This article was written by Tess Wagner from Nature Play QLD
As parents we want to give our children the necessary ingredients to become happy, healthy, resilient and well-rounded human beings, but we often feel we’re falling short. With each passing day the ingredients list grows longer, and the recipe becomes more complicated.
Well what if I told you it doesn’t need to be complicated, expensive, overwhelming or time consuming?
There is ample research coming out to support the claims that playing outdoors and being in nature helps children achieve all this … and more! It benefits their brains and bodies, helps them build confidence, social skills, resilience, and strength. Children learn to think creatively, problem solve and manage stress. Their emotional and social skills improve, and they become more empathetic, capable of resolving conflict, and confident in advocating for themselves. Children develop stronger immune system, better balance, coordination, and sometimes even eyesight. The list of benefits is seemingly endless.
But life is already crazy busy right? Getting the kids off their devices and out the front door simply feels like another time-consuming task to add to your already overwhelming ‘To Do’ list.
Think again! Getting your children outside can be as easy as pie, it just takes a little forethought… and lucky for you, I’ve already done this for you.
Here’s my top 5 tried and tested tips to getting your child outdoors, having fun, and reaping all those marvelous health and happiness perks:
Take indoor activities outside. It doesn’t get much easier than this! Reading, eating, board games, homework, ball bouncing (I’m sure I’m not the only mum who goes a little crazy with all the ball bouncing inside the house!) – all of these can be enjoyed outside. Resulting not only in a happier healthier child, but a cleaner quieter house too (you’re welcome).
Hang out the washing together. Chores are a part of life, but often leave busy parents feeling even guiltier for not spending quality time with their children. Why not combine the two? Put a rug down when hanging out the washing, and let your child sit and chat away about their day, do their homework, or simply take in the fresh air.
Set them a challenge. Sometimes getting them out the door is the biggest obstacle. Giving children a mission or challenge to complete is a good way to entice them out – and can serve as a great learning tool too. The Nature Play Passport and these Nature Playlists are good free resources to get you started.
Give them something to explore. Wherever you live – be it urban, suburban or rural – I bet there’s something within 1km of your home that your child could venture to. Depending on their age, it may just be in the backyard for now, but giving your child the freedom to roam a little further afield helps build their confidence, independence and sense of adventure. Explore together first, map out a safe route, and teach your child safety measures such as road rules or what to do if they encounter certain wildlife. Encourage them to explore with a friend and to check back in every half hour – this will help calm their fears, and yours too, as you both get used to this new-found freedom.
Neighbourhood play. All these activities would be more fun with a friend! Luckily most suburban streets are bursting with children who want to play, it’s just they’re behind closed doors. Encourage your child to break down those walls by doing a letterbox drop inviting children out to play. These free resources and templates might help.
If you’re interested in how we can all work together to build healthier happier childhoods, then I invite you to come along to the Childhood Summit 2019, where experts from the fields of health, education, community, infrastructure, environment and community will be doing just this.
The summit will be hosted this year by Nature Play QLD in Brisbane on 28-30 March, and will include inspirational speakers from around the world, intimate tours of practical outdoor learning and nature play spaces, panelists answering those questions previously deemed ‘too hot to handle’, as well as heaps more! The child’s voice will be at the centre of the three day event, as each day kicks off with a different child speaker. There will also be an inspirational gallery and a loose parts play pit running for the duration of the event.
About Tess Wagner
Tess works for Nature Play QLD, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to increasing the time children spend outdoors. As a mum to two mischievous boys, and a step-mum to two more (yes, that’s FOUR boys!), she is well versed on the importance of outdoor play (for her sanity as well as theirs).