A new survey found that the amount of time that children time outside today is just half of what their parents used to do. The previous generation, today’s young parents, played a lot outdoors, as did the generation before them. Yet kids are still stuck indoors, playing with electronics or watching television.
Of course, at the moment, we are going through an entirely unprecedented situation: the coronavirus pandemic. To protect ourselves, our loved ones and the rest of our community, we are being asked to stay indoors unless we need to gout for work, supplies or a small amount of exercise.
While we all understand the importance of doing this, it has many adverse effects. It is much harder for young children to get exercise indoors, and without fresh air and space to be free, it can stifle creativity. It also can mean that children have lots of pent up energy, and with no outlet to expend this, it can lead to irritability and poor behaviour.
However, being in lockdown does not mean that you can’t go outside. It means that you have to be a little bit more creative and a whole lot more careful, but you and your children can still get out and get some much needed fresh air and exercise.
Remember to follow the rules of your country or state and to maintain social distancing and good hygiene at all times.
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Go on a bug hunt
If you are going on a walk around your local neighborhood or park, give your children a container and get them to collect as many types of bugs that they can, if it is safe to do so. Look at them carefully when you get home with a microscope or a magnifying glass before letting them go somewhere appropriately. You could even make a bar graph of all of the bugs that you find.
Go on a treasure hunt
Everyone loves a treasure hunt, so why not try metal detecting with your kids? If you live near a beach, it is a great activity to do on an evening or in the early morning when the beach is likely to be quiet. If not, you can do it in your own back or front yard. Who knows what treasures will be thrown up?
Play with water
If in doubt, add water! Kids will rarely pass up the opportunity to play in the water. Whether it is the pure pleasure of jumping in a muddy puddle after a rainfall, washing the car, running through a sprinkler on the lawn, watering the garden, playing in an inflatable pool or having fun on a slip-n-slide, a bit of water makes outdoor play fun!
Create some sidewalk art
Give passer-bys something to enjoy on their daily walk by creating some fun artwork on the sidewalk A big tub of chunky outdoor chalk from the dollar store can give your kids hours of fun. Encourage hopscotch and movement trails for people to have a go, or write positive and happy messages. They will quickly wash away with a bit of rain or a bucket of water.
Collect lots of natural materials from your outdoor environment – pine cones, flowers, leaves, sticks, shells – whatever you can find – and create something beautiful with them. You could also try making natural paints or make perfume using petals from flowers.
Develop new skills
If you have the luxury of a yard or garden, give them the freedom to explore it and play in it as they see fit. They will no doubt invent games and learn new skills without any intervention from adults, and it can be fascinating to see what they can come up with when left to their own devices.
Create an assault course
If you have enough space, this can be an enjoyable way for kids to burn off some energy, and you can get them involved in creating it. Old tyres, branches and logs, pallets and scraps of wood, as well as a few bits of play equipment such as skipping ropes or cones, can create a really fun assault course for both children and adults. See who can complete it in the shortest time!
Give your child your phone or camera, or if you don’t entirely trust them not to drop it, get them their own child-friendly camera and take it with you on a walk. Ask them to take photos of things that interest them. Encourage them to look from new perspectives and angles. You could create a superb photo book or slideshow movie to send to family.