Some of the worst parts of childhood are the rainy weekends where you can’t go anywhere. Or those birthday-party-Saturdays when you’re sick and Mom won’t let you go. Or worse, when the world is alive and thriving and Mom and Dad are too busy to play with you.
And now, that rainy weekend is today, tomorrow, the next day, and possibly the next several months to a year. Is that alarmist? Maybe. Is it possible? Also maybe.
If you’re living with kids, they’re living out the worst possible version of that neverending rainy weekend.
Perhaps you’ve already had this thought…
Oh God. We’ve already done every indoor activity a human being can do. I’ll hear the Frozen 2 soundtrack in my head every morning as I rise to face another day of watching Frozen 2. These kids will be blind by the time they’re adults from blue screen overdose.
Or something like it.
And while the outdoors isn’t an option for everyone right now (especially if you’re in a part of the country considered a “hot spot”), plenty of us have access to nature that we aren’t even using… some of us, even in our own backyards.
The weather is getting nicer… Yes, in some parts of the country, there has been a polar vortex. In some places, April showers have extended to May.
But for the most part… we can all figure out ways to help keep our little future leaders of tomorrow engaged, curious, and active.
The truth is: They’ll never be more curious about the world than they are right now. And they need optimism and “undirected attention” more than ever. When children play inside, or in urban environments, they’re using what’s called “directed attention”.
In a way, it’s what you’re using too. It’s the kind of attention that doesn’t allow for distractions and demands narrow focus.
Being in nature, playing outside, noticing your surroundings is the opposite – and it reduces stress and fatigue in children.
Plus, everyone needs more vitamin D. Studies have shown that nearly half of American adults are short of the vitamin D they need to survive. And a study from the American Heart Association recently revealed that kids are spending on average between three and seven hours a day in front of a screen… so they’re not getting the Vitamin D they need either.
There are plenty of creative ways to mitigate this growing problem.
These are just a few…
Can’t Eliminate Screens Completely? Use Them Wisely
Step one: Can you safely take a walk? If yes, do so. Step two: If you can’t, perform in your backyard.
Let your kid take your phone and give them this simple instruction: Photograph everything that strikes their interest.
Then, when you get home, have them give you a guided tour of the walk you just took, showing you everything they photographed, what they thought was cool about it, whether they can identify the thing or not (if not, look it up together), and any fun facts they know about the thing they photographed.
Bonus points if you get the pictures printed and then create a scrapbook memorializing “Possibly Tuesday: The Day We Took that Walk.”
Grab a Notepad and a Pen
Bolstered by your simple tools, you and your kids are ready to embark on a humble naturalist’s journey: Identifying your local flora and fauna.
Maybe you already know what everything in your neighborhood is! Cool!
But if you don’t, this is the fun part. You start your walk, and point out a tree. Do you know what kind of tree it is? No? Try to draw it in your notepad. Make careful note of how thick the trunk is, what color and shape its leaves are, how tall it is, etc.
Woah! See that flower bush? Can you name it? If not, record the color and shape of its petals, what it smells like, whether it’s prickly to the touch, etc. Draw it!
Go on like this for a while – don’t forget about birds and creatures – and when you’ve gathered enough information, return home and start your search engines. See if you can find the names of all the plants you noted!
Build a Home for Critters – Real and Imaginary
The best thing about building a fairy retreat is that there are no rules – fairies haven’t exactly weighed in on how they prefer their free abode offerings to look, so this is a completely creative and non-derivative activity.
Gather twigs. Moss. Cardboard. Pebbles. Grass. Make sure you’ve got wood glue. Stack your twigs like lincoln logs, glue the cardboard to the walls and then pebbles to that cardboard, or build a gorgeous little moss-covered A-frame.
Let your imagination be your guide.
Conversely, of course, if you’ve got a very pragmatic child on your hands, you could build a bird-feeder or frog dome or a treehouse for your squirrels.
Getting to see animals using their homes will thrill children and teach them about how much fun it can be to help others.
Stay tuned for more ways to keep your kids active outside…
We think it’s so important, we’re not going to stop talking about it any time soon!