10 More Easy Ways to Get Outside
We often think that we need to have the answers for how to occupy our kids’ time. Now that we’ve exhausted our go-to ways to get outside, bring these simple tools into your family toolbox for endless ideas and precious outdoor memories. And yes, sometimes you might have to get them started and then sneak away to do your next task. But, who knows? Maybe you’ll have so much fun together you’ll ditch your to-do list for a while.
Create. What can you create with what is around you? Stack rocks, make letters with sticks, make a pattern or beautiful nature mandala with leaves and petals. An ever-changing mosaic of nature awaits.
Build. Indoor forts are awesome. Why not take the idea outside? You may have a supply of delivery boxes that are just waiting for your kids for their stacking or connecting. Not easy enough? Take a bucket of legos outside on a blanket.
Imagine. Maybe bring some action figures outside for an epic story and then the kids act out the roles themselves. PJ’s Backyard Adventures is an early reader series about a boy who travels the world in his imagination outside. Where might your child’s imagination take you?
Explore. Take a new route for a walk or look up more often on your usual path. My kids loved “off-roading,” simply walking off a path to see something new. We tend to be creatures of habit. Mixing our routines up just a bit can feel exciting!
Learn. Did you know just about any subject can be taught outside? Think of what your child is learning and ways to apply that to an experience outside. Doing homework on a blanket was always something we loved. More spontaneously, count how many birds you see or how many different bird calls you hear or how many different types of tree bark you can touch.
Play. Play is serious work. Play is learning. I love the question, “What is something you don’t like to do, and how could you make it more fun?” Pick ten weeds, sweep the stoop, race to put the garbage cans out (or back), put your bathing suit on and water the plants or wash the car. Keep towels by the door for wet or dirty feet!
Investigate. Being outside prompts all sorts of questions when we look more closely at what is around us. Noticing the changes in nature is an effortless science lesson. I was delighted when I could finally look up answers to my children’s questions on my phone. But first, we can ask questions too and discuss them.
Brainstorm. “Let’s see how many games we can make up!” “What might be fun to do outside this weekend?” “What veggie seeds would be fun to sprout?” “How many different things can we put outside the door to play with?" (e.g. collect whatever you have: balls, scooters, bikes, chalk, bubbles, toys for easy prompts to head outside).
Wonder. Wondering can be asking why or marveling at something. Take your pick on any given day and see what shows up! The sky is blue, the leaves are green, the flowers are blooming, the animals you’ve seen….before bed when my children were little, we’d ask what their “three great things” were for the day. Hear from them what experiences mean the most.
Appreciate. I am so grateful… the leaves are on the trees….we are together….we can go for a bike ride….we can watch the clouds….we can go for a walk…”What are you grateful for that we can do outside together?” You might create a whole new list of your family favorites for spending time outside.
Rebecca P. Cohen is author of the parenting book Fifteen Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids and children's book, PJ's Backyard Adventures. Rebecca is also Founder of ShareMyJourney.org, the curated peer hub that connects caring people by email and phone during challenging life circumstances. Rebecca has been featured recently on the People Helping People Podcast and as a Mom Boss in the Washington, DC area. Rebecca has worked with over 6,000 children around the world in making outdoor connections for a healthier life. Her work has appeared in USA Today, Better Home and Gardens, Parenting, Redbook, Working Mother, Family Circle, and Backyard Solutions.