This blog post is about getting our kids playing outdoors, especially our older school going kids. Below, I have honed in on a simple, but effective, trick to get them outdoors so you can put Nature Days into action at home.
Nature Days wants to make parents aware that our kids have a deep developmental need for play outdoors, getting hands on and connecting with Nature. As parents, we can sometimes underestimate the importance of play for our kids development. And their need for play outdoors goes beyond adult led sports and after school activities they might be part of. They are good for our kids in themselves, but they are structured, and studies show that it's playing freely outdoors and connecting to Nature that brings a multitude of additional health and wellbeing benefits our kids so badly need. The kind of development they need to become well rounded, emotionally mature, adults.
But, it's not always easy to get kids outdoors, especially once they loose the habit for the outdoors. Once kids become used to spending their free time on devices, watching TV, or playing sports, it can seem like an uphill battle to switch them back to the fun of just playing outside.
But the goods news is that kids are so versatile, they can revert back to the outdoors for their fun and entertainment with minimal effort. We just need to take the first step to bring the outdoors into their lives.
So I've honed in on a sure-fire way to get your kids outdoors with you this weekend, getting up close to Nature and losing themselves in the wonder of it all - the Nature Days Photo Scavenger Hunt.
All you need to do is pull up the Nature Days Photo Scavenger Hunt on your phone and challenge everyone to take pictures outdoors of as many of the items as they can. You could print off the sheet before your walk, as many kids love to check them off as they go along. Of course you can use your digital camera if you have one too. This easy activity works well for all age groups, even the teens and adults in your family may enjoy this challenge, and you can compare the results when back indoors.
You can find the Nature Days Photo Scavenger Hunt, as well as many other short activities, in the Nature Days Activity Finder Naturedays | 15 Minutes | Nature Walks. Check out Naturedays | Activity Finder for more ideas too.
Needs of the young Child
We all know that childhood is a time when children develop at a blistering pace, right from the moment they are born until they reach 18 years and beyond. There are monumental changes happening within them all the time, with particular growth periods during which this development speeds up to a gallop.
When our children are babies, we are acutely tuned into the changes happening and how we must adapt to keep pace. Transitions from milk to solids, cot to bed, tantrums to smiles, pre-school to primary school. We prep, we upskill and we adapt to put the needs of the child first in these vital years. Built into this drive for perfection when raising young kids, is a necessity for time outdoors. It's a prerequisite - for the small child to let off some steam, and for us to clear our heads.
Stepping back from the outdoors
But, somehow, after our kids leave the shadow of our wing for the outside world of primary school and beyond, the focus shifts. There is more attention paid to children keeping up with schoolwork, making the team or fitting in. Much of their day is taken up with indoor activity. This is a societal shift in thinking which sweeps us along, so that over time many of us step right back from seeing play time outdoors as a top priority for our kids as we make room for other activities.
And with that step backwards, we move away from the deeply enriching health and wellbeing benefits that sufficient time playing outdoors brings to our children as they grow Top 10 benefits of outdoor play (naturedays.ie).
Without regular time outdoors, just mucking around in the garden or your nearby outside space, children face into adulthood with an under developed connection with the outdoors.
Without regular time to play outdoors, our kids loose out on the many benefits which this type of play can bring - developing their sense of independence as they figure things out by themselves, developing their ability to assess risk, develop their ability to problem-solve, learning how to generate positive feelings and a more positive mood, increasing their coping skills, developing good physical balance and coordination, good motor skills and a fully developed set of social skills.
In fact, studies show that there will be a large rise in children wearing glasses, as their eye development is suffering from lack of exposure to UV-B sun rays outdoors, which are vital for healthy eye development!
None of us want to think that we are standing in the way of our kids learning and development, but the reality is that without outdoor play in Nature most days of each week, we may well be.
Perhaps, on some level, we think they get enough outdoors time on their journey to school, in the school yard, or at their after school activities, like sports.
But the reality is they get very little time to just play and explore during these times- there is always somewhere to be, a lack of Nature to interact with on their sparse school yards, or too much structure and adults directing what they can and can't do.
So, when else can they get this vital time to interact freely with the outdoors, engage with Nature, and tap into the many benefits of outdoor play? What time is left after school, homework and afterschool activities eat up the majority of their time? And when they are home, are the comforts and distractions indoors a huge pull on their remaining time?
I know it's not easy, kids are busy, we're busy, and there are many obstacles to getting our kids outdoors in a convenient and easy way.
It's not your fault if you're finding it hard to fit it in - it's just the society we live in today. But that doesn't mean our kids need for this time outdoors is any less important.
Nature Days is about Awareness, Not Guilt!
Once we realise how important getting kids outdoors is for their development, and how well they may cope with life as adults the more they get of it, it becomes something that I feel we can all value.
Nature Days is here to help you by taking the thinking out of getting outdoors - just click into the Activity Finder to find a treasure trove of fun, simple, ideas to tempt your kids outdoors. Whether you have 15 minutes to spare, an hour, or more, you will find something to spark an interest in the outdoors for your family. Believe me when I tell you that kids have an inbuilt curiosity about Nature inside them, it just needs the smallest spark to ignite it again. And once they are having fun outdoors, they will return to it time and time again. It's that simple.
Simple, fun, activities like the Nature Days Photo Scavenger Hunt are all you need to get your kids having fun outdoors again, no matter what age they are. It doesn't take elaborate plans - just an easy activity up your sleeve and a small amount of your time, starting with just 15 minutes Naturedays | 15 Minutes | Nature Nudge.
Need for the outdoors still remains as they grow up
The reality is the need for the outdoors does not disappear once our kids start school, it is just as vital as ever as they grow up. But a Growing Up In Ireland 2018 study shows that by the time kids reach 7 years old, it has already become crowded out. The majority of Irish kids in the study have already transitioned from getting play time outdoors most days, to just one to two days per week, or less. I think this reflects the reality for many families, as once school kicks in, things change dramatically.
The reality is kids all over Ireland are missing out on a vital part of their development - time to just play outdoors.
This situation has escalated to such an extent that the government has tried to step in to get kids more time to play. By bringing awareness to parents of the importance of free time to play, they have tried to help kids cope with the stresses and strains of the recent Covid 19 Pandemic.
"Playing is central to children’s physical, mental, social and emotional health and wellbeing. Children learn through play while developing resilience, flexibility and understanding of their world…Play has never been more important.” Lets Play Ireland, a government initiative launched to help promote play during the Covid 19 Pandemic in 2020.
The "play" they are talking about is child-led, unstructured, exploratory play where kids figure things out, learn by doing, overcome obstacles, problem-solve and just do something for the sake of doing it. No adult direction. No structure. No rules. No Goal other than having fun.
Play in the Outdoors is Gold!
And, when it comes to play, the outdoors is natures’ own playground. It’s an ideal environment for children to hone their many skills. They can engage in the quality of play that can spring board your child into being the resilient, adaptable, curious and interested young person you wish them to be.
In an open and ever-changing environment, all their senses are firing, challenged, and children must cope with what’s around them in the natural elements and adapt to risks. They also tend to have less conventional "toys" outdoors than indoors, and so they naturally switch over to using their imagination - inventing, problem solving and innovating while outdoors without these things.
"The benefits of play both deepen and broaden when play is outdoors and in
contact with Nature." What's Better: Indoor or Outdoor Play? | Psychology Today Ireland
So, Nature Days wants to help parents understand that playing outdoors and in Nature is right up there as one of the core development needs of our children.
Connection with Nature
And crucially, from this also grows a deep appreciation and fascination with Nature, as children
develop an emotional connection towards Nature and the environment.
This cannot be overstated enough.
Because our kids are facing into a world where Climate Change is likely to be the defining issue of their lives. We all rely on them to have the connection to Nature, resilience and the will to have sustainable behaviour for our environment in the future. They must develop these skills in their youth.
For me, this is becoming the number one reason why we need to get our children outdoors, in contact with Nature and bonding with it. We will all rely on this connection in time to come.
A Trick Up Your Sleeve - Photo Scavenger Hunt
Nature Days is here to help!
I'm a big believer that if you Bring the fun, the kids will come!
With our Naturedays | Activity Finder, we help you tempt the kids outdoors with fun tasks, activities and games to play. But the ultimate goal is always that the kids take off on their own, exploring and getting lost in the endless wonder, challenge and motion of the outdoors. This is the type of play which turbo boosts their development, with no goal in mind other than to have fun.
The Nature Days Photo Scavenger Hunt is just the ticket.
It combines the fun of exploring, while using your camera phone, with creativity and art.
🦋 Find out more about the benefits of the Nature Days Photo Scavenger Hunt and tips for this activity here.
🦋 The 7 Nature Days Challenge is an easy and quick way to fast track even the most reluctant kids back outdoors and loving Nature in just one week. With just a 15 minute time commitment for most days, there really is nothing hard about jump starting the spark for the outdoors in your kids.
Nature has a way of entertaining, delighting and drawing us forward - let your family experience the simple pleasure of watching the scene unfold before them.
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