Outdoors is great for everyone. Fresh air, nature, sun on your skin – it can only make us feel more relaxed. Still, we tend to keep our children inside – it’s safer, we can see them while we tend to our home and house chores, and they can sit on the couch in front of the television (often for a lot longer than what is good for them).
The best way to get your child outdoors is to get yourself more outdoors. Lead by example. If we are outdoors more often, they will be too.
So, we are outdoors…. What now? There are so many things we can do outside that are healthy and good for us. Some examples include:
1. Gardening. It’s not for everyone, but by having a small herb- vegetable or flower garden with your children is great for so many reasons. They learn about nature, how to grow plants from seeds, how to take care of something, how to wait and see how it grows (delayed gratification which is something most kids lack), and how to appreciate the long wait when the flowers start blooming or the vegetables are ready to be picked. Digging in the ground is great from a sensory perspective. Plus, the actual gardening itself is quite a workout – squatting for a while and working those arms to dig holes.
2. Ball and running games. Have a goal post or aiming at a tree/ object while kicking a ball is great for eye-foot coordination. Running around the garden whilst focusing on a ball to catch, throw or kick do not only develop good motor skills and physical endurance, but encourage good eye movements necessary for reading.
3. Fly a kite. On a windy day we tend to lock ourselves inside. Why not go to an open park or field and fly a kite? Flying a kite is fun for everyone, and promotes eye movements and planning skills.
4. Swimming. There’s nothing better than spending several hours in a swimming pool playing. Make sure the children are protected from the sun. Swimming is great for so many reasons. Some include: body awareness, core strengthening, shoulder and leg strengthening, calming
and organizing the overwhelmed body (of the sensory sensitive persons).
5. Climbing. Children like climbing onto, over, and through things. Encourage them to climb trees (this can be done in a playful manner such as playing house, or pretending to rescue animals in the tree etc.) A tree-house is also great if you have a tree that can allow it. If you don’t have trees, think of other climbing ideas such a jungle gym or hanging a rope with knots from a beam, tree or wall. Climbing encourages coordination and strength.
6. Cycle or walk. Go for a walk or cycle around the block if your area allows it. Go for daily walks with or without your dog. Walking/ cycling around encourages endurance, is calming and organizing which enhances your mood, and also provides you and your children with lots of opportunity to bond and chat about the day.
7. Designate a spot. In your garden, find a spot that can belong to your children. This is an area where they can decide what they want to do – if it is to make a mud bath, make mudcakes, build a road, play marbles, plant plants etc., this is their space where they can do whatever they want.
8. Have a picnic. It can be in your garden or at a park. By just being outside is calming and relaxing. Having a picnic promotes bonding between parents and children in an informal way and further encourages your child to appreciate the value of just being outside.
9. Camping. Being outdoors at night is also great fun. Explore the stars and moon while lying on a blanket outside. Set up a tent and camp in the garden – even if it is just for a few hours. Or make a small camp fire and braai marshmallows.
The more positive experience you create for your child being outdoors, the more they would want to be outside. And by being outside makes everyone a happier, healthier person.