Everyone needs fresh air and sunshine, especially your little ones. Sunlight provides vitamin D which helps build strong bones. It helps with immune health. For grown-ups, it also helps regulate hormones that improve your mood and mental health. Fresh air has more oxygen, and that helps our bodies in countless ways. Most importantly, it cleans and strengthens lungs, which is especially important in young children.
While there is nothing wrong with moderate and engaging screen time, too much of it is one of the largest contributors to childhood obesity. Your kids have energy to burn, and getting rid of it through “gross-motor” or “big-body” play not only helps their bodies grow and skills develop, it also helps with their anxieties, anger, and feelings of frustration.
Unfortunately, unless you have a play structure in your backyard, this means keeping kids safe and engaged outside is up to you as parents. Luckily, we’ve compiled a long list of ideas!
This is a game we play on the playground. The grown-up (or one of the kids if they think it’s fun and won’t take it too far) pretends to be a monster. The children then chase the monster.
In general, the structure of tag is a little too much for toddlers and young preschoolers. The best way to do it is to reverse the rules. The person who is “it” runs from the group. After a few laps, the adult changes who is “it” by saying, “Now go get Jacob/Sophia!” The tagging itself doesn’t matter, and this discourages over-eager grabbing and tackling.
Get out the balls and let the kids lead! With little ones, the rules and structure of the game might be too difficult, still, we’ve seen kids pick-up pinecones, crouch and say “down hike!” then take-off at a full sprint. If your family has a favorite sport, supply the equipment and let your little ones play make-believe. Their imaginations and bodies will get going, even if their skill and understanding of the game gives you a good laugh. The next blog post from us will have even more ideas on how to adapt various sports for young children, so stay tuned!
Once the kids get tired and you’re still not ready to leave the beautiful cool sunshine of spring, there are other ways to keep your kids engaged outdoors:
Many of you likely live near a wooded area or large field, and even if you don’t there are likely landscaped plants in your development. EXPLORE! Teach your kids vocabulary, build their appreciation for nature, and show them how to be gentle and respectful of other living things. See what fascinates them, and talk with them about everything that catches their interest.
Go on a Bug Hunt!
Make sure your kids know not to touch any bugs without your permission, but let them poke and pick up, and practice being gentle with as many as they can. If you have older children, bring a disposable food container with holes poked in the lid and let them build a terrarium with help from the whole family.
Here is a video from Ms. Bri to show you what you might find: https://1drv.ms/v/s!Au1qGVIN31C0gYpi5OkixyB1L0bwuQ
Look for Critters!
Count how many squirrels you see. Let the kids watch them jump across the branches. Look for the birds you hear. Watch the deer run. Talk about what the animals eat, where they live, why they are brown or brightly colored.
Collect as many different kinds of leaves as you can. Find the trees the leaves fell from. Look at the colors and shapes. When you get home, unless you already have the knowledge, go to https://www.arborday.org/trees/whattree/whatTree.cfm?ItemID=E6A to find out what the names of the trees are.
While your exploring you can also inspect berries, collect sticks and cool rocks, dig in the dirt a little. Talk about the structure of plants, and how plants eat sunshine and drink water with their roots.
Who said going outside means running around and exploring? Almost everything you do with your child inside can be moved outdoors. Here’s a list of some ideas.
- Messy art projects- let mother nature clean up (assuming your materials are all-natural)
- build an outdoor fort
- use shovels to explore the yard
- make a track in the dirt for toy cars and trucks to be pushed (bonus points if you can incorporate a hill)
- puddles- who doesn’t love a good puddle?
- mud pies- they are messy, but they are fun, and the hose is right there
- gardening- plant seeds and check on them every other day to talk about how the plants are growing
- reading books
- set up that tent that’s been in your garage for ages and let them use it as a playhouse
- water play- fill up a large storage container and get some plastic cups and bowls
There are several more ideas linked below!
Getting outside for fresh air and sunshine is extremely important. Try to spend at least an hour, weather-pending, enjoying the outdoors, everyday.
Ms. Ashley and Ms. Bri