I’m a huge fan of the outdoors.
I love hiking, riding horses, camping, eating breakfast by sunrise, and dinner by sunset. I love every type of outdoors setting, ponds, lakes, desert, mountain, meadows, canyons, valleys, beaches, and oceans. I’m also a huge advocate for kids spending a lot of time outside.
The benefits of playing outside are beyond what we usually imagine.
Physiologically a lot is happening. The sunshine is full of vitamin D, which makes us happy. Stretching their muscles and keeping kids active is so important for fighting the obesity epidemic. When children are testing their body strength by climbing, slides, and digging, they are seeing their own limits. Learning your limits, and pushing those limits is something that makes children into successful adults. Emotionally being outdoors expends more energy making your child more likely to nap and sleep easier.
If children play outside with parental observation from afar, they get to work on social and emotional skills.
Socially they can play with other children and naturally learn concepts about being a kind friend, and how that feels good. They can problem solve to create sand sculptures that look how they envision them, or figure out how to make it to the top of the structure.
These are lessons and skills that can be strengthened best outdoors.
If your family are avid hikers, campers, or nature dwellers you probably already foster this same love in your children. If you aren’t a fan of the outdoors, fear not, camping trips or mountain climbs are not a requirement. It doesn’t need to be elaborate. A trip to the park, or playing in the backyard can be just as good. As long as you’re in the sunshine and fresh air your child is benefiting tremendously.
Here’s a simple list to help you facilitate the best emotional, and physical development outside.
-Use sunscreen, and bring water.
Set yourself up to be successful. This means having everything you need to make it a positive experience. Take simple steps, like leaving water and sunscreen in your car, so you aren’t caught without what you need.
-Add to YOUR adventure.
I have a confession to make. I don’t actually enjoy watching children play outside. I absolutely love seeing the world from their eyes, and playing with them, but watching them climb stairs doesn’t bring me much joy. So I often give myself a challenge or goal. Sometimes it’s ‘count how many blue shirts you see’. Sometimes it’s ‘get some adult conversation into your day’. If you find yourself bored at the park, make it more interesting for yourself.
-Call your child in.
Instead of making a new plan that they are dragged along to, open the conversation up to your children. Ask them “Would you like to play in the backyard, or the park today?” Show them pictures of the snow and a forest and ask “Which would you like to visit this year?” Remember that most children only need 2 options, and both options must be something you are ok with.
-Make sure you’re having first.
If you aren’t having fun, your children probably won’t either. Keep trying different settings to see what you like best. Chances are if you are having a great time, they will follow suit.