It seems simple, right? Children are innately curious so playtime outdoors should be a natural fit. Surprisingly however, kids today are spending less and less time outdoors, replaced with over 7.5hrs in front of an electronic screen every day.
Time exploring and playing outdoors helps children develop self confidence, fine and gross motor skills, creativity, innovation, and collaboration. These vital skills can be acquired, tested and developed by simply playing in the sand, building stick forts, capturing insects, or damming puddles. Having the opportunity to interact with nature helps children understand and make a personal connection to the world they live in and ultimately depend on every day for their food, water, shelter and space.
Play outdoors is simple AND comes naturally to children. For newcomers to outdoor play, some encouragement and modeling may be needed. If a child is older or a bit apprehensive and has not had much experience playing outdoors by oneself or with others, here are some simple tips to set them and you up for success.
- Make a time to unplug, unwind, and play outside.
- Identify interesting spaces for play and exploration; safe from vehicles, fast moving water, other hazards.
- Encourage and model (if need be) exploration, observation, creative interpretation and questioning.
- Eagerly join in when invited. Comfortably sit back when not.
- Let kids be kids.
- Locate good places for a potty emergency.
- Bring water, change of underclothes (depending on age), extra thermal or outer layer, sunscreen, potty field kit (*).
It doesn’t take a wilderness area to intrigue a young explorer. Look for diverse vegetation/weedy areas, trees or wooded areas, water, sticks, rocks, hills. Pristine and pretty may be nice for a family hike or neighborhood park, but is not of utmost importance when it comes to outdoor play. A child’s natural intrigue and healthy sense of wonder will kick into gear when given the time and space to play outdoors. Foster, follow and enjoy the play!
(*A quick easy potty field kit: quart zip-lock bag filled with hand rolled toilet paper or a roll end, handy-wipes, small size hand sanitizer, 2-3 quart bags. Use supplies as needed. Place used TP/wipes in a quart bag and toss in trash receptacle. Do not leave TP in nature. Bury feces according to Leave No Trace guidelines. See http://lnt.org/learn/principle-3 for additional potty talk.)