I love sending my kids outside to play. So far it tends to keep them busier than watching television or playing on the computer. Admittedly, they’re 2-1/2 and 5, so this may change, but it is so far quite encouraging.
But sadly, many children don’t get time to play outside, or at least not nearly enough of it. There actually appears to be an association between attention deficity disorder and not getting enough time with nature for kids. They call it nature-deficit disorder.
I added Last Child in the Woods to my wish list today. I get the basic premise, and agree with it, but the book should still be interesting reading.
I can tell you that I see a difference in how my daughter behaves after spending hours playing outside versus watching television. She’s much, much happier overall if she’s been out having fun, as well as being more focused and obedient. In either case she still has her wild imagination, which goes through leaps that can be delightfully hard to follow.
There are a lot of great activities you can do with your children to get them outside and playing and enjoying nature. If you have a space to do so, you can garden. You can walk to a neighborhood park. My daughter loves to do that, then go rolling down a grassy slope. It’s not all about the playground equipment, after all.
You can go camping or hiking as a family. You may have to drive to do this, or you may have a good hike within walking distance, but I love getting my family out into the less civilized part of nature. Parks are great, but there’s more variety to areas that are not so precisely maintained in appearance as city parks are.
Let your kids get dirty. Yesterday I had to clean my kids up after they had some fun with water and chalk. No trouble; I laughed as I got them cleaned up. I think the clothes survived too, although not by much. Let your kids play in in the creek, look for frogs, lizards and other small critters. Talk to them about the bugs they see. Show them different plants and which ones are safe to touch, or, more important, not safe to touch.
I have a basic philosophy that if my kids don’t sometimes shock me with how filthy they got, I’m doing something wrong. I may have to soak their clothes for hours after, as I did yesterday, but it’s worth it to me. The skirt did finally turn soft pink again.