There’s something about being outdoors that adds a spark to a child. Regardless of the weather, most children can’t wait to get outside to play. There’s so much to explore and do, the heat, the rain, the snow, even cold winds don’t seem to slow them down.
Children seem to spend more energy when they are outdoors. We usually attribute them being worn out to “all the fresh air”. Regardless of what the cause actually is, you can see it even in babies; they tend to sleep better after a walk around the block or some time play time sitting under a tree.
Children are naturally active and curious. Being outdoors allows many opportunities to satisfy both of these at the same time. They create games that allow them to run and jump or climb. They play louder and faster. Playing outside strengthens their muscles, their imaginations and their lungs.
It doesn’t seem to matter which toys they have or don’t have, the outdoors has a whole new set of rules as far as play goes. A child that is bored and troublesome indoors may be actively engaged with a group and well behaved outdoors.
In your own backyard, there are many opportunities to stimulate your child’s imagination. There’s a whole world to explore from blowing the seeds from a “dandelion puff” to bugs and birds and squirrels. There are trees and flowers, dirt and maybe even some sand. Falling leaves or falling snow; both will provide more than one afternoon of play.
It’s hard to imagine that the feel of the grass on their feet for the first time is a brand new and upsetting experience for most children. They are usually introduced to the grass at a very early age. It is stiff and sharp, and painful. Even cutting the grass higher doesn’t do much for their delicate skin. Be sure to provide a mat or playpen for very young children to help them enjoy being outdoors.
Many older children participate in after school activities, including sports. These organized activities may keep them active during the school year, but many of the same children are lost without them. They are unsure of what to do with themselves once the season or the school year ends.
While these activities are excellent for children, they must also be pushed to go outside for some unstructured time. This will not only help keep their imagination growing, but will also help to keep them active outside of the structured settings of school. They will be more “in touch” with any neighborhood children and make new friends that share their interests.
Having someone to do things with is just as important to older children as to the very young. If they have kept their friendships with children in the neighborhood, they are much more likely to enjoy spending time on outdoor activities.
Regardless of your child’s age, it is important for them to get outside. Whether they enjoy relaxing by the pool or playing sports, they benefit from being outdoors.
Backyards are fun, but they are even better when explored with friends. Whether you setup a play date with your toddler or allow your teenager to invite friends over, planning for a shared experience is an easy way to keep your child wanting to go outdoors.
Another alternative is family activities in your backyard. Backyard campouts and barbeques are a great outdoor experience and an excellent way to spend quality time together. Letting your child help with the planning and preparation of family activities will help make your outdoor activities a fun and educational experience for your child as they grow.