As parents, going outside is one of the most undervalued and underused solutions to any number of problems. Need to get the wiggles out? Too much screen time? On a budget? Mamas, just get them out of the house!
Now, this is assuming you live in a manageable climate. Speaking of climate, I’d like to address the issue of rain. I don’t know who unilaterally decided children can’t play in the rain but I’m here to say I disagree. You guys, you can buy coats specifically intended to be worn in the rain. Rain shoes? Yes, they make those, too. If the kids get wet, something shocking will happen, it dries. I know, I was surprised, too. Peppa Pig is spot on; muddy puddles are actually fantastic.
If you’re short on time, try squeezing in some outside time by eating meals outside. One of my kids’ favorites is eating breakfast outside in their pajamas. They think it’s the coolest, most spontaneous thing since mom is usually catatonic until about half the coffee pot is gone. Sneak in a learning moment by pointing out the sun’s location as opposed to where it will be at bedtime.
If you don’t have a dedicated yard, just go for a walk. With toddlers and young kids, the walk alone could provide for wonders beyond their wildest dreams. Along the way, ask them to find a particularly special rock to paint later. Or tell them you’re going on a hunt to look for an especially spooky spider. Pull up a Pinterest scavenger hunt on your phone and see who can spot all the items first. The opportunities for learning will literally pass right by you. If you see a trash truck, talk to them about how important trash collectors are. Ask them to imagine what our lives would be like if no one collected our trash. Explain where the trash ends up and then talk about why we recycle.
Let us also lead by example. Most nights after dinner I take a walk by myself to harness the energy I’ll need for the 90 minute bedtime fiasco before me. My kids know I do this for my physical and emotional health. My 4 year old can predict that Mama can get really grumpy without an evening walk because everyone needs to get their wiggles out. Kids are smart. They won’t take us seriously if we are spouting the importance of outdoor play while hiding behind smartphones with pale skin and spotless sneakers.
Let’s forget for a minute that outdoor play does wonders for their gross motor skills, social development, imagination and self-esteem. Have you ever noticed how easily your kids will fall asleep after a hefty amount of physical exertion? That’s all the reason I need to pack our sippy cups and hit the road. Cheers, friends.