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Experts say that children should spend as much as 3 hours a day outside. Meanwhile, most children are actually getting an average of 5-10 minutes a day playing outside. The health benefits of outdoor play are numerous, from better eyesight to decreased stress. Certain studies report that an hour of play outside each day is just as effective for severe ADHD as medication (and it’s side-effect free!)
Related Post: Rainy Day Fun
There are plenty of reasons that kids spend more time indoors now. Sometimes, it’s simply the appeal of video games and computers that keeps them inside. Other times, it’s our own anxiety as parents over things like traffic and pests. It’s true that it’s important to take some safety measures when your child is playing outdoors, from UV protection to talks about stranger danger. However, the payoff is easily worth it.
Children who play outside are more likely to have improved social and problem-solving skills, better balance and spatial intelligence, and better immunity and overall health. Getting natural light leads to better sleep and a healthy supply of Vitamin D. So, what are you waiting for? Get your kids outside!
Here are a few ideas to make it happen:
Craft Tables on the Porch
Do you have a porch, or a deck? If so, you probably usually look at it as something that’s useful for entertaining, or for family meals outside. However, how often do you use it as a play space for your children? A porch is the perfect transition place for activities that could otherwise be indoors. It can especially be a prime spot for potentially messy crafts.
So, maybe it’s time to introduce your children to finger paints, watercolors, or even papier-mache. If they’re a bit older, consider trying out macrame, beading, or toll painting. Introduce a big project, like life-size self-portraits or perhaps a huge treasure map of the backyard. And next time you’re ready for a small upgrade on your home, spruce up the porch to make it a place that both you and your children will love to be.
Children’s Garden Space
Your yard is populated with decorative plants that are meant to be appealing to adults and easy to take care of. However, most of these plants are probably uninteresting to your children. But what if you involved your children in a little bit of gardening themselves? Try out planting some easy-to-maintain vegetables, like runner beans or cherry tomatoes that will be fun for your children to munch. Plant some interesting flowers like snapdragons, or giant sunflowers that grow so fast you can chart their progress from one day to another. Sprinkle some seeds for wildflowers that your children will enjoy collecting in the summer.
Speaking of getting down into the dirt, when is the last time that your children really sunk their hands down in the dirt? When’s the last time when YOU did? Sometimes our aversion to dirt is completely out of proportion with how convenient it is to clean up afterwards. Children should get dirty! That’s what we have mud rooms for. So, if you have a patch of your yard that’s mostly just dirt, dig some pits and fill them up with water. Let the kids have fun, and get ready to scrub them off later in the bathtub.
If your yard is full of more lawn than mud, then you can still have fun with the hose. This link has some great ideas for water games the kids will enjoy.
Easy Lawn Games
If your children are naturally inclined to certain sports, like soccer or basketball, it’s probably easier to get them outside. And of course, this can be a lifelong love that will pay off in many ways.
However, if your children are young for sports, or just not inclined towards competitive games, then maybe you should try out some lower-impact lawn games. These are usually easy to set up, and can be played with two or even one person. Consider making space for games like badminton, horseshoes, even bocci ball. Check out interesting lawn games like King’s Kub, or cornhole. Not only will they provide hours of entertainment and activity if your kids take a shine to them, but you might even find that you yourself like to have them around.