As summer peaks so does the importance of spending a little time outdoors – getting some sun, fresh air and exercise to help us make up for the hibernation modes we might be going into as colder months approach. For children, especially, this is a must – not only does being outdoors encourage children to be more active, getting the age-appropriate exercise they need to keep up a healthy lifestyle, it also encourages mental and emotional development, vital during a child’s formative, pre-pubescent years. Letting kids run around outdoors creates opportunities for them to develop social skills as they interact with people outside their immediate family, learn to make friends and coordinate within a broader community, as well as stimulating their intellect and creativity as they explore the wider world and come up with new ways to keep themselves entertained.
Moreover, outdoor activities can also be a great way for you to bond with your children, with projects that involve their participation and culminate in a sense of accomplishment once pulled off. Take a look at these ideas for activities to get your kids to appreciate the great outdoors.
Slip n’ Slides
This is the perfect remedy for the type of sweltering hot weather we’re expecting with each year going by. Beat the heatwaves with a slip n’ slide you can set up with your kids over the weekend in your backyard, perfectly ideal for those days you can’t just leg it to the beach and the community pool is likely to be overcrowded. You can simply purchase a slip n’ slide, but we think building one yourself, enlisting your kids to participate, will make the process that much more fulfilling and fun. You also get to invite over your kids’ friends or neighbors within the same age bracket, and let them enjoy splashing around in the water while also staying cool.
Camping in your backyard
It may not be feasible to take young school kids off camping all the time, but you can give them some valuable experience to work them up to it but setting up camp in your backyard. Involve them in erecting tents and laying out sleeping bags, making the experience as authentic as possible – teach them how to weigh a tent down so it doesn’t blow off in the wind, give them compasses so they can tell which direction the sun will rise from and face their tents away so they’re not blinded by sunlight in the mornings, or set up a telescope and see how many constellations you think you can spot in the night sky. Interacting with nature and the outdoors offers great learning opportunities for kids and help cultivate an attachment to the outdoors valuable in an era where our lifestyles are becoming more and more digital, and gives you as a parental figure opportunities to incorporate new experiences and lessons into your own life as well.
No camp is complete without a campfire, and while fire and kids is a combination to get every adult’s parental instincts on red alert, we’re not suggesting letting kids build their own campfires – in fact, a fire-pit in your backyard serves the purpose just as well. A propane-fuelled fire-pit lets you control the intensity and height of the flames, without the risk of spitting embers that might hurt someone, as is the case with wood-fires, making for the perfect place for kids and their playmates to huddle around roasting marshmallows and other snacks and swapping setting-appropriate spooky stories.
At no age is it more attractive to get mud and dirt all over us than it is just before the self-consciousness of adolescence kicks in, so we’re betting your 8 to 12 year olds are going to love getting their hands dirty as they join you in mucking around the garden. In fact, this is a great opportunity for them to learn first-hand about the demands of sowing and caring for plants and feed into a life-long love for gardening, likely to get them more invested in making sure their flower-beds or fruit-trees thrive because they feel personally involved. Not only does this allow you to spend quality time with your kids, but also offer great character development and intellectual growth opportunities, encouraging them to be responsible and tactile with hands-on learning.
Summertime is the only acceptable time to let your kids go berserk with their hyperactivity, because you get to set them loose outdoors without worrying about coming back to the smoldering remains of your living-room. All you need is a bunch of water guns or water-balloons to let your kids have hours of fun, working off their restlessness while staying cool in the summer. You can set up rules to make the game more engaging and competitive, splitting kids up into different teams, assigning them roles like defense and offense, and even introducing an objective, like reaching one end of the yard from the other without getting hit. The physical activity is both great for improving their endurance and boosting energy levels as well as making sure they get plenty of mental stimulation and chances to develop social skills and team spirit.
For a slightly messier – but arguably more fun – variation of a water war, you can also add a few drops of food dye or non-toxic watercolor paint into the water, and let the kids run wild.
A little bit of roleplaying might get the hidden actor out of kids young and old, and the process of setting up an impromptu stage in your backyard and getting to perform in front of an audience is likely to have kids buzzing with excitement all day long. Let them pick the genre and encourage them to come up with their own scripts and roles, those who may feel shy performing getting to be the director, stagehand, prop artist or costume designer while others act out their production. In fact, you can make an event out of this, inviting family, friends, and neighbors to catch an ad-lib performance outside on warm lazy evenings better spent outdoors. Not only does this keep your kids engaged, but also encourages them to get creative and develop self-confidence, as well as perhaps start nurturing an early appreciation for performance arts. Plus, it’s going to give you hours of footage of kids brandishing toy lightsabers and re-enacting Batman and Superman fight scenes without actually fighting, creating cherished memories you’d love to look back at in the future.