Tips for Parents and Mentors to Encourage Outdoor Play
- If you live in a house, create a child-friendly backyard.
- 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. Kids love tools! Include a bug box, trowel, magnifier, etc.
- When you take children to parks and other natural areas, allow them to explore. Let them decide which trails to take. Stay nearby for safety, but don't interfere or help unless asked.
- Encourage plenty of time outside. Consider taking a walk to the library, store or post office instead of driving.
- If a child asks or remarks about a landmark or natural feature you drive past often, find out more about it and go for a visit.
- Take advantage of the natural resources available in your area. Take children canoeing, kayaking or fishing.
- Take a few leaves from different trees while the children are not looking. Give them the leaves and ask them to find which trees they came from.
- Provide a tree identification book to help kids learn about the trees in their own neighborhood.
- In the fall, leave the fallen leaves down for awhile so kids can run around and shuffle through them.
- Rake up a big leaf pile and let them demolish it. If they're not pre-schoolers, leave the rake out so they can rebuild it if they want.
- If you have an appropriate area, let older children build a campfire in the backyard. Set safety rules, then stay away while they and their friends discuss hot topics. Check for safety by looking out the window or wandering out to ask if they need more snacks.
- Put out bird feeders that can be seen easily from windows. Let children help feed the birds. Keep a bird book by the window to help them identify what they see.
- Make up challenges for children to do outside, similar to the "Survivor" television show. This is a guaranteed kid pleaser, especially if there is a reward (a gift of time with Mom or Dad, or perhaps a night off from helping with the dishes).
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Convention on the Rights of the Child. General Assembly Resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989. Available here.
Ginsburg, Kenneth R, MD, MSEd, and the Committee on Communications and the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health. The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds. American Academy of Pediatrics. Available here.
Posted with permission from the Grow Outside Guide to Outdoor Play, published by the Leave No Child Inside Collaborative of Greater Cincinnati.