As a secondary science teacher, one of my top three frustrations was my students' lack of real, physical world experience. Today, I am excited to bring you a guest post by my good friend Summer about getting kids involved in the world outdoors. You will want to check out her blog Outside Kid for some fantastic project ideas.
“Boys, go outside!”
“No, we don’t want to,” my four year old protests. “We want to stay inside and watch a movie.”
“Movies are boring! It’s a beautiful day! Go outside and play!”
“Nah. Can I watch Shaun the Sheep?”
Ever had a conversation like this with your child? I have had more than I’d like to admit. I thought all kids preferred to be outside. What’s wrong with mine, I wondered? Well, as it turns out, nothing! I just haven’t been creating the right atmosphere for young children to enjoy the great outdoors. Recently I decided to commit myself to being an outside mom, so I can have outside kids. It’s important to me to stimulate their little brains, introduce adventures, and encourage creativity.
So, for any mom who has ever pleaded with their little ones to get some Vitamin D, here are 10 simple ideas to encourage your children to spend more time outside.
1. Go outside with them. I know you know this. All little kids want to be in the same place Mommy is. So, if Mom is outside, the children will follow. The housework can wait.
2. Institute a No TV Day. We started doing this a while back and it’s amazing how quickly the kids just accepted it. My oldest will ask me most days, “Mom, is it a No TV Day?” We usually have about one day a week where we keep the television off and the kids are forced to find other activities.
3. Make certain activities outside only, like coloring or eating snacks. This started because we’re in a rental house and my 2 year old got a hold of the crayons and drew on the wall. My husband banished all drawing to the outside. I protested at first, but again, the kids took to it quickly and now if they want to color they just do it outside on their little table. (Obviously this is weather permitting!) Also, they know that most of their snacks they eat outside at their little table, or they roam around in the backyard with a “snack in a bag” which is usually cereal, nuts, dried fruit and a few chocolate chips.
4. Hang your laundry. One of the reasons I’ve often told my children that I can’t go outside to play with them is that my biggest chore for a family of 5 is keeping up with the laundry, and it seems to invariably be something I have to do indoors. A great way to solve this problem—and save a chunk on your electric bill—is to hang your clothes. If this is new for you, start small by just hanging your towels and sheets. You can fold outside, too, which also gives your little ones more time in the fresh air with you.
5. Invest in comfortable outdoor seating. When we go to visit my extended family, we always enjoy breakfast outside on the back patio. Why? Because they have a comfortable patio set and everyone loves to congregate in the backyard. If you don’t have a outdoor set, check out yard sales (a few cans of spray paint can go a long way!) or keep your eyes open for floor model sales toward the end of the summer.
6. Commit to buying only active toys. My mom has said that kids today don’t play with their toys, they watch their toys play. Isn’t that true? So for birthdays or holidays, buy your children active toys like bikes, tents, basketball hoops, and things that will keep them healthy. The trick? Get toys that you will enjoy playing with them.
7. Take up gardening or yardwork. This is a great way to spend more time outside and teach your children about how things grow. Plus, you can save some money on healthy organic fruits and veggies!
8. Schedule outside time in your child’s day, such as right after breakfast or before dinner. If it’s a routine, they’ll quickly accept it and accustom themselves to finding fun things to do.
9. Invite their friends over. My boys will stay outside for hours when their little buddies come over. All of a sudden our little backyard is transformed into an enormous game of show and tell.
10. Ditch the TV. If you want to get reckless, go whole hog and get rid of it. Or, for a milder option, cancel your cable and subscribe to Netflix. This is what we do, and while you can certainly still watch a lot of programs, at least your children aren’t exposed to commercials and other advertisements, and it’s not as easy to just leave it on all day.
Have any other good suggestions? Leave it in the comments section, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Summer is a mama to three great kids ages 4, 2 and 6 months and blogs at www.OutsideKid.com.