Posts tagged ‘importance of playing outdoors’
October is officially here! Fall leaves are starting to change colors and the little ones are already planning their Halloween costumes. One great way to celebrate the change in season is to take a walk with your family or friends to look for Autumn leaves of different shapes and sizes. Nature walks are perfect to explore your senses my taking in all the various sounds, smells and colors. These moments in a natural environment are more priceless than you think.
According to one study, the average American boy or girl spends just four to seven minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than seven hours each day in front of an electronic screen! Our kids are out of shape, tuned out and stressed out, because they’re missing something essential to their health and development: connection to the natural world. That’s why Chipper encourages parents and their kids to get outdoors and improve the well-being of their mind, body, and spirit!
“Outdoor Play, Incorporating Animistic and Magical Thinking Is Important Because It: Fosters the healthy, creative and emotional growth of a child; Forms the best foundation for later intellectual growth; Provides a way in which children get to know the world and creates possibilities for different ways of responding to it; Fosters empathy and wonder.”
One way to connect your kids with the natural world and get them exploring outside is a Nature Scavenger Hunt! Now there are many ways to do this and we encourage you to get creative depending on your environment, whether it’s your backyard or thh schoolyard! One fun way to run a nature scavenger hunt is to hand out a recycled egg carton and a list of 12 items to collect. For example, natural items which are: soft, spiky, blue, strong, beautiful, old, fragile, yummy, sharp, smooth, closed, open, wet, dry, from an animal, etc. Since it’s fall, you could have a list of colors and have the children find a leaf for each!
Not only will this outdoor activity make your little ones really take a close look around, they will have a ton of fun and notice things about their natural environment that they never noticed before. A scavenger hunt is a wonderful way to spark their interests outside and encourage them to be more observant. Don’t forget to bring along your camera and enter your best Fall photo in Chipper’s Photo Contest!
Many kids these days are more likely to watch TV or go on the computer than to have some fun outdoors. This disturbing trend is not only unhealthy, it deprives children of much needed physical and social development. Playing outdoors, whether it be a park or a playground, is the very best place for little ones to master emerging physical motor skills, like running, leaping and jumping. Practicing climbing and throwing is also best done under the sun rather than in the house–and saves all your inside decorations! Not to mention the much needed Vitamin D soaked in while playing in nature. The sun light not only stimulates the pineal gland, the part of the brain that regulates the “biological clock,” it is vital to our immune system and makes us all happier campers!
Additionally, kids burn the most calories outdoors and get much needed exercise. Many studies show that obesity, which causes an increased chance of heart disease, has doubled in the past ten years. As many as half of American children are not getting enough exercise, thus increasing this risk as well as other risk factors, such as hypertension and arteriosclerosis, that have been showing up as early as age 5.
Physical well-being isn’t the only benefit of outdoor play. Kids are more likely to invent games outdoors, which allows them to express themselves and learn about the world in their own way. They feel safe and in control, which produces autonomy, decision-making, and organizational skills. Inventing rules for a game promotes an understanding of why rules are necessary. Not only is playing outside fun, they are improving communication skills, vocabulary, and learn social customs by making friends.
Lastly, we cannot underestimate the aesthetic development promoted by being outside. The natural world is filled with beautiful sites, sounds and smell which increases a child’s awareness to appreciate the world around them. Being inside for too long and playing video games can deter kids from developing their senses and take away from the crucial inspiration and joy that nature brings us all. We all have fond memories of our tree house or favorite hiding spot in the back yard as kids. We need to make sure our own children can make these memories–while expending all the boisterous, messy energy that can make your house look like a tornado passed through! Here are a few ideas to get the kids started:
- Take a nature walk! Asking them what they are seeing, hearing, and smelling will increase their appreciation for the nature all around them and encourages discovery of a funny looking rock or some pretty flowers. For very young kids, these are science experiences.
- Set up a obstacle course with whatever you have: old tires, boxes, tree stumps, etc. Moving through it will be a fun challenge and great exercise while also learning important concepts like over, under, through, and around.
- Take a “listening” walk and try to name all the things you hear. See what your kids can identify on their own and help them with sounds they don’t recognize yet. You can even bring a tape recorder to listen to later and make a guessing game of it!
- Play the parachute game! Bring parachute or old sheet outside and shake it out, make waves, or bounce a ball on it.
- Bring a portable boom box outside and let the kids experience the joy of dancing in a natural environment
- Try “water painting,” where children paint the side of a building or a wall with a paint brush and a bucket of water. It exercises the arms and upper torso while also teaching about wet and dry, light and dark, ad evaporation.
- Blowing and chasing bubbles is always a fun outdoor past-time and also gives kids a chance to run around!