Whether at the park, the beach or your own backyard, children love to play outside. There’s something about digging in the dirt, observing an ant colony at work and feeling the wind on their face that fills their little minds with wonder. But did you know that’s it’s scientifically proven that playing outside can also improve vision, decrease stress, improve classroom performance and improve attention span? In a recent article on Parent Co., Edward Shepard shares the many reasons why kids need unstructured playtime outdoors to just be kids and explore nature on their own.
Here are 10 of our favorite tips for you or your Nanny to encourage outdoor play this summer:
- Give your child a disposable camera and go on an outdoor photo expedition.
- Create a nature scrapbook using drawings combined with leaves, flowers and grass to decorate a notebook.
- For older children, create a treasure hunt with clues and maps.
- Buy or build a simple bird feeder. Use the internet to find pictures of birds in your area, then print them out and help your child identify them when they come into your yard for a snack.
- If you have a yard or even a small patio, plant a garden or a few flowers in pots. Hand the responsibility of caring for them to your child.
- Turn over a rock or log and watch as your child stares mesmerized and the wiggly world underneath. Bring a magnifying glass.
- Start a rock collection. Encourage your child to find a special rock every time he or she steps outside. Make it a game for older children by specifying a different type of rock each day: A heart shaped rock, a flat rock, a black rock, etc.
- Create a nature scavenger hunt listing 10 or more items from your neighborhood: A pinecone, a daisy, a red leaf, etc.
- Make a good old-fashioned daisy chain crown.
- Take a watering can and make some mud in the backyard, then encourage kids to dig or make mud sculptures. Yes it will be a pain to clean them up, but scientists believe that playing in the mud may actually be good for kids by exposing them to bacteria that will strengthen their immune systems.
To read the full article about the importance of playing outside, click here: 8 science-backed reasons for letting your kids play outdoors.
Photo credit: Travis Swan/flickr