“It’s time to return to childhood, to simplicity, to running and climbing and laughing in the sunshine, to experiencing happiness instead of being trained for a lifetime of happiness. It’s time to let children be children again.” – LR KNOST
Today, it is so easy to get wrapped up in wanting to “train” our children, to “prep” them for there future and constantly challenge them to be faster, stronger, “ahead of the game”. Now more than ever we need to be keeping childhood sacred, protecting this short time in children’s lives where they get the chance to learn and grow and explore, naturally and on their own. These days are more important than many people think. We need to get our children outside and in nature. Giving them the opportunity to be outside in the sunshine on beautiful days and experience the rain on cloudy ones. We need to let our children get out and explore, run, play, navigate and learn about the real world around them for today and for their future.
Ask yourself, when was the last time your bare feet felt the crunchy, moist ground of a wooded forest or the cool wet sand on a beach, or the freshly cut grass at a park? When was the last time you grabbed your child’s hand and ran with them outside to dance in the rain, and splash in the puddles? We need to give our children this kind of joy and freedom, this will not only take the pressure off our children to let them experience true freedom, so they can relax and enjoy the world around them, but it will also help take the pressure off parents so that we can relax in the fresh air and enjoy this time with our children as well.
A quote I am always thinking of while looking at my children is by Haim Ginott which says, “Children are like wet cement whatever falls on them makes an impression.” This quote is so powerful, it is so true and we as parents leave a lifelong impression on our kids. We can do this in negative ways without even realizing it. Rushing life along, too much screen time, and a lock of fresh air is the thief of childhood. We need to be so intentional about the impressions we leave on our children. We need to be intentional in positive ways, taking them outside in nature to explore, relax, igniting all their senses. Watching them play and be children. This is where parenting comes to life, when we can either nurture and help develop our kids to be strong, independent little people, or miss out on all the opportunities to see who they truly are and who they are growing to be.
Benefits and Activities for Outside Play:
+ Outside Play Improves Physical activity & Large motor skill development
Take your kids to a park or out in the yard, let them run and climb and play. This will not only get them active, but it is promoting physical activity for health and wellness. A game my children love to play outside is red light, green light. Someone is the “stop light” and the others stand about 10-50 feet away from the “stop light”. The person who is “it/the stop light” turns their back to the others for green light (go) and the others run as fast as they can to the “stop light”, when the “stop light” faces them the light turns red (stop). If the “stop light” sees any of the others moving, they go back to the starting point again. Whoever makes it to the “stop light” first without being seen moving gets to be the “stop light” next. It is such a fun game to play. We even sometimes set the sprinkler up to play in it on hot days.
+ Outside Play Improves Exploration and Sensory development
A great way to get your kids out in nature exploring, and learn is by going on a nature walk. My kids like to pack their backpacks with their nature journals (regular notebooks), snacks, and water bottles on nature walk days. It’s fun to find a nearby path or trail, or even just simply go on a walk on the sidewalk in town. There is so much to see, smell, touch, listen to, and sometimes even taste! We like to bring our nature journals in case we see a cool bug, flower, weed, animal, or anything interesting that we want to remember from our walk. We will sit down and sketch/ color the picture and then we have it to reminisce on later. This is engaging so much more than exploration and sensory development; it is also helping with small motor development and art too!
+ Outside Play Improves Socialization and Connection with Nature
Often, when we go outside to explore a park, or nature trail or anything outside, we run into other people. It is so fun to sit back and watch my children learn and grow their socialization skills with others. Sometimes though, when we are outside and freely exploring and using our imaginations they learn to connect and socialize with and through nature. They find pinecones to play with as people, flowers and weeds to make furniture out of, and little bugs to have as the pinecone people’s pets. Suddenly, just off the picnic blanket is a little world that my children have created and are engaged in on their own. These are my favorite kind of days because I can sit back and enjoy listening to them play while relaxing with a book. We are all spending time together but in our own little relaxed worlds full of fresh air and sunshine.
Let me challenge you a little before you pack up and head outside. I challenge you to think about all the time you and your family are inside, and then I challenge you to plan on how you can increase your outside time but at least half of the amount of time you are inside. Make it a family activity! Then go to https://www.1000hoursoutside.com/trackers and pick a tracker together as a family and start tracking how many hours you are outside per day. Make a goal of at least 1 hour per day, rain, shine, snow, or heat. An awesome goal is 1,000 hours outside. Feel free to explore the site the tracker is on more for fun activities and inspiration too! We personally love tracking our hours outside together. It makes a wonderful family keepsake too!
Stephanie Lapinksi is a mother of five from a small town in Wisconsin. She is a homeschooler with a background is in early childhood education and wellness.