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The Benefits of Family Play Outdoors

kids play outdoors 10-1-21

Nature is a healer. Such is its power that just 10 minutes spent in a natural setting can make you feel happier and buffer the effects of stress. Time outdoors is also key to a child’s development. It helps hone a plethora of skills — including concentration, goal setting, teamwork, and so much more. As stated by nature author, Richard Louv, “Time in nature is not leisure time; it's an essential investment in our children’s health (and also, by the way, in our own).” If you’ve been wanting to expand your range of outdoor activities, the following ideas may inspire you.

Building a Mud Kitchen

Children love clay, mud, and indeed all things squishy, but if you haven’t done any hands-on work in a long time, then you might enjoy building a mud kitchen with your child in your backyard. To do so, you can either buy a ready-made DIY mud kitchen or build one of your own, buying mud from a hardware store. You will need a counter with a backsplash, a water source (such as a hose), a sink, measuring cups and buckets, and shelves to store these utensils to make it feel more like a real kitchen. Set it up to look just like a kitchen, then start preparing and ‘cooking’ food together using a combination of mud, sand, and water.

Climbing Trees

If you were lucky enough to live near an area filled with trees, you probably have many fond memories of climbing your favorite tree or even building a treehouse. Both activities are something you can still enjoy alongside your children. A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health has found that children who take part in climbing, jumping, rough and tumble play and other ‘risky’ outdoor activities have better physical and social health. Environments with trees and plants, said scientists, promote resilience, creativity, and social interaction. Monitor your children’s activities, teaching them vital skills such as how to choose the right tree to climb (the tree should have wide, sturdy branches) and how to land when they jump so as to avoid scratches, sprains, and other injuries.

Forest Bathing

Forest bathing is a popular activity in some parts of the world (such as Japan) and is a proven stress buster. Time in the woods reduces levels of stress hormone, cortisol, improves mood, and raises energy levels. To take a forest bath with your kids, simply head to a beautiful forest and ask them to open their senses of sight, sound, touch, hearing and (if possible) taste to the majesty that surrounds them. Listen together to the sound of leaves blowing and the chirping of birds, take note of the beautiful plants and trees around you and (if you can) pick edible fruits for later enjoyment. Once in the forest, of course, you can take part in many activities together — including playing with leaves, camping, and nature exploration.

Time spent outdoors is as beneficial for children as it is for adults. Nature is a powerful stress healer but it also provides many opportunities for fun, unstructured play and ‘messy’ activities like building a mud kitchen. To make the most of your time with your kids, choose from an array of fascinating activities — ranging from forest bathing to enjoying a weekend trekking, discovering new spots, and camping.