March 15, 2019 — By Wendy Sachs
We are all ready for spring and looking forward to getting outside after a long winter. Being outdoors is so important for everyone but especially for children. Studies show that the outdoors provides stress relief, allows them to see the world from a new perspective and fosters muscle strength and coordination. Children are better able to take physical risks outdoors and there is a theory that the pent up energy that children build up is released when they run, climb and jump outdoors.
Here are some ways we can encourage play outdoors.
Everyone loves music! Bring some music outside! Grab an inexpensive set of wireless speakers and play music outdoors while kids run, jump and dance to music. Play different tempos and types of music and observe the different ways that the children move to the different sounds.
Fun with boxes. Bring outside a bunch of boxes and let kids climb through and build with them. Kids love moving around large items that don’t weigh very much. It’s a great way to build confidence, imagination and large muscles.
Paint with water. Don’t forget the power of painting with water! Stick a few large paintbrushes and a bottle of water in the bottom of your stroller. When you are at the park, find a wall or fence and let kids paint with water. This builds up upper torso muscles and also teaches about evaporation and light and dark.
Egg cartons have a second and third life. Grab an old egg carton and ink the bottom of each cup with different colors. Then go on a nature walk to find one item of each color to put in the carton. Try this with older kids with different textures or weights. Kids love collections so this activity can be changed up so many ways!
A different kind of walk! Go on a whisper walk. Explain to kids that we are going to only whisper while taking a walk today. Make a mental list as you go along of noises you can identify and ask kids after the walk what sounds they heard.
Ranger Rick. Ranger Rick is the National Wildlife Federation’s ambassador and it’s a great resource. They have a wonderful and colorful magazine and a website with many resources about the wildlife in your region. Check it out at rangerrick.org
A different kind of building gardens. Try building a fairy garden. This is another activity that can be done with kids of all ages. Younger kids may just be able to help dig dirt and add stones, older kids can design and decorate. It can also be done indoors in a small container if you are in the city without access to a yard. The great thing about building a fairy garden is that it is a project that can grow and change as your kids do. If your kids are not entranced by fairies- try building a dinosaur garden instead.
Park Bingo. Build a game of park bingo. Spend a few minutes listing out all the parks you can find in your area or even a bit beyond. Post the list on the wall and maybe use a map. As you plan your excursion or when you return, have kids put up a sticker each time you can get to visit a different park! A great way to let kids visit different neighborhoods and play spaces.