These days, it seems like kids want to spend more time inside on electronics than outside in nature. Many parents even encourage this, especially those who are wary of hovering over their children and fretting about their safety. However, kids derive endless benefits from outdoor play. They're more physically active, have longer attention spans, gain valuable advanced motor skills, get sick less often, and develop valuable social skills. Fortunately, parents can easily encourage their kids to engage in safe and active outdoor exploration.
Create a Safe Outdoor Space
If you find it stressful allowing your children to play outside, you're probably concerned about their safety. To put your mind at ease, make a safe space in your backyard where your kids can play without getting into trouble. Earth Easy recommends putting up a sturdy fence around your yard and removing any objects that you don't want your kids to touch or play with.
It's important to be aware of your kids’ level of common sense and their readiness for independence. Younger kids need strict boundaries, while older kids may be trusted to explore on their own. According to Kids Health, parents should fight the urge to overmanage their children's play. Only intervene when they're doing something destructive or there's a chance someone might get hurt.
Make Nature Exciting
Kids love to imitate their parents. When you show enthusiasm for nature, they're bound to get excited as well. Take your kids outside with you when you're gardening, cleaning up the yard, or tackling other outdoor projects. Your children will likely engage in parallel play as they develop their own version of the work you're doing outside. For example, they may be inspired to create their own miniature garden or try to construct things out of sticks and branches.
Get Them Involved in Outdoor Chores
Outdoor chores are an excellent way to help your kids learn to regulate their behavior and get outside at the same time. Have them walk the dog, pull weeds in the garden, or rake leaves from the yard. Give them a watering can or allow them to use the hose when they’re older. Keep the work light and easy and don’t discourage your child from having fun with it. Kids have a hard time separating work from play, which is a great thing!
Spend Outdoor Time Together as a Family
Whenever you have the chance, set up some outdoor activities for the whole family. This can benefit the parents as much as the children, since spending time in nature has been found to reduce stress and improve mental health in adults. Come up with some fun activities that your whole family can do together. Backyard camping is a great way to introduce your kids to nature while staying close to the comforts of your home. Have a campfire, sing songs, and sleep under the stars in your cozy tent. During the day, try setting up a treasure hunt for your kids so they can get familiar with different objects found outside, such as pine cones, rocks, and plants. If you're inclined to try your hand at some carpentry, building a bird feeder with your kid is a great way to help develop an appreciation and respect for wildlife.