activities, children especially need opportunities to move. More outdoor time is linked with improved motor development and lower obesity rates.
Playing outside also promotes more curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking. Studies have found that children who spent more time in nature exploration had improved learning outcomes.
Research has found that when children spent time in natural settings, they had less anger and aggression. Impulse control also improves. This might be especially important when normal routines have changed for children.
With the uncertainty of the pandemic, what can you actually do outside with your children, while staying at a safe distance? It’s time to talk about nature exploration!
There are many ways that you and your children can get a physical and emotional boost from being outdoors, while still practicing social distancing. Exploring outside can happen in your yard, in the garden, or even virtually.
Bringing out baby
Even infants and toddlers can play and learn in nature. If you will be in public areas like a park, it may be safest to keep them in a carrier or a stroller. If they are in your own private space, it’s fine to have them explore even more.
Nature sculptures can be built with twigs, leaves, cones, rocks and more by sticking the collected items into a play dough base. Notice what kind of patterns are created by different items. Or, let your child play in mud with old pots, pans, utensils, and household tools to develop senses and motor skills.
Bike or walk with the family while keeping your distance from others. If you have a child bicycle trailer or stroller, get some exercise while enjoying the outdoors with your baby. Describe what you see along the way to your baby or preschooler. Use a lot of details to help them learn new words.
Take story time outside. Grab a blanket, some books and find a shady spot to read with your child outdoors. Pick books that talk about nature and help your child make connections.
Challenge older children & teens
Hold a nature scavenger hunt or start a nature collection. Hunt for plants, trees, animals, and birds. Collect rocks, acorns, leaves or pinecones. See how many items children can find on a list, or gather objects to add to a collection.
Leave a trail. Organize with parents of your children’s friends to send kids on “secret spy missions.” One family goes on a walk with sidewalk chalk, drawing arrows and letters along the way to spell out a secret message. The other family must then follow the arrows along the way to record the letters in the message.
Have a ball. Kicking a soccer ball or playing catch together can be fine if you are apart from each other and avoid sharing sports equipment with others outside your household.