Earlier today I wrote about the National Trust 50 things to do before you are 11 and 3/4, and in this guest post, here are some more ideas about encouraging outdoor play with children.
These days it seems that children are thrown in front of a TV or given video games to try to keep them quiet for a couple of minutes. However, studies have shown that there are many problems with this, including a diminished ability to be creative, lower attention levels and even problems with thinking imaginatively.
By encouraging your child to engage with nature you can teach them a wide range of skills and give them a much better start in life.
Benefits of Engaging with Nature
Being outside carries a huge range of benefits, such as getting essential vitamins through sunshine; but it doesn’t end there: outdoor play is more physical than indoor play and children are able to learn the basic motor skills at a much faster rate. Things like jumping, catching and running are best learned outside and they help children to increase their physical awareness.
Another huge benefit of outdoor play is that the children will burn off more calories which helps to prevent things such as: obesity, heart disease, and other weight-related issues.
How to Encourage Outdoor Activities
Telling your kids to “go outside and play” doesn’t work in every home – especially if they aren’t used to having to entertain themselves. Luckily, we have a couple of ideas to get you started on getting your children closer to nature:
• Get Green Fingers – planting flowers, shrubs and trees not only gives your garden a bit more texture, but it can lead to a lifetime hobby in some cases. Even if your children don’t become gardeners from this, they will learn the basics of how plants grow and they’ll even be able to differentiate between species.
• Animal Spotting – if your kids love animals then why not take them to the woods to see how many birds or animals they can see? You can get books that let you tick off which animals you’ve seen, making it a rather addictive and competitive game.
• Building Mini Beast Areas – want to see more little critters in your garden? Why not build homes, shelters and feeding areas for these mini beasts. This way you can have some of the fun of the woods in the safety of your back yard.
• Visit a petting zoo – let your kids get up close and personal with exotic and farm yard animals to give them a healthy appreciation for animals and nature conservation. In 2010, Eden carried out a study of 2,000 children and found that more can identify a Dalek than an owl! Petting zoos are great for teaching your kids about the different types of animals and their various habitats.
• Just Add Water – kids love playing with water, so just putting a paddling pool out in the summer can encourage them to go outside more often. There are other alternatives like water balloons and water pistol fights that will have them running, ducking and diving in no time!
• Having a Kick About – if your children love playing football video games then get them to leave them behind by taking them for a kick about. There are clubs and activity groups where they can make new friends and have a great runabout outdoors.
The most important thing to do is to ensure that you make going outside a regular activity. Frequently going outside makes it a normal thing to do and your children are likely to start looking forward to it and may even favour it over playing video games or watching TV.
Good luck getting out there!
About the Author – Folly Farm is the top tourist attraction in Wales, voted best family attraction in 2010-2012. The park features many stunning animals, from lions to giant bunnies, but there are also outdoor adventure parks where your children can run around, explore and burn energy. If your kids are interested in learning more about any of our animals, then our park rangers are happy to answer any of their questions. Visit our website to find out more information.