We all know the scene. You’re sat on the sofa, watching your child transfixed by the 17th consecutive episode of Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol or PJ Masks. You feel guilty for not doing more with them, but any attempt to get them away from the 40” HD nemesis is met with fierce resistance. For me – getting out the house is the first step to getting kids off screens and heading outdoors for some nature activities can be a really great way to connect with your kids.
Why Kids need to spend time Outdoors and in Nature?
In the 80s, a Harvard University biologist named Edward O Wilson put forward the concept of ‘biophilia’, a theory that humans are instinctively drawn to nature and drawn to the outdoors.
If he had proposed that theory in the 21st Century, most parents would probably laugh. But this year, the Covid-19 pandemic helped so many of us reconnect with nature, with some spending more time outdoors than ever before. If you can pry your children away from TV or video games, you might just find them falling in love with the great outdoors.
Why outdoor activities are important for Kids?
There is a ton of research looking at the impact of the outdoors on both children and adults. And pretty much every single one leads to the same conclusion – children who spend more time outdoors are more intelligent, less anxious, less stressed, happier, more creative, more intuitive, and have more energy than those who spend little time outside.
Confidence builder – Outdoor play naturally has far less structure than indoor play. It allows them to explore and push boundaries in different ways in different environments.
Exercise – The outdoors get you moving. Whether it’s a crazy run around the park, kicking a ball, or a walk off the beaten track, the outdoors will get the blood pumping. And we all know that, as well as the physical benefits, exercise is known to reduce stress and fatigue.
Builds creativity – The lack of structure encourages your child to think of new ways to interact with their surroundings and invent new activities.
Stimulation – The outdoors activates and stimulates senses far better than indoor play. You can see, feel, hear and smell hundreds of different things outdoors. Some academics have found that less time outdoors actually reduces the performances of senses in children.
Reconnect with mum and dad – The lack of structure also encourages children to interact with their parents in ways they might not at home, watching TV or playing with toys. All of a sudden, they want you to chase them, kick leaves, hide in a bush, help them climb a tree, roll down a hill, look for some bugs or some wildlife.
Activities to do with your Kids to reconnect with Nature!
Now that we’ve looked at why it’s important to get your children into the great outdoors, here are some great outdoor activity ideas for families:
Nature hunts – The beauty of living in such a seasonal country means that there are always different things to find throughout the year. Make a list of things for your child to find and let them go. Toddlers and younger children might benefit from a list for one outing, but for older children, you could make a list for them to complete over the summer holidays or during autumn, stretched over several outdoor trips. If you want to stop them getting home and going straight back to the TV, make sure to bring the items home with you for some nature crafts.
Start a collection – Kids need to spend time in nature and collecting. While you might bring some items home for an art project, pick one item to collect. You might want to pick an item each season. After a while, finding more leaves or sticks might lose its appeal, but starting a collection will help them stay engaged over time. Seashells from the beach are perfect for summer, while autumn and winter is ideal to start a pinecone collection.
Fruit picking – Definitely one for the summer months. Not only is picking their own fruit or vegetables loads of fun, it’s particularly rewarding and helps them to understand where food comes from. Depending on what you pick, get them to help you make something with them. They’ll love preparing and eating something they picked, and it encourages them to eat fresh, healthy foods. Win, win!
Go on a bike ride – Bike rides are a great way to explore the outdoors whatever age your kids are. If they’re old enough to ride their own bike, perfect! Perhaps you could even let them lead the way and find a new route. If they’re a bit younger, don’t worry, child bike seats make it super easy for parents to get out on a ride with their little ones and help you connect with your kids outdoors.
Don’t be put off by the rain – Rain is synonymous with negatives. ‘We can’t go to the park because it’s raining’, ‘We can’t go for a walk because it’s raining’. But as long as everyone is wrapped up warm with waterproofs, there’s no reason the rain has to stop you from having fun in outdoors. It might stop you from doing some things, but it brings new opportunities. You could make a boat and float it down the river and after all, you can’t jump in muddy puddles without the rain!
With so much talk of ‘getting back to normal’ once the pandemic is over, spending more time outdoors with family is one aspect of lockdown life that we need to keep forever!