Do you spend more time outside than an average prisoner? And how about your kids?
Pretending to run like a deer. Crafting a door for a cave. Decorating a fort. Making a boat out of skunk cabbage for my Barbie to sail on. Timing how fast I could climb the same tree.
These are just a few of the things I remember doing as a kid after school. After a snack and a check-in with my grandma, I was pretty much outside until dinner time, and in summer, after dinner, too.
That was the 1980s, but today, there's serious competition for kids' attention — and many of them involve screens. So many of today's parents have to be more proactive in getting their kids outside. The "1,000 Hours Challenge" is one way that some parents have set a goal around outside time for their children. The challenge equates to 2.7 hours outside every day, which might seem like a lot if the child isn't spending much time outside at all, but it' a goal to work toward. (And parents say it really does cut down on screen time.)
And what better time to kick off a challenge like this?
If they're not used to spending time outside, kids might think it's boring. They might hear the siren call of apps or social media, or they might not know what to do with themselves outdoors.
Here are a few ways real parents deal with those challenges.
Challenge their creativity
"Nature provides the original playground," said Liz Wagner, who runs environmental education programs for a New York state park. Found materials can be turned into objects similar to those they already play with, but the key is that they have to figure that out for themselves. It's not as obvious as a swing set, but kids can use a fallen tree as a "bouncing balance beam," or use found natural objects to "decorate" a space, or play games they already know in a new setting. Hide-and-go-seek in a wooded area instead of inside a house forces them to consider the nature landscape in new ways, for example.
Basic toys can give kids a way to switch up activities, or combine things into unique and creative games. "I keep toys like scooters and bikes in the garage, as well as tape for making stuff out of sticks, and containers for water and bug catching," said Bailey. I can picture a (potentially very wet) game that involves trying to balance a container of water while scootering, can't you?
Just being outside is OK, too
Remember that nature is enjoyed by different kids in different ways: As de Baltodano relates, "A lot is personality-based." She says her daughter likes the sandbox — as a place to read. Growing up, I split my time between running around the woods and just finding a mossy spot to read Nancy Drew mysteries.
Not every kid will engage directly with nature every minute they are outdoors. But just being outside is different than being inside, so consider taking "indoor" activities out. Maybe set up a puzzle table under some shade away from the house, or find a pillow that can get rained on to make a reading spot at the base of a tree a little more comfy.
Even if kids are reading, building Legos, drawing or playing with toy cars, outside they'll be exposed to the sounds of wind in the trees and birdsong, feel the breeze and notice the sun moving across the earth. They'll see insects and maybe animals (they might be surprised how close a deer or birds will come when they're still) and they'll definitely notice when the mosquitoes come out (and when they go away), and how fast it can cool down once the sun begins to set. These micro-observations will happen without much attention but will inform kids' understanding of the natural world and is very different than being inside a climate-controlled home.
You will likely notice a difference in your kids' mood and behavior after a day outside (versus a day at school or a day spend indoors). Studies show that extended time outside positively affects kids in a host of ways, from the physical (they are more agile and get sick less often) to the mental and behavioral (better concentration and focus; less likely to bully).
In order to get more ideas, read the full article HERE!
Picture source: Pixabay.com