When you think back to your childhood, how many of your favorite memories occurred outdoors? How about learning to ride your bike? Running after the ice cream truck? Doing somersaults in the pool? Or playing basketball or tag or capture the flag? Time outside shaped us in so many profound ways, yet today, our children are spending less time outdoors than ever before.
According to The National Wildlife Foundation, the average American child spends as few as 30 minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than 7 hours each day in front of an electronic screen.
Increased technology use is a significant cause of this shift, of course, and we’re pretty sure that screens are here to stay. But the good news is that no one has to give up technology use to enjoy the outdoors - time outside remains a valuable resource for children to be able to develop both their minds and bodies.
If you’re looking for more ways to get your child to spend time outdoors, consider giving the following ideas a try.
Bring back nostalgic games
Think back to your childhood and the games or activities that you enjoyed when you were younger. It’s never too late to bring those back for you and your child to enjoy. Not only will this be a nostalgic experience for you, it will also provide you with a unique way to connect with your child by sharing something with them that comes directly from your childhood years! Remember lawn games, like capture the flag or red rover? Or if you grew up in the city, what about handball or pickup basketball games? Whatever the game, we’re sure your kid will enjoy it - and enjoy learning about you in the process.
One of the benefits to being outdoors is that it can significantly improve a child’s mood and reduce anxiety or stress. Being in contact with the dirt through gardening is one of many ways to enhance mental health while being outdoors. This is also a great way for kids to be able to gain a familiarity with processes like photosynthesis, the role of insects in pollination, and various environmental concerns like conservation and good land stewardship. Not sure where to start? Visit your local garden store and ask for some guidance on the best plants for your space. And remember, you don’t even need your own garden to garden! See if your local park hosts volunteer days, or if your neighbors need help weeding! It’s a great way to teach your kids about the collective benefit of green space, too!
Create your own obstacle course
Whether you have your own backyard space or a local park that is available to you, you can always make the most of the space by creating your own playground area for your child to enjoy. One idea that can allow you to really get creative is to set up your own obstacle course. You can do this by simply using some of the toys and materials you keep in your home and bring them outdoors. Not only that, but an obstacle course can always be changed, making each round incredibly exciting!
The outdoors is such a wonderful resource that so many of us have the ability to make the most of. Adding some time to your schedule to prioritize a bit of outdoor play can make a huge difference, allowing you and your child to reap its wonderful benefits.