Let's go out to play!
Maudie Kelly, MS
Human Development Specialist
The snow has melted, birds are singing, flowers are budding—spring has arrived! Now is a great time to enjoy the great outdoors and all the benefits playing
outside brings to our children.
I remember as a child playing outside for hours with siblings and friends. Today children spend several hours daily watching television, playing video games, or playing on the computer. Many of us have seen alarming statistics about the increasing rate of childhood obesity, which can lead to serious health issues. Part of obesity problems can be blamed on lack of time spent outdoors playing.
Outdoor play lets children run, jump, climb and ride bikes. Children often will sleep better. Some experts think behavior improves. Outdoor play also helps children physically by developing muscles and strengthening bones. Children build social skills spending time playing games with peers. They can explore interests and surroundings, learn to appreciate nature, and use their imagination.
Here are some fun activities you can enjoy with children outdoors:
· Take a walk and carry a bag to collect leaves, pine cones, small rocks, twigs, etc. Put these on a shelf in the child’s room, or use them to make a nature collage to hang on the wall.
· Camp in the backyard with a small tent or a tent made from a sheet or blanket.
· Help children use their senses to explore how things smell, feel, look and sound. (What color is it? Is it big or small? How many legs does it have? Does it make sound?)
· Play ball, ride bikes or roll down a hill.
· Go to a park where children can swing or climb on a playground.
· Play “I see a cloud that looks like . . .”
· Sit under a tree and read together.
· Eat a picnic lunch in the backyard.
· Plant a garden so children can watch changes over time. Invite them to help plant, water and care for plants.
· Use outdoor time to talk with your child—maybe about when you were young, or what you want to do next week. You will be building communication skills that will continue as your child gets older.
· Go outside at night to look at the sky.
Outdoor fun lets adults build memories and children benefit from fresh air and exercise. Let’s go out to play!
Source: Portions adapted from Family Time/Work Time Newsletter, Penn State Cooperative Extension Better Kid Care Program.