7 ways to play outside with your kids
Now that the worst of the pollen season has passed and the weather is warmer, it’s time to get the kids playing outside.
Even if they’re not doing something sporty or athletic, if they’re outside, they’ll be moving a lot more than if they’re inside watching TV or playing video games.
But I hear from a lot of parents that their kids don’t really know how to play outside unless they’re at a playground or involved in an organized activity.
Here are some ways you can help encourage and “teach” your children to love playing outdoors.
Build a fort — Get some old sheets and string or clothespins and cardboard boxes, and get creative in building a fort to play in. If you don’t have old sheets or blankets, you can also set up a tent in your back yard.
Plan a scavenger hunt — Make a list of things your kids might find in your neighborhood — acorns, pine cones, dandelions — and have them collect them in a bag. For older kids, you could make the hunt a little more challenging and include things they can photograph: a car with an out-of-state-license plate, a pink crepe myrtle, a dog being walked, a fire hydrant, purple pansies or a house with all odd numbers in the address.
Fun with water — It doesn’t have to be a fancy sprinkler; anything that shoots out water will do. Water balloon fights would work, too. Kids who think they’re too old to run through sprinklers can wash the family cars. For smaller kiddos, fill a bucket or small tub with water. Give them containers to play with, like measuring cups, bath toys, and plastic boats.
Plant a garden — planting some flowers or vegetables is a great way to get kids outside. You don’t need to have a huge yard to grow veggies or herbs — just a few flower pots with tomatoes, strawberries or even pumpkin plants. I use herbs and different types of lettuce as decorative accent plants in my flower beds; we can run outside and snip off what we need when we’re cooking.
Create cement art — Even older kids love to doodle and draw, and sidewalk chalk is a great way to do that and soak up some vitamin D at the same time. If they balk at the idea, have them look for some YouTube videos of sidewalk art. Some people are able to do amazing things with a little chalk. If you don’t have chalk handy, use nature! Rub leaves on the cement and you’ll get some green. Berries, flower petals and seeds can all provide some color.
Blow bubbles — You can make your own mixture, or buy it by the gallon at any store. To make your own, mix 4 cups of water, a half cup of dish soap, and 1 tablespoon of glycerin or a quarter cup of corn syrup.
Game on! — When I was a kid, we had neighborhood baseball games in our front yard most evenings in the summer. All the neighbor kids knew they were welcome to join in. My dad was the pitcher, we used frisbees and cardboard for bases, and hit with a big plastic bat. My kids play soccer or football in our very small backyard. You can put up a string and play volleyball, play catch, or use sticks and a tennis ball for hockey. You don’t need all the “right” stuff or a lot of space to simulate a favorite sport.
It is possible to teach your children how to play outside — just think back to the things you used to do outside as a kid, slap on some sunscreen and get to it!