As we honor our fallen heroes this weekend, it's also a great time to start planning fun ways to get the family outdoors this summer. After all, TIME magazine's online affiliate Healthland recently published a story about a study which found that parents are not giving their preschoolers enough time outdoors, especially girls (16% less likely to spend time outside).
Dads, I'm calling on you for this one. It's time to step up and take charge of getting your kids outside for some fun and exercise. Here are five easy ways to get outdoors with your young children.
1. Get Unplugged
Sometimes the biggest challenge to overcome is being wired to the outside world. Cell phones, internet, computers, television, iPads, iPods, iPhones, and iWhatevers all keep us tuning in, turning up, and zoning out. It's time to schedule "unplugged" time for your family. Set aside certain hours of the day that will involve no electronic devices (that includes your phone! I'm so guilty of this one). If you don't want to do it every day, maybe just start with one day a week and build up from there. The more fun the kids are having while not being plugged in, the more they'll want to unplug the next time.
2. Get Wet
water tables. They are a great way for kids to get wet and have creative play time outdoors without worrying about your water usage. Water tables are very versatile too, as they can be brought indoors on rainy days or in the winter to be used with beans, rice, or sand. If you want to make sure that you are being responsible about your water usage, use the water that you remove from water tables and pools to water your houseplants, flower beds, or garden. If you don't have a green thumb, see if your neighbor wants to use the water.
3. Get Moving
4. Get Exploring
Kids love to explore at this age, so you should take advantage of that by creating opportunities for them to investigate their surroundings. One of the best crafts that we have ever done at our local library's story time was make binoculars out of toilet paper rolls and some yarn. Here's a video tutorial if you're not sure how to get started. My daughter loves to take her binoculars with her on trips in the car and walks around the neighborhood. When we go for a walk to get the mail, she's looking for birds, frogs, and dragonflies as we travel around the pond in our development. Get a magnifying glass and look for ants (like the ones outside my garage door that refuse to die.... grrr) or other bugs to observe. Find ways to make adventures out of ordinary activities like going to the grocery store. Play games like "I Spy" while you are out and about to keep the kids engaged and observant.
5. Get Your Hands Dirty
website) called Free Range Kids from your local library. It will go a long way to address your anxiety about letting your kids get dirty. Once you have conquered that fear, you can easily engage in gardening, planting flowers, puddle jumping, dog washing, worm farming, or even mud pie making. Kids love getting dirty, and most of them love getting cleaned when it involves a garden hose. Build a sandbox and make castles every evening. Get them a kid-sized shovel and rake so they can "help" you rake up grass clippings and mulch flower beds. They will be super excited just to be involved in an adult activity. You never know, you just might have a budding gardener in your presence.
The most important thing is to HAVE FUN! Life is short enough without wasting it on all sorts of things that aren't fun. Show your kids that you enjoy their company, that they are more than just a tax deduction, that they are someone you like to hang out with, and most importantly, that you love them by loving to have fun with them. That's all for today, my daughter and I are going outside to play.