With springtime well underway (well, in most places anyway) its time to get out of the house; time to stop being so cooped up and staring at screens all the time.
For children, especially, outdoor play is vitally important. According to Claire McCarthy, MD of the Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health blog, outdoor play helps children with socialization, healthy risk-taking, and even helps them develop creativity and better executive functioning, like the ability to “plan, prioritize, troubleshoot, negotiate, and multitask.”
So how can you get outside and active with your kids this Spring? Here are five easy ways:
Go on a Spring Scavenger Hunt
Spring is a great time for building a fun and engaging outdoor scavenger hunt for kids. The possibilities of what they could search for are endless: a tree budding, a bird building a nest, tulips and daffodils starting to bloom after a long winter sleep.
Give each child a picture checklist list of spring items they’re likely to find along your route and then just head out on a walk. Give out ink stamps or stickers for each item a child finds. The scavenger hunt will help kids not just enjoy the outdoors but really pay attention to the world around them.
Travel On Your Park Passport
Let’s face it: grown-ups love getting stamps in our passports. So why wouldn’t our kids love it, too?
The kids can make their own passport booklets from construction paper and you can fill them with pictures of local parks—both new ones and old favourites—as the ‘destination’ for their trips. Each week you can visit one or two parks, and as proof of their travels the kids get an ink stamp or a sticker in their passport as they cross a park off their list. It’s a great way to see the neighbourhood and visit parks you might not usually get to.
Not enough parks nearby? No problem! You can add in libraries, schoolyards, nature trails, or even just a stand of trees the kids can explore. Anything that gets them excited to be outside will work.
Make a Nature ABC Book
Just because we’re outside doesn’t mean we can’t still be learning, right? Combine the physical with the educational by building a Nature ABC Book!
Go for a nature walk, and with your phone or a camera let your kids identify and photograph items they find—one for each letter of the alphabet. See some ants? That’s A taken care of! See the bark on that tree? There’s your letter B!
The LifeTales app would be a great way to record these finds, in either still photos or videos. You can even include notes or voice recordings from you and your kids talking about what they found.
Go for a Bicycle or Scooter Ride
Getting the bicycle—with or without training wheels—out of the garage is a classic rite of a new Spring. Learning to ride is an important milestone for many children, a sign of their growing independence. The popularity of scooters has also grown in recent years, with two-wheeled versions available for older children, and more stable three-wheeled scooters for young children who are still working on balance and coordination.
They’ll be having so much fun they won’t even realize its good for them! (Just be sure to keep a few bandages around the house to deal with the inevitable skinned knees).
Make sure tires are pumped up, chains well oiled, and that properly fitted bike helmets are worn. A bell and reflectors are also good safety ideas.
The Canada Safety Council offers good tips on making sure your kids understand the rules of the road and how they can stay safe on a bike or scooter.
Get Your Kids Gardening
What could be more appealing to little kids than getting to play in the dirt? That’s why gardening is a perfect outdoor activity for children! It can help them learn about natural lifecycles, develop a taste for those dreaded vegetables, and even aid in their cognitive and motor skills development. Spring is the right time to start planting for a tasty harvest come summertime.
For results that will keep kids interested (and that will see them eating a little salad they grew as soon as possible) focus on fast-growing seeds. Think lettuce, radishes, and green onions (planted from tiny bulbs called sets). Kids can do their own planting, water and weed their own beds or containers, and harvest fruits and veggies they grew.
And don’t forget edible flowers! Nasturtiums, pansies, lemon marigold, and hollyhock are all colourful additions to a garden that are not only easy to grow, but whose petals make tasty additions to salads, edible decorations for cakes, and fun garnishes for a tall glass of lemonade.