Outdoor Time in Everyday Life
So here’s the deal: I grew up in South Alabama where the weather was sticky and hot for most of the year, and the bugs were plentiful. I never really enjoyed playing outside for those reasons, and have been a little jarred by the insistence on the part of my 3-year-old to go outside every single day.
I resisted for a while, but have come to realize that getting outside is a really great thing for my children’s overall development. And if I adhere to a few key principles, it actually is a lot of fun for me, too. Here are my tips for making outdoor time a joy instead of a chore.
1. Get out at the right time. While the weather in East Tennessee isn’t as hot and humid as my hometown, it’s still quite warm by lunch. And the mosquitos are rampant here. So we do most of our outside play early in the day before the bugs are hungry and while the temperatures are still pleasant.
2. Take off your shoes. My girls, for some reason, will run more and wear bigger smiles on their faces while they play if their shoes are off. It makes for a great sensory experience and just seems a little wild to them, I suppose. What an effortless way to crank up the fun!
3. Set the stage for independent play. There are some really inexpensive items you can have on hand that will get children engaged in play for a long time. If you have a kiddie pool or a water table, add some dish soap and watch those bubbles fly. Bring a mirror outside for a new perspective on things (kids LOVE to watch themselves!). Grab a few pieces of sidewalk chalk and let the kids create some art of their own. It doesn’t take fancy toys to keep children occupied. Just something a little out of the ordinary.
4. Find nature in your own backyard. Grab a magnifying glass or any sort of bug catcher and turn a negative (lots of bugs in the yard) into a positive (lots of specimens to inspect!). I have had some great conversations with my oldest about insects thanks to our bug viewer. She used to be scared of bugs, but now she is very intrigued by them! Fairies are a big deal in my home right now, so hunting for mushrooms is also a new favorite game. Darah spends a lot of time scouring the yard for these fairy hangouts.
5. Equip yourself to work and play. Since I work from home, I often wrestle with balancing work obligations with spending time with my family. Rather than sticking the girls in front of the television, I can also take them outside and accomplish some work. Whether it is firing up the grill for dinner while they play, or bringing my laptop outside to answer emails, if I have provided the girls with a few interesting options for outdoor play, they will keep themselves entertained while mommy checks something off her “to do” list. That’s a win-win in my book! You can even enlist the help of your kids in some outdoor chores. Put a broom in their hands and let them sweep the walkway, or have them help with some weeding in the garden.
Those are some of my ideas, and the book is LOADED with even more great tips from other bloggers! Please do give it a read, and while you are at it, I’d like to encourage you to take the Be Out There pledge to spend more time outside!