Five Uncommon But Safe Outdoor Activities for Kids
Getting outside is an important part of childhood health and well-being, especially in today’s society. Many pastimes and activities are conducted inside buildings, often with less activity than is good for young, growing kids. In order to help them grow up strong, and develop curious, open minds, try some of these activities with your children.
Different Ways to Go
For children four and older, just learning the joys of reading, this fun game will allow you to spend some wonderful time together while enriching their budding research and observational skills. Alternate modes of transportation are the stuff of which everyday adventure is made. If you ordinarily drive everywhere in a family car, seek out other ways people get around town—buses, trains, subways, and ferries. Then, take a visit to your local library and find a book that will describe how the chosen method of transport works, where it goes, and how it is used.
When the time comes for your adventure, ask questions about the transportation and surrounding issues—who do you think rides the train, where are they going, what can they see during the ride, or what makes the train move? Keep in mind that you’re engaged in what is known as the co-creation of knowledge, so their interested participation matters more than the correct answer. Encourage imagination and exploration of possibilities.
In a designated outdoor area—a park, backyard, or common apartment courtyard—each team or individual should find an item that corresponds to a letter in the alphabet. At a well-marked central location, each team should report their finds to a list-keeper, who will write down their finds. This activity can be designed for all age groups, from very young children to preteens. For very young children, an adult or older helper can assist them.
The Giant Bubble Festival
You’ll need some basic materials for this activity, and can make as many sets as needed for group fun.
• Two drinking straws
• Length of kitchen string
• Sheet pan or 13 x 9 inch baking dish
• Bubble soap
What you’ll do is thread the string through the drinking straws and tie the loose ends firmly together. This creates a loop with two handles, so the amount of slack between the two straws determines the size of the bubbles you can create. Pour your bubble solution into the pan, and situate the string loop within it, being sure to leave the straws out on either side. Then, by taking hold of the straws, you can create enormous bubbles and encourage movement for your kids. If you have several bubble stations, many kids can participate.
It’s a time-honored pastime that has fallen into disuse. Many parents fear their children may have an accident when jumping on the trampoline, but when appropriate vigilance is exercised on the part of the caretaker, kids have a blast and get much-needed physical activity. Trampolines come in all sizes—from a mere three feet in diameter, just inches off the ground, to enormous expanses with endless bouncing potential.
Small trampolines can be excellent tools to help teach toddlers about movement—assisted bouncing, marching in place, gentle sit-down exercises, and reaching motions can all be shown and practiced on these miniature bouncy structures. When summer rolls around, older kids can work off their pent up energy together, playing made-up games and challenging one another on the larger trampolines. It’s also a good tool to help socialize your kids. When neighborhood friends come to play, everyone will have to take turns, which means courtesy and patience are valuable skills for everyone to have.
Tiny Herb Garden
This is an especially good activity for kids just learning how to read and write. Even if you only have a small outdoor space, you can enjoy this season-long activity with your kids, while teaching them the wonders of gardening, and the daily magic of growing plants. You’ll need a few materials, but the types of herbs you grow are entirely up to you. Materials include:
• Ceramic or plastic flower pots
• Potting soil
• Herb seeds
• Popsicle sticks
• Black Marker
Fill your containers about two thirds full of soil, watering enough to moisten the dirt. Then, gently sprinkle the surface of the soil with seeds, one type per container. Then, cover the seeds with a shallow layer of potting soil, and insert a Popsicle stick with the name of the herb printed clearly upon it.
Outdoor activities can be so much fun as well as healthy and educational. Incorporating an element of joy into exercise or learning activities often helps to encourage children to seek out similar activities on their own in later life. Look for other opportunities to provide your kids with healthy, fun pastimes like these—they’re both numerous and inexpensive.