7 Ways We Get Our Kids Outdoors Daily I Hill Country Homestead
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Living in the Texas Hill Country with extreme heat, big bugs, and endless cactus, it’s not always easy or convenient to get outdoors. On top of that, workloads, social engagements, careers and exhaustion can make it seem like there is no time. The CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend one hour of outside time per day for children. One hour?! The health benefits of playing outside range from improving balance, motor skills and Vitamin D intake to strengthening bones and immune systems which is kind of a big deal. Playing outdoors for kids is a way for them to take risks, explore and build confidence. Getting kids outside for long periods of time can actually reduce children’s stress levels and promote relaxation, leading to a much more peaceful day all around. Limiting all these advantages to one hour seems counterproductive.
There are plenty of non-traditional ways to get outdoors, it’s time to get creative with outside time and push that one-hour recommendation. Need some ideas? Here are 7 ways we get our kids outside for some motivation, to hopefully help get other kids outside and eating dirt.
You don’t have to take your children up a mountain to enhance their quality of air intake. If you live in an urban setting, locate and use the local walking and exercise trails and see how far your kids will go. If at first, it’s only a short distance, make a goal to go a little further each day. The longer the child is allowed to spend hiking in a natural setting, the stronger their attention and curiosity become. The child’s curiosity of the outdoors will strengthen with time and they will learn to tune in to natural sights and sounds, noticing subtle details in the world outside of technology.
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Learning to cycle has long-term benefits to a child’s physical and mental health but is also one of the few activities that will strengthen the developing muscles around the child’s kneecaps without impact. Conditioning these young muscles, joints and ligaments on a bicycle can ultimately lead to less noticeable ‘growing pains’ in younger children and less severe shin splints in older children. It’s never too early to introduce them to cycling. If they are too little to get on a bicycle themselves, pull them in a bicycle trailer!
ALSO CHECK OUT: The Joovy Cocoon X2 Bike Trailer AND Stroller Combo
3. Bird Watching
Bird watching helps children to strengthen their bones. Sound too far-fetched? Most kids don’t get outside enough meaning they are not getting enough Vitamin D for calcium to be absorbed properly. Bird watching is just one more way to get them basking in those beautiful rays of the sun, strengthening their calcium intake via a Vitamin D bath. Help the child to sit quietly and ask them to listen carefully for bird sounds and flutters, this sharpens their observation and attention senses. In the Montessori classroom, a 3 and 4-year-old child can learn to identify common bird names and some scientific names and species. We usually spend our mornings on the front step with my coffee in hand, listening and introducing bird names. A cute pair of binoculars makes it a little more fun!
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Water is therapeutic. Water is sensorial. Water can communicate things to children through play and learning and should always be available. If it’s too cold for them to get in a shallow baby pool, have a water table available with buckets, spoons. A drop of dish soap can go a long way in the form of bubble entertainment. Don’t have a water table? Don’t worry! Buckets and dish pans work just fine! Let your kids play in water on the daily and there will be fewer behavior outbursts and meltdowns for sure.
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Simply eating outdoors can break up a difficult day and give everyone a change of pace. Not to mention it makes mealtime cleanup so much easier, avoiding crumbs and spills in the kitchen or at the table. Grab a blanket, roll up some turkey in tortillas, pick a few pieces of fruit and some chips and call it a date! The kids love it and benefit from the fresh air and that Vitamin D we have been talking so much about. This can be a really great time to have a conversation with your child, unplugged from any indoor distractions.
ALSO CHECK OUT: Easy Turkey Wrap Recipe
6. Nature Study
Children find nature amazing and interesting. If you are not able to keep a garden, bring a small pouch along on a hike or nature walk. Allow the child to gather things from nature that peak the child’s interest and allow them to put it in the pouch and bring it inside. A magnifying glass could add an extra dimension to this activity, looking over each item at the family table or a desk. Choose a place for these nature items to be stored in the home where the child can return to them easily and inspect them again when they feel the need. There is something special about bringing nature inside and is a great way to introduce science to a child at a very young age.
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Compassion, confidence, and responsibility are just a few of the amazing benefits of very young children learning to care for animals. Of course, at this age, you will want to shadow them and make sure the animal's needs are being met and fulfilled but it is entirely OK to make the child think they are accomplishing this on their own. The social and behavioral advantages a child will develop when they are required to care for an animal daily on a schedule are backed by plenty of research and will last a lifetime.
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You don't have to live on a farm to have outdoor chores and responsibilities. When teaching children to be outside you can teach them to love the outdoors and have an appreciation for working all at the same time. Working and playing outdoors is so therapeutic and important for all children,