As parents, we constantly hear of the dangers of too much screen time, of children being too sedentary, and “nature deficit disorder.” The rise of indoor, screen-based entertainment and a decrease in outdoor, creative play is changing the way our children’s brains and bodies develop, and not for the better. How can we give our children the chance to play and learn outside this fall, in the midst of busy family schedules, school, sports, work, meals, holidays, and so on?
The answer is simply this: keep it simple. While a strenuous hike to see a beautiful vista might sound like fun for you (or maybe not!), children don’t need the goal of a specific destination. They are naturally little scientists and want to stop and observe the inchworm crawling along a fallen leaf, or see how many rocks they can stack in a pile before it topples over. These observations and experiments actually help their brains naturally develop skills needed for later in life, so it’s important to slow down and allow time for this to happen.
The first step to increasing outside time for your children – and giving their bodies and brains the boost that no indoor activity can match – is simply to go outside with them. Fall is the perfect season to start this because the weather has cooled off and there is so much exciting change happening in nature. Begin in your backyard and wonder together. Put away all the toys and gadgets. Find a stick and see what happens when you dig up some dirt. What if you add some water? If you crush a leaf with a rock, will the rock change color? (Yes – the chlorophyll transfers to the rock!) Grab a bucket and collect some “nature treasures.” For older children, bring out a sketchbook and some colored pencils and find something to draw together. Draw or color pictures of a tree you can see from your yard and notice how it changes over the next few weeks. One of the best things about outside play is all ages can enjoy it together – from our littlest toddlers to our teenagers. And we can join in, right alongside, and build memories in the process!
Sarah Fedchak is a local homeschooling mama with 3 very active young girls. Before having children, she taught outdoor education. Now, as a Tinkergarten leader, she gets plenty of opportunities for creative, explorative and oftentimes messy outdoor play with her own kids and others, which she loves. Sarah will be contributing to Macaroni Kid College Park * East Point * Morrow periodically.
If you have never heard of Tinkergarten, it's an incredible program that provides high-quality early childhood learning in the healthiest classroom of all—the outdoors. Families connect with trained leaders in their local community for play-based kids classes that help develop core life skills, all while having fun! Check out Sarah's Tinkergarten page and sign up for a FREE trial class in Morrow this January.
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