Outdoor Activities for Kids
While our world may have shrunk to our homes during the coronavirus pandemic, that doesn’t mean there aren’t new realms to explore. Life is teeming all around us, especially at this time of year, with a never-ending stream of outdoor activities for kids.
For those with children, the natural world is rich with opportunities for discovery. It also provides important benefits for physical and mental health for the entire family. Our “new normal” often results in less activity and more screen time, making nature breaks more important now than ever.
Whether you’re already exploring the outdoor world or you’re not really sure how to get started, here are some tips from children’s educators at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.
But first, a few notes: this is about having fun. We all have enough going on in our lives without adding more chores. The outdoor activities for kids below can be used anywhere: in your backyard, on an apartment balcony, or in a public park (with proper social distancing, of course). You don’t even have to have children to enjoy them!
Some simply encourage mindfulness while others can be incorporated into lessons for teaching/learning at home. Choose the ideas and topics that are most interesting for you and your family. You don’t have to know it all; in fact, it’s best if you don’t. This is a time to explore together.
Use your senses. Step outside or open a window. Close your eyes and listen. Can you hear birds singing? The wind blowing in the trees? Take a deep breath. Can you smell flowers? Feel the fresh breeze? Take your shoes off and walk in the grass.
Bee curious. Look at flowers and the bees and butterflies visiting them. Watch these pollinators at work — see how they go from one bloom to the next. Learn how to identify different bees with Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Bee Quest, which you can do in your own backyard.
Journal. Be inspired by nature. Drawing is great because it slows you down to closely study an object. Take the time to learn more about what you are drawing and write that down as well. Add notes about the weather or even how you are feeling that day. Try your hand at poetry.
Build a fairy house (or toad house). Pick up sticks, bark, fallen leaves and other debris (just be sure not to pick any living plants). Use your imagination to construct whimsical structures for woodland creatures, real and imagined.
Collect data. Become a citizen scientist. Record your observations and add to an important body of knowledge on everything from the weather to birds to plants. National Geographic has links to many citizen science projects and the iNaturalist app also helps with identification.
Think beyond sunny days. The natural world is an interesting place all the time. Raining? Put on rain boots, find an umbrella and take a walk in the puddles. Nighttime? Grab a flashlight to go outside and experience evening sights and sounds.
Plant something. It’s exciting to watch things grow. Whether it’s starting seeds on a sunny window sill, container gardening on a patio, or planting a raised bed in the yard, there are many options. In these days of resourcefulness, you can even try growing plants from your clean kitchen scraps. KidsGardening has lots of great ideas.
This is a time of great challenges, but it’s also a chance to cultivate a deeper appreciation for the natural world around us. The opportunities for outdoor activities with kids are endless. You and your family can choose and decide how much and what to explore; the most important thing is that you spend time together.
This article first published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.