I just love sending my kids outside to play. Not only is the backyard a better ‘babysitter’ than the television, it’s much better for the kids to play outside. I can send them outside to play and often get 2 hours of quiet, while I’d be lucky to get a half hour using the ‘electronic babysitter’.
That’s one of the simple ways to get kids to interact with at least a little nature. It’s not much, but it’s something, especially since we garden with our kids. It helps to keep them aware of nature.
I’m feeling pretty lucky in where I live right now. Even though the weather is cooling off most days (still having some hot ones), it’s beautiful for being outside too. No rain yet, no snow likely ever.
I don’t worry too much about perfect weather, though. I don’t mind my kids jumping in rain puddles if that’s what they feel like doing. If it’s cold outside I just encourage them to dress appropriately.
Even just backyard play encourages a sense of exploration. I see my kids digging for worms, finding bugs and generally having a good time. For some reason they find scrubbing down the outdoor table and chairs my inlaws gave us utterly fascinating. It happens regularly.
There is such a difference in behavior if kids don’t get to play outside enough. Some call it ‘Nature Deficit Disorder‘. My kids are much better behaved if they spend time playing ouside creatively rather than staring at the television. Whether or not it’s a common thing I will leave to individual parents.
The benefits I see from having my kids play outside a lot include the aforementioned better behavior as well as more creativity. If you like, you can think of outside play as one big, open ended toy. Even on playground equipment kids can use their imaginations, but you can often see far more if they’re just playing in the dirt.
The recent fires have put something of a damper on hiking. Some of the places we like best burned, and I think are still closed. It’s a pity, since I do think that getting out in nature beyond the backyard and playground has a benefit too. Unless, of course the backyard is like the one at my grandparents’ place in Oregon, as seen in the photo. The chance to see wildlife is really special and just doesn’t happen in most yards.
Playing outside also gives kids a chance to take chances. I love that. It can be hard to let my kids run about, and I do keep them in site, but being allowed to be independent helps them to develop. I try to watch enough to keep injuries minor, but getting hurt is another part of growing up.
I know in a lot of places winter means it’s harder for kids to play outside for more than a short time, but I think it’s important to allow it when possible. Just think about what you did when you were a kid.
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I totally agree… allowing children the freedom to play outdoors, exploring and using their imaginations is healthy in so many ways! No matter the Season, I take my daughter to places where she can ‘breathe’ and explore to her hearts content. Connecting with the earth and nature in this way is so enriching and teaches us so very much.
I particularly love what you say about letting them take chances. Excellent advice.
I agree. I’ve seen the change first-hand in my boys. We spent a year riding our bikes around the USA and Mexico – my boys were outside playing each and every day for a year. They were so creative and had so much fun playing with Mother Nature’s toys.
We arrived back home a year ago and my kids immediately fell into the computer game/TV ritual again and I watched their behavior change.
Now we are getting ready to take off again (we leave Sunday for a 2 1/2-year, 20,000-mile bike ride from Alaska to Argentina) and have everything packed up and in storage. Now that the kids don’t have their “inside toys”, they’ve turned to going out – and are having so much fun!! Their most recent activity has been “mining” for clay – is the park behind our house. They come back day after day with tons of mud balls they dig up from the park and have had so much fun with it all. It’s been fun to see!!
We can’t wait to get back on the road and watch our kids learn from Mother Nature every single day again!
You can read about our journey at http://www.familyonbikes.org