The sun is bright today but the wind is still a little brisk. Think of all the things we might be doing if we were outside today? Picking up sticks, looking for new buds on the trees or flowers or just taking the dog for a walk, are ways to get a little exercise and fresh air. When we spend time outside with our children they have a wonderful classroom of new experiences and we can enjoy the moments of discovery with them.
It’s interesting to find more and more information that indicates time outside for children is just as important as good nutrition and a good night’s sleep. It’s a time to connect with nature and learn about colors, and textures, and so many living things that are available in our back yards.
When we think about getting children ready for school, the garden or backyard can lead to conversations in math, science, reading and vocabulary. As adults, we benefit from the fresh air and exercise also. Gardening supports children’s curiosity about the natural world and to build confidence as they grow and nurture plants that ultimately produce items for them to eat. Rulers and magnifying glasses are great tools to share no matter what age they are to investigate things that we might miss at first glance. Here’s a few other tips to consider while you are outside this spring or summer, whatever you choose to do, remember that you are building relationships by spending time together engaged in activity and learning.
*Make a wind sock from an empty powdered drink or oatmeal container and crepe paper streamers.
*Take a study stick and tie strings or fishing line to metal items to make your own wind chimes. Things like old keys, beverage cans, old silverware, small piece of pipe, etc. work well.
*Select a few garden plants and make a container garden. Use either a bucket or ornamental container for them to care for and observe the changes as they grow.
*Take an empty milk carton or other small container and make a boat to use outside in the puddles after a spring shower. Which way does the wind blow it? What ones sink or float? What or how much can I put in the “boat” before it sinks?
*Take a strip of contact paper and make a loose bracelet. On a walk around the yard or park pick up unique items that will stick to the bracelet. Leaves, seeds, pebbles, flowers, bird egg shells, are all great conversation starters.
*How many different shades of green can you find outside? Take a piece of paper or coloring sheet outside to color with no crayons….just the grass or the leaves, or the bark from the tree. Ask permission before using flowers but they all share natural colors to enjoy.
*Make a chart of the sky and what it looks like at a particular time during the day. See how it changes through the week.
There’s so many more fun things to do outside, but hopefully these will get you started thinking. One of the most common comments, is “there’s nothing to do outside!” I think once you begin looking, you’ll find so many fun things that they’ll forget about TV and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.
Melinda Hill, CFCS, CFLE
Extension Educator, Family and Consumer