The evidence is overwhelming: children NEED to play outside – for their physical and mental well-being, their ability to learn to take risks and develop skills they need for life. It is also good fun. And children who develop a relationship with the natural world through play are children who will care about that world, and want to save and protect it. Never has that been more important than now.
Top tips for getting kids outside this summer
Set a good example
Show your kids that YOU enjoy time outside and feel better for it. (You really will! Try it!)
Brilliant, fun things to do as a family
Children need space outside for their own creative, free, imaginative play (not the same as ‘organised games’ where adults make the rules). Let the children be the ones in charge. You can support and encourage, but don’t take over. They could:
- Build a den.
- Make a camp fire, and cook dough twists on sticks.
- Go camping (try one night first, then a weekend… then longer). Look at the stars. Listen to the night. Cook breakfast outside together.
- Learn how to use a map; plan a family walk; take a picnic (borrow a friendly dog, perhaps, as an incentive to get children out on a longer walk).
- Get messy. Mud washes off!
- Find a good tree to climb.
- Create tree bark rubbings using paper and crayon: what different kinds of bark can you find?
- Learn the names of local trees and wild flowers together.
- Keep a nature diary of things you see and find, or have a nature table where you can display them.
- Learn to recognise the songs of the birds near your home (the RSPB website can help with this).
- Write a poem or story outside, about being outside!
In the garden
Make your garden wildlife friendly:
- Make a small frog pond.
- Grow bee-friendly plants.
- Mow the lawn less often – daisies, dandelions and clover flowers can provide insects with food.
- Make a bug hotel.
- Allow a ‘wild’, messy part of the garden so insects and creatures have a place to live.
Go to the beach
- Explore rock pools.
- Make sand castles and sand creatures and sand pirates and sand mermaids and sand anything-you-want!
- Collect shells along the tide line.
- Find driftwood to make into things.
- Find pebbles in the shapes of animals or birds and paint them with eyes and whiskers…
Take a sketch-book and colouring pencils outside… drawing helps us to LOOK more closely and see the world in new ways.
BE INSPIRED BY STORIES!
Read books with outside settings, which show children exploring and having fun outside.
Julia Green is the author of The Wilderness War, a new book for children aged 9–11. Julia is passionate about the importance of wild, natural spaces and about giving children the freedom to explore them. Here, she shares her top tips for getting outside this summer.