We all know how much better we feel after being outdoors. Getting a good dose of daily fresh air is essential to our wellbeing. It improves sleep, enables us to better deal with stress and generally just helps us feel happier and more balanced.
Far too many children are cooped up indoors, glued to the TV or playing on computer games, hardly ever getting out in nature and being allowed to play freely. My two boys love being outside and this school holidays we have practically lived in the park or woods, exploring, making dens, concocting mud potions, scouting for caterpillars and enjoying picnics with friends in the sunshine. There is nothing better than seeing them engaged in such simple, good old fashioned fun and best of all it doesn’t cost a penny.
According to Johnson, Christie and Wardle from their book ‘Play, Development and Early Education’ “Children who learn to enjoy the outdoors have a much higher likelihood of becoming adults who enjoy hiking, gardening, jogging, bicycling, mountain climbing, or other outdoor endeavors. This is critical as obesity becomes an ever-greater national concern and as we must all learn to care for and protect the environment.”
Allowing children to be children
Using open space to fulfil basic childhood needs – jumping, running, climbing, swinging, racing, yelling, rolling, hiding, and making a big mess – is what childhood is all about. For a variety of obvious reasons many of these things cannot occur indoors. Yet children must have these important experiences. Today children’s lives are more and more contained and controlled by small apartments; high-stakes academic instruction; schedules; tense, tired, and overworked parents; and by fewer opportunities to be children. Outdoor environments fulfil children’s basic needs for freedom, adventure, experimentation, risk-taking, and just being children (Greenman, 1993).
Children need the opportunity to explore the unknown, the unpredictable, and the adventurous. They also need to be able to wonder at nature, from the worm gliding through the newly turned dirt in the garden to the monarch butterfly emerging out of the chrysalis and gracefully fluttering away in the summer breeze.
Here’s our top ten fun-filled things to do outdoors with the kids
- Colour the patio with chalk – draw huge flowers and bugs or whatever you fancy.
- Go on a bug hunt with magnifying glasses and clear jars.
- Go scavenging for ‘nature’ treasure and make a nature collage with your loot.
- Invite friends round and host a mini Olympics in your garden or local park.
- Find a stream and make stepping stones.
- Make mud pies using recycled containers.
- Have a teddy bears picnic.
- Make a den in the woods with old sheets and rope and have lunch there.
- Get some old wire coat hangers and make bubble wands. Dip them in to bubble mixture and enjoy the different shapes and sizes of bubbles floating around you.
- Make your own kites complete with personalised drawings/art-work and watch with pride as they fly in the air.