“Go and play outside!” Hands up if you’ve said this to your kids – then picked up your phone and started scrolling through Facebook?
Don’t worry, my hand is up there with you! We all know the benefits out outside play: fresh air, lots of space and freedom to move, Vitamin D, and more opportunity to get messy and imaginative. All of these things nurture your child’s physical and emotional wellbeing.
But as a parent, how much time do you spend outside?
Now, I understand that playing hide-and-seek for the millionth time probably doesn’t make you giddy with delight. But if you want your kids to spend more time outdoors, you need to get out there, too! Thankfully, this doesn’t mean you have to play chasey for hours on end or spend all morning setting up and packing up. There are heaps of activities you and your littlies can enjoy in your own backyard, with minimal effort required!
Here are seven simple but fun activities that encourage outdoor play – for kids and adults alike:
1. Have a picnic breakfast.
You don’t have to go all out – simply lay down a blanket in the backyard, bring out the toast, fruit and juice (and an all-important cuppa for yourself!) and tuck in. Of course, you can make it a bit special if you want. But even if it’s just cereal and milk, having brekky outside breaks up the routine and chances are the kids will stay outside once they’ve finished eating rather than switch on the TV.
2. Make playdough “fossils”.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a “Pinterest mum” (or dad) for this! Help your littlies collect leaves, rocks, gumnuts, shells and anything else you can imprint on playdough. Set up a table or blanket outside (one you don’t mind getting messy!) and let them get creative.
3. Create a fairy/dinosaur/Lego garden.
This is much easier than it sounds! You can use a spare patch of yard or even a bucket, and whatever you find lying around: bits of wood, rocks, containers, leaves, jars – anything your kids can use to create their own garden. And voila! They have a mini playground for their toys. Got a spare ice-cream container? Instant water feature! And – I kid you not – hours (OK, half an hour at least) of entertainment!
4. Take nature photos.
Most of us have ditched “ye olde” technology of digital cameras for mobile phones to take happy snaps. If you have a digital camera gathering dust in a bottom drawer, give it to your kids and let them loose in the backyard for some nature photography.
5. Scavenger hunt.
Sounds like hard work, but it’s not. Give your kids a list of things to find in the backyard – yellow flower, worm, smooth leaf, rough leaf, something round, shell, unusual shape. They can collect everything in a basket, or combine this with activity #4 so they can take a photo of each item.
6. Take inside toys outside.
Dress-ups, board games, blocks, puzzles – there’s no reason why these indoor toys can’t be taken outside. The change of scene might renew your kids’ interest in forgotten toys. And if you REALLY want to go crazy, you could set up toy “stations” around the backyard – one for puzzles, one for books, etc. – to encourage your kids to move around.
7. Blow bubbles.
So simple, so effective … so cheap! Kids find bubbles endlessly fascinating. And what adult doesn’t like to blow a bubble from time to time? It’s great motor and sensory play for bubs, and all the running, jumping and popping of bubbles is good physical activity for older kids, too.
So, as you can see, there’s plenty you and your kids can do outdoors that doesn’t require hours of preparation. True, your kids might need some initial help with these activities, but nothing too intense! After a while, your kids will be so immersed in their own play, you’ll be able to take a step back, enjoy a cuppa and read a book in peace and sunshine.
Well, we can but hope!
Now that we are well and truly back into the school year and daily grind, it’s easy for parental guilt to sink in.We’re so busy with work, life and endless to-do lists, we’re exhausted, and playing with our kids is not always our top priority. And it shouldn’t always be,
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