By Sandi Schwartz
Having trouble getting your kids to play outside? Spending time outdoors provides incredible benefits to our kids like feeling happier and calmer, but many are too tied to their screens to enjoy the fresh air. There is even a term to describe this: nature-deficit disorder. Coined by Richard Louv, author of the book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, it refers to children having less connection to nature for a variety of reasons such as technology, fears, and busy family life.
It is important that we encourage our kids to get outside for at least a few minutes every day if possible. While they may be reluctant and give you excuses like being too tired or having too much homework, there are lots of fun ways to keep them entertained outside so they can enjoy all that nature has to offer right in your own backyard. Here are a few to get them excited about heading outside for a while.
Who doesn’t like an old-fashioned scavenger hunt? This is a really easy activity that you can do throughout the year and incorporate different themes depending on the season or holiday. If you have a range of ages, ask the older children to hide the items for the younger ones to find. The ideas are endless—you can do anything from hiding toys to clues that lead to an end location or treasure. You can also enhance the outdoors theme by having the children look for various nature items, such as sticks, leaves, flowers, rocks, or a fruit or vegetable from your garden.
Outdoor Art Projects
Tired of cleaning on the mess from your children’s art projects? Consider bringing the art outside. Plus, nature is filled with so much beauty to spark creativity in our kids. They will be inspired to paint or draw flowers, trees, and animals they see. What a wonderful way for children to enjoy being creative while spending time outside! Here are some art projects to take outdoors:
• Let your child decorate your sidewalk or patio with chalk.
• Bring art supplies outside in your backyard or on your balcony such as an easel, paint, and paint brushes and let them have a blast getting creative.
• Encourage them to have a Play-doh picnic by setting up a blanket and asking them to make some pretend food out of clay or Play-doh.
• Ask your children to collect nature items like leaves, sticks, and pine cones and have fun making all kinds of nature artwork.
Your kids will love this fun outdoor exercise activity. You can set it up yourself or have them help you. Go through your house and garage and gather a variety of fitness equipment. Create several stations for different activities, such as a jump rope, cones to weave around, a box to jump over, and a basketball net to shoot a ball into. You can also have some stations that do not require equipment; for example, they can do jumping jacks, push-ups, or hop on one foot. With older children, you can even incorporate swimming or riding bikes as part of the obstacle course. The best part is that each time they do it the course can be unique, giving them a new challenge.
Your children will love helping in the family garden. This outdoor activity offers so many benefits, such as teaching them about healthy eating and where our food comes from and feeling more relaxed. The best part about this activity is your children will want to visit it over and over again to check on the progress of the produce growing in the garden. They will be proud to see the food they grew on the dinner table and will better understand how much effort goes into making the food we enjoy every day.
Working on science experiments is another way to keep your kids engaged outside. By working together on the experiments, your children will have the chance to get creative, follow directions, work with new science tools, challenge themselves to learn something new, and have fun being fascinated by science. You can even get them involved in citizen science projects, which is all about volunteering to collect scientific data. Kids can gain science experience and directly help the scientific community at the same time. Check out the following resources for citizen science projects: CitizenScience.gov, SciStarter, and Zooniverse.
To discover more fun activities to keep your kids entertained outside, grab your free 30-Day Ecohappiness Challenge Calendar.
Sandi Schwartz is an author, journalist, and mother of two. She has written extensively about parenting, wellness, and environmental issues. Her new book, Finding Ecohappiness: Fun Nature Activities to Help Your Kids Feel Happier and Calmer, comes out in the spring. Learn more at www.ecohappinessproject.com.