Outdoor play is an essential part of a child’s development and its equally as important for us grown ups too! Embracing nature and all it has to offer is a fantastic way to get the kids active and stimulated and it’s also a great way for mom or dad to down tools and get some much-needed fresh air! In his book, The Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv explores the developmental effects that nature has on our children and documents how modern family life has changed dramatically in the last two decades. He notes that today’s child spends more time viewing television and playing video games on computers than they do being physically active outside.Richard Louv called this phenomenon, ‘nature-deficit disorder’ and he links these to a number of childhood trends that include the rise in childhood obesity, attention disorders, and even childhood depression. So how can we make sure that we are doing everything possible to embrace nature and all that it has to offer our children? The answer to that is fairly simple – love nature and teach your children to do the same! And of course, as hard as it might be – remember dirt is good! With the holidays upon us, it’s the perfect time to get the kids exploring the outdoors and if you feel stuck for ideas – then the following might be just enough to get you started.
- If you live at the coast and the suns out, check out the tide charts on swell.co.za , pack a picnic, a bucket and spade and your fishing nets of course, and then head to the beach at low tide for a couple of hours exploring the rock pools. The combination of sand, sea and salty air are a perfect way to stimulate the senses.
- With all the trees shedding their leaves, grab your camera and head out for some winter fun. Whether its throwing handfuls of leaves into the air, making angels on the ground in leafy piles or simply hunting for an array of leaf shapes and colours – this little activity is perfect for toddlers who love to find, touch and feel.
- Every child loves to play with sand and water so set up a play station outdoors with buckets of warm water and sand. Throw into the mix some cookie cutters, old Tupperware’s and some wooden spoons and you will be amazed at how creative your littles ones can be! Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned mud pie anyway!
- If it’s a sunny afternoon – why not head out into the garden with your kids. Add some pillows and blankets – throw in a book or two and chill under the tree reading, chatting or just exploring the garden. Alternatively – get the kids imaginations going – task them with building a fort using what’s available in the garden along with a couple blankets & pillows.
- If you feel the kids need some encouragement – create a scavenger hunt and have them seeking out 25 items that can only be found in the garden – create a sense of competition by setting them a time period within which to find all the items.
- If you have dogs, why not bundle the kids and the dogs into the car and head for the local park. Adding a ball into the mix will keep everyone active and having fun. If heading to a park is not an option – then simply walking around the block is an easy way to get the kids outdoors. Play I spy along the way – a simple but fun way to take in the surroundings and create awareness for the outdoors.