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Now, more than ever, it’s important to teach our children at a young age to log off, shutdown and get outside. My children have enough devices and toys to keep them entertained for hours, maybe even days, inside. But, it’s important for their growth, confidence and wellbeing to spend time outdoors. They can see the world, interact with nature, de-stress and do what kids are supposed to do – play. The world is full of great beauty and wonder, so why not let kids discover it?
Some of the best advice I ever received was from my mother (Thanks, Mom). She always told me to get dirt on my hands, dance in the rain, feel the sand between my toes, and to stick my tongue out to catch all those magical snowflakes falling from the sky. Ok, it didn’t always sound so poetic at the time. It was just three simple words she repeated over and over again, that I now echo to my own children, “Go play outside!”
Whether it’s a few minutes a day, a couple hours a week, or several days a month, commit to help your kids learn to love the outdoors. It’s a lifelong gift you can give them.
Here’s some of my favorite ways to help nurture that love of the great outdoors in children.
Park and Picnic
Food and fun go hand-in-hand with a picnic adventure at the park. Get the kids in the kitchen with you to help pack yummy and healthy snacks, pack sunscreen and water, and walk to the park. It doesn’t get much simpler, but simple can often bring the most joy. This can be a planned adventure, or a spontaneous one, which is even better for the non-planners (like me).
Re-engage with Wildlife
My kids love animals, so when I plan any outdoor adventures they are guaranteed to love, it has to involve animals. Some ideas for animal lovers include bird watching, volunteering to walk a neighbors dog, fishing, hiking to discover animal footprints along the path, and creating a bird feeder, so my kids watch nature right outside their window.
Plan an Outdoor Scavenger Hunt
Kids love the thrill of a scavenger hunt. Find a free printable one online, or create your own, and send the kids off on an exploratory adventure. The items can vary based on your location and the season. Some items to gather and look for include, seashells or pinecones, worms or geckos, sand or grass, snowmen or sandcastles. Don’t forget to add landmarks to your list, so it can be an educational venture, too.
Bring Back Old School Sports Fun
Remember the good ‘ole days when kids rode a bike, or walked to a neighbors house to play outside for hours? Bring back the ease of being outside with sports-related activities with friends. It can be on field of grass with a soccer ball, a dirt baseball field with a bat and glove in hand, or on a black top basketball court. Whatever the sport, kids learn about sportsmanship, encouraging their peers, and let’s never underestimate the invaluable lesson of how to win and lose. When my kids play outside with friends, I have to beg them to come back inside for dinner. If you live in a winter wonderland like me right now, sledding, snow fort building and epic snowballs fights top my kid’s favorite outdoor play with friends.
Host a Lemonade Stand
For the young entrepreneurial mind, let them to plan and implement a lemonade stand outside in your neighborhood. Let them put in the work, and see the success (and failures) of a business, and let the great outdoors be their “brick and mortar” location. If it’s winter, make it a hot chocolate stand instead. Not only does it get kids outside, it also sharpens their math and life skills.
Set Up An Outdoor Obstacle Course
My kids love NBC’s American Ninja Warrior show. I know there’s a warrior inside every kid; let his or her inner warrior come out with a DIY obstacle course in the backyard. We love to creative courses with cones, hoola hoops, pool noodles, jump ropes and rope. It’s a challenging and fun year-round activity for everyone!
Plan a Weekend Getaway
My favorite childhood memories are vacations spent with my family. It was uninterrupted time together, without the stress of our day-to-day lives, and most days were spent outside. Whether you get there by plane, train or automobile; it’s doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you get there. It’s invaluable time with your kids, and there’s plenty of outdoor fun to be had. We love to vacation in Florida every spring. It’s become a cherished tradition for our family. We are outside from the minute we wake up, until the moment we go to bed (unless it’s raining hard). We swim in the ocean, walk the beach, build sand castles, swim in the pool, play Frisbee and watch the sunset along the shore. If a beach vacation isn’t feasible, take a drive to a nearby national park. Let the kids explore, and learn about the landscape close to home.
Now, get outside and explore!