Teach Your Kids to Reap the Benefits of the Great Outdoors

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A friend and a mommy of two had come over for tea and we were talking. It had rained and a few puddles had formed.

I had a brilliant idea. “Why don’t we make some paper boats, so the kids can have some fun!” I asked my friend. Her reply wasn’t encouraging at all. She wanted to know why I wanted to take a risk.

“I would never let my kids do that”.

I mean, who knows what all germs and diseases you are willingly exposing your kids to? I looked at her kids who were blissfully unaware of the discussion we were having, for they were lost in their own virtual worlds. One was playing a game that was the current rage and the younger one was listening to rhymes on his tablet.They were content with their screen friends. But would they be happy with these friends once they experience the magic of the great outdoors?

How does playing outdoors help?

Playing outside can help our kids in a number of ways. It offers the following:

#1. Fresh air

If your child plays outdoors, then they will benefit from the fresh air and the natural light.This practice will also help the child to be closer to nature and make him/her learn to appreciate nature better.

#2. Freedom

Playing inside the house has certain disadvantages. I discovered it the hard way, after I tried playing cricket inside the house with my brother. Apart from records, we broke my mom’s priced porcelain bowl. She couldn’t kick us out, so we were asked to take the game outside.

Playing outdoors gives you more space and freedom to play without worrying about breaking household equipment. In short they can walk, run, do cartwheels (if the space permits), yell etc.

#3. Physical well being

Obesity seems to be a common childhood problem nowadays. Lack of outdoor play combined with a love for junk food leads to obesity.

Playing outdoors can make them strong physically and strengthen their immune system. So let them run, it would only make them stronger.

#4. Emotional well being

Playing outdoors can bring down stress. Don’t get alarmed, but our little ones can get stressed too. Exams, competitions in school can get them worked up but a little outdoor play can help to ease those tiny childhood tensions.

#5. Social skills

Playing outdoors, especially in parks will teach valuable lesson in social skills and will teach them how to behave in a group.

They can also learn to accept defeat and celebrate wins with humility. Younger kids can learn from older kids in the group. Kids also learn to take care of younger ones. This is helpful in today’s times when there are a lot of families with single kids.

#6. Independence

You can childproof your house but not outside. This can be good too, for the child will learn to take care of themselves. Playing outside will also teach them to be independent. (Make sure you give them lessons on safety though).

Safety while playing outside

Despite the many benefits, why don’t we send our kids outside to play?

The major concern most parents have when it comes to their kids playing outside is – safety. While many parents don’t like their kids sitting cooped up in front of the TV/laptop/tablet but they want to keep their kids safe from illnesses, injuries, strangers etc.

So how can you ensure that your kid is completely safe while he/she is spending time outdoors?

When your kid is playing outside, ensure the following-

  • Mosquito repellents

While you can’t protect your child from every illness, you definitely can protect them from the ones that are spread by mosquitoes by using a good mosquito repellent. I use Good Knight Fabric Roll-on mosquito repellent as my LO hates creams! Just 4 dots on her clothes and she stays protected!

  • Sunscreen

Get a good sunscreen lotion that will protect your child from the harmful UV rays so that he/she can play outside without having to worry. My kid hates it, but I use it without fail.

  • Appropriate clothing

Ensure that your child is wearing clothes apt for the outdoors. For small kids, you can avoid shoes with laces or hoodies with drawstrings. Kids can trip on shoelaces if they don’t know how to tie it well. The drawstrings can be a hazard too!

  • Protective gear

If your child is planning to go cycling/skating make sure they have the helmet and knee and elbow guards on. The same applies for other games too.

  • Supervise

Keep an eye on your child every now and then.

  • Talk to your kids about safety

If you are not around to supervise your child, make sure that you give them a talk on safety.  You will have to reiterate it every day, but it is important. Teach them to stick to the group and not to leave the group without telling others.

Also teach them to share and to use the playground equipment responsibly.

  • Do not touch any insects or eat any unknown fruits

Exploring nature is fun, but teach them to be careful while doing so.

How to get your kid to play outdoors?

The most important question that moms have been itching to ask – “How do I pry my kid’s glance from the screen and get him/her to enjoy the outdoors?

The answer is simpler than you thought. All it takes is a bit of effort from your side!

Simple things you can do to ensure this are

#1. Stop treating the screen as a baby sitter. Screen time won’t give you the same benefits as interaction with a human being.

#2. Start early. Once the kids develop a habit of sitting indoors in front TVs and laptops, it will be difficult to get them to stop.

#3. Teach them games you played as a kid.

#4. Organize treasure hunts if you stay in an independent house / villa. The more space you have, the more fun it would be for the kids!

#5. Make art with things they collect from outside. Eg: A jar of pretty pebbles, shell art, painted twigs that can go into a vase. Don’t forget to ask them to help.

#6. Join in while they have fun outside. Be an active participant in their games, slowly you can distance yourself as they grow older, have friends and can play without supervision.

#7. Organize play dates outside the house.

#8. For kids who are the indoor kinds and prefer reading to playing, you can create a reading nook outside. For exercise, they can join you in your gardening activities.

#9. Encourage them to cycle/skate.

#10. Take them for walks. You can also ask them to keep a nature diary with details of trees/animals/birds that they see everyday.

#11. If you stay in a place that has no outdoor space for your child to play, visit the nearby park few times a week.

Our childhood was fun! Handcrafted marvels made from coconut fronds, shells, twigs, leaves etc got prominence over store bought ones. But now, our perceptions have changed. Somehow we ended up believing that outdoor play eats into the study time. But in reality it is not so. Playing outdoors can help your child develop physically and mentally. So let them be kids and let them play!!!

Moms, how do you encourage your children to play outside? How do you keep them safe while they play outdoors? What are the safety rules you have in place for them? Share with us!

About Author

Sangeetha is the owner of Bumps n Baby and a super cool mom of a 4 year old princess. Her life revolves around laptop and kitchen these days as she is mastering the art of multi-tasking.

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