A few decades ago we would never have imagined that we would need to encourage children to play outdoors in the year 2013. Not only are today’s kids attached to numerous electronic gadgets, but they also have very organised social lives with after schools clubs and other extra curricular activities to fit into their day. No wonder there is little time for outdoor play and the free time many of us parents enjoyed in our youth. There have been dramatic increases in childhood obesity, attention difficulties and depression in children in recent years, with studies of outdoor education programs showing a clear therapeutic value to childrens health and wellbeing. The UK education system is waking up to the fact that kids need to get outdoors more, leading to increased emphasis on outdoor classrooms in schools and also the evolvement of Forest Schools. So, what can we do as parents to encourage our youngsters outdoors?
Here are our top 7 ways, but I’m sure you will find more to add to this list.
- Walk to school, the library, the shops, to the swimming pool, in fact walk everywhere if you can. Explain to the children how bad for the environment it is to use the car when you have leg power!
- Encourage them to collect “stuff” when they are outdoors….shells, pebbles, leaves and twigs….make a picture when you get home or build a bug house with your findings.
- Talk about what you see on your walks. Find out historical facts from your local library, take photos and enjoy what’s around you.
- Take a bug box, magnifying glass and trowel and let your kids explore!
- Make compost together, grow your own salad, veg and give the kids a few pots of their own to maintain.
- Collect leaves and get them to work out which trees they belong to.
- Carefully …. build a campfire in your garden, toast marshmallows or bake jacket potatoes for tea!