Getting your kids outdoors for a little activity and fresh air has huge benefits for you and your child. In nature, kids and families get a chance to move at life’s natural pace, where time disappears, no one is bored, and exploration turns into fun adventure.
Studies show kids who get outdoors for play…
- Sleep better.
- Have a better appetite.
- Have higher self-esteem.
- Have good self-discipline.
- Feel more capable and confident.
- Are good problem-solvers.
- Are more cooperative with others.
- Are more creative.
- Are healthier physically and mentally.
- Do better in school.
Keeping kids active helps keep them healthy. The easiest way to ensure your child has an active life is for you to introduce them to the activities.
In nature, kids see, hear, smell and touch things all at the same time, letting them observe, ask questions and figure things out. The richness of the outdoors is far more stimulating—and gets the mind working more—than just watching television or playing electronic games. There is a place for those activities, but they are no substitute for what nature can bring to kids’ development.
Watch the joy as your little one explores the texture of leaves and the feel of grass on their toes; the fascination of collecting rocks, leaves, and sticks. See the exhilaration as you “race” your child from this tree to that one.
Even your infant enjoys being outdoors. Take her on a walk, or spread a blanket out in the shade with a few toys and give her time to play, to study the different sights and sounds.
The takeaway for parents?
Getting outdoors can help reduce your stress and anxiety. Even when you don’t feel like you have the energy, fresh air and a simple walk give you get up and go. Physical activity is a great defense against the baby blues.
Toddlers have lots of energy to burn. When they have a chance to get outdoors and be active, they can better manage their own behavior. Once they use up some of that energy, they tend to flow better with the rest of the daily routine.
Color Hunt Safari
Take your toddler or pre-schooler on a walk around the yard or neighborhood. Tell her you’re going on a Color Safari and you’re in search of something yellow! If she’s still learning colors, you might bring out scraps of paper in different colors and challenge her to find something “yellow” that “matches this.” The piece of paper or clue could be a scrap of construction paper or a page from a magazine. You might create a color chart on a piece of paper by coloring circles in five different colors your child might find outside.
If she has trouble finding something that matches, provide some additional clues. As a reward you might snap her picture with the items she found, or place a star next to each color she finds on her color chart.
Painting with Water
What could be more fun for a toddler than painting? And what could be better than painting with no clean up for mom and dad? Give your child a painting tray of water along with a paintbrush and roller. Show her how to paint the deck or the sidewalk. If you don’t have a paint brush or roller handy, a household sponge, old make-up brush, or even a wadded up paper towel can be used with just a small pot of water.
Fill a dishpan, pot or bucket with water. Maybe squirt in a little dish soap for bubbles if your child won’t try to drink the water. Encourage your child to find things in the yard that might float. Do rocks float? What about leaves? Flowers? When that gets boring, simply let them play and splash in the water. Provide them with a couple of plastic cups so they can pour water back and forth between the two.
Wash and Dry!
Give your toddler a small pail or bowl of water along with a sponge. Show them how to “clean” their rides – tricycles, cars or big wheels. When things are sufficiently soapy, turn the hose on and rinse it down. Follow up with a towel and let them wipe it dry. Kids love “grown-up activities” and this one will help keep them busy outdoors while helping them practice their motor skills.
Always keep an eye on children around water. Kids can drown in just an inch of water. A happy, active child is a wonderful trade-off for wet clothes that you can change!
Testing Out Textures
Walk your baby around the yard letting her see new and different things. Tell her what she’s looking at – “See the pretty flower.” Encourage her to touch things in nature – “Feel the rough bark on the tree?” Tickle her check with the petals of a flower – “Feel the soft flower?” She’ll like the change of scenery, and the attention.