How To Get Kids Your Outdoors This Winter
Getting kids outdoors can sometimes be harder than expected. When you’re all inside your home, in the warm, it’s often hard to encourage reluctant members of the family to come outside and go exploring. But now more than ever, with most children spending most of their week stuck in a classroom with limited time outside, and darker evenings restricting outdoor time after school too, we have to make the most of school holidays and weekends to get them outside and exploring. But why, and how?
As many of us know, and science is now recognising too, being out in nature is essential for our health and wellbeing. Not only does time outdoors help us to maintain better mental health, which is essential for children and adults alike, but it also has countless physical benefits too so getting kids outdoors is essential.
Sunlight is our main source of Vitamin D, which obviously is more limited at this time of the year, so we need to grab opportunities to get outside during daylight hours. Vitamin D is essential for our immune system and ensuring good bone health too. Also, getting out amongst woodland or out along the coast where the air is cleaner and fresh is a great way to boost your respiratory health as well.
Time outside naturally aids good restful sleep, which is essential for us all, but especially children who are growing and developing at a fast rate. They are also constantly learning, so need good quality sleep to help them process the new information. By getting children out doors, especially being active outside, will help to calm and settle them into a better sleep pattern. This is also very true of adults too, nothing resets your sleep and wellness like time out in nature.
So we now know why we, and our children, should be outside more, but how do we encourage them out when they are a little reluctant!?
Sparking an interest in wildlife really helps children to connect with nature. By finding out more about each animal it will encouraging their nurturing side and give a greater respect for wildlife in years to come. With younger children, start with the basic identifications, such as deer, squirrels etc but with older children try getting them to identify a species of deer or whether the animal is young or old for example. This will help with their observation skills which will help them in other ares of life too. So why not get them a notepad to draw or write about what creatures they can see and head out there to explore.
This often causes alarm in many parents, but learning to climb trees safely is not only great fun but teaches them about risk while improving their balance and co-ordination. Obviously choose a suitable tree and ensure you are able to reach them if they have a problem, especially with younger children. Trees are like nature’s climbing frames, as long as they concentrate, they can have great fun while being active and learning a new skill.
A recent study found that a lot of our play parks don’t have enough variety of equipment to allow our children to develop their balance and co-ordination in a way that they need to. By getting kids outside and exploring in nature, allowing them to jump ditches, balance on logs and climb trees we are doing them a huge favour for years to come. Exploring the environment in this way, at any age, helps to improve body awareness, known as proprioception, which increases agility and reduces the likelihood of injury and falls as they get older.
Colours & Shapes
This is a greart activity for kids outdoors, especially the younger ones. Get them to look for as many different colours and shapes while out exploring. A great place to start with this is by looking at the leaves, there are obviously many different shapes and even in winter there are still a variety of colours. This will help them to start to connect with the changing of the seasons, as well as seeing which trees and plants change dramatically in the winter, and which appear to remain the same.
Who doesn’t love jumping in puddles?! Kids of all ages seem to be attracted to puddles, often the muddier the better, so dress them appropriately and let them get fully involved!
Jumping is an important skill, one that some children at certain ages seem to struggle with, so what better way to practice than into a puddle. Also encourage them to hop into the puddles too, this also helps their balance and co-ordination whilst being nicely distracted by the mud.
Getting kids outdoors and allowing them to get muddy like this helps them to connect with nature and natural materials allowing little ones to explore different textures giving them a sensory learning experience.
Whether you start with a basic map or just follow signs with little ones, or give older children a map and compass, navigation is a great skill to learn and great fun too. It encourages the little ones to take note of their surroundings, to start to learn different methods of finding their way around whilst having fun.
With older children, learning to read maps and use a compass will help them in many situations but also gives them a little responsibility if they are in charge of navigating your adventure. Just keep it fun and light hearted, don’t be hard on them if they get you lost, non of us were born knowing how to read a map. Just ensure that you are able to help them back on track.
The key to having fun outdoors is wearing the right clothing and having the right kit with you. This is even more essential when taking children out as they can’t regulate their temperature as well as adults can and often don’t realise they are starting to get cold until they are very cold. So wrapping them up in layers that you can take on and off when needed, wearing a water proof outer layer along with comfortable, warm, waterproof footwear is essential.
Also be aware that they will tire quicker than you so be prepared to carry younger ones for a bit, or even better, stop and take regular breaks. This will teach children about what considerations they need to make when out exploring. Teach them about staying warm, being hydrated and keeping fuelled with regular snacks. A great excuse to pack a nice flask of hot chocolate and some marshmallows if you ask me!
So get out there and have fun, you are doing your kids a favour, even if they don’t realise it yet. You are helping their physical and mental health and encouraging healthy habits for the future. So get your kids outdoors this winter, teach them some new skills and enjoy!!