Skinned Knees and Grass-Stained Tees: Encouraging Outdoor Play in Your Children
by Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S
Summer is a time that many kids embrace – the school doors fly open in a mass exodus of excitement as children race into the open arms of freedom. But summer – in the modern era – is different than it once was.
Back in our day, we walked uphill both ways to play outdoors, we rode our bikes through fields, we climbed trees on double dares. Today’s children spend much less time outside, something that many child professionals worry is detrimental to their health.
Physically, staying indoors sets kids up for obesity and all the health problems that follow. But mentally, shunning the sidewalk for the sofa can be a negative influence as well.
Why? Because nature nurtures children – it helps them regulate and keeps them centered. Of course, this isn’t only when school’s out of session: a pilot program in certain parts of the country is finding that tripling recess leaves kids less distracted, more engaged, and likelier to excel.
So, as the season turns and summer approaches, it’s a good time to remind ourselves that children need to run, to climb, to play outside. What are some ways you can encourage this? They include:
Assign outdoor chores: Assigning chores to children is a great trick to instill a sense of responsibility and an appreciation for the hard-earned dollar. It can also be an excellent way to get your children outside: task them to pull weeds, sweep the porch, or mow the lawn (if they’re old enough).
Fingerpaint the driveway: Sure, asking your preteen if they’re up for fingerpainting will probably be met with a hard “no.” Younger kids, on the other hand, often find these types of projects enjoyable. Doing this outside can save you money and expedite cleanup – use the driveway as your canvas. If you want to get even more creative, consider ditching paint for pudding. There’s always room for Jell-O during arts and crafts time.
Set up a lemonade stand: Many of had our own lemonade stands as children in attempts to fill our piggy banks (so we could retire at the toy store). Indeed, a lemonade stand is a rite of passage for kids, but it also allows for spending time under the sun. To make it a teachable moment, urge your kids to donate some of their profit to their favorite charity.
Encourage your kids to shoot their own videos: YouTube has grown so popular we all secretly wish we’d invented it. Use its popularity to your advantage and encourage your children to make their own videos. But – here’s the kicker – make indoors a camera-free zone.
Participate in a water fight: Children are perfectly content having water fights among themselves. But what’s even more fun? Drenching mom and dad! Put on your least favorite outfit and grab the garden hose.
The great outdoors aren’t only great for kids; they’re also vital. Encouraging outdoor play is one of the easiest ways to help your child stay regulated.
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