Time spent outdoors has several health and behavior benefits for children, including improved gross motor skills, greater environmental awareness, improved attention spans, increased Vitamin D exposure, and an easier time falling asleep at night.
Dr Kenneth Ginsburg of the American Academy of Pediatrics says, “Play in an outdoor, natural environment allows children to explore both their world and their own minds … Nature places virtually no bounds on the imagination and engages all of the senses.”
Here are some fun ways your child can develop their gross motor skills, gain environmental awareness, and improve their health outdoors.
- Obstacle course – An obstacle course is an ideal way to involve several gross motor skills at once, while giving your child an enjoyable goal to work towards. Look for safe yet challenging ways for your child to climb, crawl, balance, and jump.
- Go for a walk – Whether you go for a walk around the block after dinner, or a family hike in the forest, walking is a very easy way to get some fresh air and exercise.
- Ride bikes or scooters – A family bike ride around the neighborhood is an fun way to improve your child’s cardiovascular health . Be sure all family members wear a helmet, and ensure your child understands and follows bike or scooter safety rules.
- Hopscotch – Not only is this classic game a fun way to learn numbers, but it also develops balance, coordination, and motor accuracy.
- Collect rocks, shells, or leaves– Encourage your child to hunt for rocks, shells, or leaves of varying sizes, colors, textures, and shapes. You can help your child gain environmental awareness by discussing the different features of each item they collect.
- Play ball games – Whether you’re rolling a large ball to your toddler, tossing a baseball around with your school-age child, or kicking a soccer ball back and forth, your child will develop gross motor skills such as balance, coordination, and control of their movements.
- Go birdwatching – Depending on the age of your child, you can either simply point out different birds you see together, or create a checklist of common birds in your area that your child can look for. To make it more fun, you can create “binoculars” out of toilet paper or paper towel rolls and string.