There are multitude of reasons why it’s beneficial for your child to spend time outside. Apart from exercise and fresh air, being outside often allows children to engage in a type of play that allows them to test their own capabilities.
Being in nature can help build confidence, promote an active imagination, and provide an opportunity for your kids to actively engage with a variety of stimuli different from their day-to-day experiences.
Studies have also shown that time spent outside drastically reduces stress levels in both adults and children. As we don’t have as many distractions for our brains to filter out, time spent in nature allows our attention to focus naturally, reducing stress, fatigue, and anxiety.
Here are some simple outdoor activities for you and your child:
1. Jump in puddles
Don’t worry about the mud. Jumping in puddles can provide hours of fun for your child, small or large, and provide a reason to get them out the door and outside playing.
2. Set up a tent in the backyard
Fill the tent with a few of your child’s favourite things- a stuffed animal, books, and a snack. You may be surprised at how much fun simply relocating some of their favourite activities to an outdoor space can be.
3. Pick flowers and make a bouquet
You don’t even need flowers to make a beautiful bouquet! Encourage your child to gather leaves, branches, and other beautiful things they find outside. You can use put them in a vase and use them as a centrepiece for your kitchen or dining room table.
4. Give your child a camera to take photos of nature
Not only will they get a chance to express their artistic side, taking photos of nature will give an opportunity for your child to pay closer attention to the world and details around them.
5. Rake a pile of leaves for your child to jump in
Like jumping in puddles, jumping in leaves can result in hours of active play, getting out any pent up energy.
6. Collect items for your next craft activity
Twigs, flowers, rocks, leaves, even grass can all provide great materials for a familiar craft or activity. Not only will it provide an opportunity for your child to engage in nature, but they’ll also get to test their creative abilities.
7. Make time for a walk around the park or neighbourhood daily
The wonderful thing about making this a daily ritual is that it will provide an opportunity for your child to see the change that happens in the world around them. From rainy and sunny days, to the changing of seasons, these walks are a great time to spend time outdoors, as well as time with the family.
8. Sing songs about nature
Creating emotional connections through song is powerful. Get your kids engaged with the outdoors by singing marching songs along your daily walk or hike!
9. Play in the dirt or sand with spoons and bowls
This activity is incredibly simple and can be especially fun for smaller children- no buckets or shovels needed unless you already have them lying around!
A fun twist is to fill one of the bowls with water and allow your child to make their own concoctions out of water, sand, grass, and anything else they might find lying around in their immediate vicinity.
10. Get a magnifying glass for your child
This is a great alternative to the Spoons and Bowls activity above, particularly if you are looking to still engage your child with the outdoors but need a break from cleaning up the mess.
11. Make a map of your local park or backyard
Older children can learn a lot of things from this fun activity that causes them to think about their surroundings on a larger scale.
Maps can be as intricate or as simple as is appropriate for your child’s age!
12. Build a fort outside with old blankets and cardboard boxes
Building the fort should be just as fun as playing in it. Use any household items that you can find, and that you don’t mind getting dirty, to throw in the mix!
13. Look for shapes in the clouds
This classic activity is perfect for those who don’t have much access to large green spaces. Sitting and looking at the clouds can be easily done from your porch or rooftop as well as your backyard.
Older children can even learn about the different types of clouds and what those mean about the weather and world around them.
14. Prepare an outdoor picnic
Pack up some sandwiches and enjoy them in the park!
15. Treasure hunts
These definitely require more preparation and time, but can make incredible lasting memories and cause your child to look closely at familiar, everyday objects like rocks or trees.
16. Going out in the rain
Don’t let inclement weather keep your kids from going outside. There’s a lot to learn about being outside during rainy, cold days, and as long as your child is appropriately dressed, studies have shown that there’s no danger of ‘catching’ a cold outside during cold weather.
17. Read books about the outdoors – or take books outside!
Books are always a great way to emotionally engage with or introduce a new topic to your child.
From books about animals to books that take place in a natural setting, there are a million ways to introduce your child to a love of the outdoors through a book. Or just make a ‘nest’ for them with their favourite book outside!
18. Identify things in nature (birds, animals, and plants)
Learning the names of animals, as well as interesting facts about them, is a particularly great way to give a gentle nudge to children who would prefer to stay inside with their nose in a book.
For example, did you know that pigeons can do math or that frogs can totally freeze in the winter and come back alive in the summer?
Questions like these can be the first step in encourage your kid to learn about differences in various species of birds, frogs, mammals, and other animals that you might see on a day to day basis.
19. Create a nature notebook
Set aside a notebook specifically to log notes from things observed in nature. It could be watching the family of birds in the backyard or taking notes after your weekly hike.
Journals or logs allow us to see the changes over time, so read through your child’s notebook with them at the end of a season and discuss how much everything has changed.
20. Join a park group
There are lots of groups, associations and societies out there that focus on being outdoors and appreciating nature. If you’re finding the task of facilitating outdoor time a bit daunting, or are simply interested in learning more about their programmes, check one out!
21. Pick fruits or veggies at your local farmers market
This is a great way to combine grocery shopping with learning more about our ecosystems and nature. Encourage your kids to ask questions from the local farmers about how the fruits and veggies are grown!
22. Plant a small garden
Whether inside or outside, get your child to assist you (or take the lead) in planting a small garden. Herbs like mint can be especially fun as they grow well and are easy starter plants.
Gardening will teach your child the power of patience and responsibility while encouraging them to connect with nature.
23. Simply BE IN NATURE with no other distractions
This can be the hardest but the most beneficial thing to do to connect your kids to nature and their environment. Simply being in nature makes time for unstructured play, teaching your child their own capacities and ways of engaging.
Leave your agenda and technology at home and simply be in a beautiful space.