With busy schedules and alluring electronics inside the home, it is often difficult to give your children the time outdoors you enjoyed as a child. But with a little planning and creativity, getting your kids to enjoy the outdoors, specifically at your local park, can benefit your children’s physical, mental and emotional development.
An hour of unstructured, free playtime is ideal and can be as simple as a play date, small gathering, or just your child by herself. It is beneficial to provide time outdoors where children can play together, independent of adult-organized activity. But if in case your children need more motivation and structure, here are a couple of activities to get them started:
- Encourage your children to watch for wildlife. There is often wildlife at parks including birds, bugs and sometimes larger friends. Children can log the wildlife they see into a notebook, create drawings or take photos.
- Go on a scavenger hunt. Work together to create a list of items you could see in a park like a leaf, a pinecone, sand, a swing, a fence etc.
- Draw a nature map of your local park. Walk the park and then have your children draw the map of the park including important features and details from your walk.
- Picnic in the par. Your sandwich often tastes better when you are sitting in a beautiful park. Bring a blanket and your favorite foods to enjoy the nice weather. Don’t forget to pick up your trash and to recycle.
- Walk. Before or after dinner, take some time to walk together as a family. Discuss what happened during the day while getting a little exercise.
- Running games. Teach your children to play “Hide and Seek,” “Red light/Green light” or “Red Rover’” Or with keep it simple by establishing a friendly competition running from one side of the neighborhood park to the other.
- Create your own Olympic Games. Who has the fastest time running from one tree to another? How many high jumps can you do in one minute? Use the resources in your neighborhood park to create an Olympic Games for your family.
- Make art from nature. Press flowers, glitter pinecones or draw part of your favorite park. Bring a little bit of nature back home with you.
- Play with dirt and mud. Bring a shovel or even better, use your hands to dig your way to China. Create mud structures and mud pies. Let your children have the opportunity to get really dirty while learning how to play and be creative by themselves.
- Watch the clouds. There is nothing better than to spend some time cloud watching in a park on a sunny day. Lie down on the grass and start to identify shapes.
- Start a rock collection. Collect all different shapes and sizes, colors and surfaces. Another great way to bring a bit of the outdoors home with you.
- Play in your park during the winter. Bundle up and head out to the park with a sled or a trash bag to fly down the hill on snowy days. Make a snowman or snow angels.
Most importantly, keep toys and electronics to a minimum when visiting a park. That goes for parents also; leave the smart phone and paperwork in your purse or car. It is important to teach your children to have down time away from all electronics. It also will decrease your stress to slow down and enjoy nature.