Welcome to the age of vanishing playgrounds. In today’s society of indoor children, personal connections with nature seem hard to come by.
The one compelling reason that led me to write this post was that, both my boys spend a big chunk of their free time either in front of the television or hooked to video games.
We as parents really need to work as advocates to think about the potential of nature to improve the health and well-being of children.
The bells and whistles of the great outside that beckoned once are almost lost now.
“The basic finding seems to be yes, nature does seem to be really good for kids,” says Frances Kuo, PhD, founder of the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
It is important for children to understand the feel of soft grass underneath bare feet. Enjoy the feel of rough sand and smooth rocks.
Most of the studies agree that kids who play outside are smarter, happier, more attentive, and less anxious than kids who spend more time indoors.
The way that kids play in nature has a lot less structure than most types of indoor play. This unstructured style of play also allows kids to interact meaningfully with their surroundings.
It allows them to think more freely, design their own activities, and approach the world in a more inventive way. Say researchers and scientists.
The world-wide panic about kids spending too much time indoors has become so extreme that the crisis has a name; nature deficit disorder. Sounds rhetorical?
But it is also clear that almost all parents around the world have the same pressing concern.
The outdoors has a history of inspiring some incredible scientific characters to pursue science:
Charles Darwin was inspired by a family trip to Wales; Nobel Laureate Sir Paul Nurse fondly recalls counting spider’s webs in his garden; Prof. Steve Jones (President of the Association for Science Education) decided to pursue Biology after a field trip.
We at Racingtigers recorded responses of some mothers and fathers from around the world and got them talking about what their kids loved to do outdoors in order so, others be inspired too.
And no, you don’t necessarily need a playground for any outdoor activity. Let’s begin.
Tracy Morris My little ones (18 months and 4 yrs) love building rock cairns (towers)… they can get them pretty high before they fall over too! They also love collecting beach treasure like, shells and driftwood. www.theblondenomads.com.au
Rupambika Khandai: “What do you like about the outdoors Anya?” I am curious about her answer. Her eyes light up mischievously at the very thought. “ I like to run around and e-x-p-l-o-r-e” She rolls the word around her tongue still getting used to the thrill of surprising me with big words. And bigger adventures. She tells me about the time she and her “gang” were playing an elaborate game of treasure hunting and went looking for clues all around the community parks. And about the time she was finally able to cover a tiny independent distance with her roller skates after much hand grabbing and (im)balancing. I think what she loves best about the outdoors is the freedom.
Nushrat Parween: My babies are fond of nature. They are at their happiest selves when they are outdoors. From running on the grass to running after a butterfly, from making sandcastles on the beach to facing the sea fearlessly. They never get tired of it all. In today’s gadget absorbed world, my emphasis is that my kids play the old-fashioned way, i.e, outside the confines of the house. The beautiful, colorful world which can only be understood when explored. I want to gift my kids the sweet memories of all the happiness of childhood as I firmly believe; a happy child is a confident child.
Sharon Gourlay “Although I did not mean it to be, this pretty much sums up life with 3 kids/boys/copious travel + own business. Equal parts craziness + stress + awesomeness + exceeding what I knew was possible. I wouldn’t want it any other way.” My kids love the crazy sea, splashing water on each other in their wild fun. Skipping, hopping and running around, chasing those wild butterflies of the wilderness. https://simplerandsmarter.com.au
Sarah Watson Bean My kids love being outdoors! In fact, our whole family does! I remember from the time they could walk, spending countless hours outside. First, jumping in puddles- then taking adventures! Now they enjoy going outside just to be outside! “Mom can we swing?” “Mom can we slide?” “Let’s go outside!” “Lets go on a walk!” And don’t forget camping. We all love camping, it’s one of our favorite things to do as a family. Raisinghumanbeans.com
Jennifer Spears: My 8 year old and his (almost) 2 year old sister both like to dig. We had to designate a part of the yard for their “construction” site. They dig wells, make lakes and rivers…they love it. More than anything, my kids like to be loud and be allowed to get dirty when they are outside. They dig holes in their “construction site,” climb trees, play in the water and play with all of the toys that are too loud for inside. We try not to dictate what or how they play when outside, but do keep a close eye on them to make sure they don’t get hurt. www.enjoyingourdays.com
Ashley Barton: My kids love watching ice melt on a hot summer day. Sometimes I’ll freeze little toys in the ice to make it even more interesting. We have a black top driveway so it’s fun to “paint” water on it and watch our pictures disappear too. www.naptimetales.com
Lauren Porter: My daughter loves doing mini beast hunts, searching under rocks, logs and leaves trying to find spiders / caterpillars and insects. She also enjoys RUNNING a lot – just running on and on. Sometimes on playgrounds if they are around. She also loves picking flowers and rubbing them against her cheeks!
Jolie Mockford: Getting into the great outdoors away from screen time is essential! You don’t have to go far to find quality time as a family and kids using their imaginations again. Bug hunting, puddle jumping, stick throwing, stone skimming…it’s all easy, free, healthy time for kids (and adults!).
Veneta Georgev Lusk: When the weather is nice, my kids LOVE going outside! We like to go for walks together as a family and enjoy getting out of the house. My husband likes to take the kids around the neighborhood to explore the creek and pond down the street. My older son also really likes going to different playgrounds and getting to explore the new playground equipment.During the warmer months, we spend a lot of time outside, especially at the pool. My kids love to swim and play around in the water then enjoy some hot-dogs and hamburgers by the pool. They also like playing different sports and throwing a ball. Favorites currently include golf, baseball, and basketball. Going outside is one of their favorite ways to spend the day. www.becominglifesmart.com
Barrie Papworth: We always go out Geocaching with our kids. Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. In its simplest form, a cache always contains a logbook or log sheet for you to log your find. Larger caches may contain a logbook and any number of items. These items turn the adventure into a true treasure hunt. You never know what the cache owner or visitors to the cache may have left for you to enjoy. If you take something, leave something of equal or greater value in return. Quite often you may also find a trackable, a sort of geocaching “game piece”. It’s free to play and there are geocaches EVERYWHERE! Probably there are some very close to you now. www.railwayblogger.com
Kelsey Restemayer: My 3 year old loves to play in the sand with his dump truck and shovel. My 7 year old loves to set up stands to sell books, toys or lemonade, and her latest is making baking soda/vinegar experiments outside. Both love planting and picking things from the garden. http://www.outdoortravella.com/
Emma Healey: My 4 year old is obsessed with his bike. We took the training wheels off about 6 months ago and he is unstoppable. We have a BMX track near our house where he loves to ride and do jumps. Rain, hail or shine he’s on that bike. I think this kid is going to give his mama some big scares in his lifetime! He’s fearless! https://bikestoragepro.com