Spring has arrived, the sun is shining later into the day and the weather is finally starting to get warmer. It is the perfect time for families to start pulling themselves out of the hibernation of winter and begin taking advantage of and enjoying the fresh spring air. The winter months can be challenging because of the harsh, cold weather. Because of this, many families do not engage in as much physical activity as they should and entertainment falls to technology. Research shows that children spend anywhere from six to eight hours using technology, whether that being using a smartphone, tablet or watching television. Additionally, children are not only devoting a lot of time to technology, but they are usually using multiple devices at one time. Now that the weather is warmer, families should consider making sure they are dedicating time to play.
The Benefits of Play
Play researchers adamantly argue that authentic play is (and has always been) the most critical activity of early childhood, and gives children a number of benefits, including:
- Promoting creativity and imagination, problem-solving and higher IQ scores, and emotional and social development.
- Engendering a sense of self and a sense of place, allowing children to recognize both their independence and interdependence.
- Fostering cognitive, emotional, and moral development, especially in outdoor settings.
- Improving such motor skills as balance, coordination, and agility, critical for growing bodies.
Ways to Encourage Play
- Encourage plenty of time outside. Consider taking a walk to the library, store or post office instead of driving.
- Give children a place on the porch, deck or in the bedroom where they can display nature treasures that they find and want to keep.
- Provide simple tools to aid discovery. Children love tools! Include a bug box, trowel, magnifier, etc.
One of the best ways to encourage play is to play as a family! Not only will your children love to do activities with you, there are many benefits to family time. Spending time together as a family helps form bonds and connections that will be with them throughout life. Research also shows that children who spend quality time with their families usually achieve better grades in school and behavioral issues decrease.
Here are a few outdoor activities that families can enjoy doing together:
- Gardening – Get the whole family involved. Your children may be too small to help with everything in your garden, but give them a small section that is specifically for them to care for, or give them a job such as watering certain plants.
- Picnic – Enjoy a picnic together at home in the backyard or visit a local park. If you are visiting a local park that has other fun family activities such as nature walks or petting zoos, explore!
- Art projects – There are so many fun outdoor art projects families can do together. Get creative and make a masterpiece together and showcase it in your home.
- Sidewalk chalk – There are so many activities families can do with sidewalk chalk. Play games or decorate your driveway and sidewalk with your creations.
- Bike ride or walk – Go on a family bike ride or walk around your neighborhood or on a trail.
- Bubble station – Children love bubbles. Create your own bubble station in the backyard and have fun! Have a contest to see who can blow the biggest bubble or who can pop the most.
- Fence painting – Have a few house projects that you’ve been meaning to tackle like painting the fence? Your child will love to help you, especially if the whole family is involved. Your little one a bit too young to be painting? If you have a wood fence, bring them to a section you aren’t working on and give them a paint brush and water. The wood will turn darker and they’ll feel like they are just as much a part of the project!
- Play a game – Have the whole family participate in a game of tag or hide and seek! As the weather gets even nicer and the flowers and trees bloom, set up a treasure hunt and see who can find the items the fastest!
- Nature walk – Explore a local park or your own back yard! Point out different trees, birds, or insects you see while exploring.
- Wash the car – Have your children help you wash the car! On an especially warm day this may even turn into a water fight! Does your child have their own battery operated car? Have them wash theirs, while you wash yours.