While some states hope to reopen businesses and relax their stay-at-home orders by the end of May, others are extending shelter-in-place rules. Regardless, it’s likely your kids won’t be frolicking on public playgrounds in the near future. Yet, outdoor play may be more important now than ever before, if for no other reason than to tire your littles out before bed. Here are a few ways you and your children can have fun outside and stay safe in the process.
1. Enjoy the Benefits
While your kids may say they’re content spending all day inside on their tablets, they’ll likely be much happier outside. When they’re out frolicking in the yard, they’ll soak up some vitamin D from the sunshine, boosting their mood and promoting better sleep. Kids also tend to get more exercise when playing outside as opposed to being indoors. This boost in activity improves their overall health and motor skills, prevents obesity and promotes muscle strength.
Outdoor play isn’t just good for kids, though. Parents who play with their kids also enjoy many of the same benefits as their children. In addition to encouraging a healthier lifestyle, outdoor play also stimulates the mind and can spark adults’ creative sides. Parents can then use this newfound imagination and creativity in their work and to better adapt and problem-solve in real-life situations.
2. Keep Your Distance
Of course, outdoor play is a bit more complicated in the age of face masks and the looming threat of contracting the virus. Thus, taking your kids to the park or even playing in the driveway may look a bit different right now. For instance, you may opt to wear masks when you go for walks in crowded places or even avoid the park altogether. Additionally, you might limit kid’s outdoor time to the back or front yard.
If you’re playing outside your home, you might also teach your kids the importance of staying at least six feet away from passersby. For your little ones, remembering to keep their distance may be difficult. Keep them safe by measuring six feet and having them count how many steps or hops they have to take to travel that far. Then, teach them to take that many steps back when someone approaches. Making it a game adds to the outdoor fun.
3. Stay By Their Side
To ensure your children are keeping their distance or wearing their masks, it’s best to stay outside with them while they play. This is especially true if you have younger children who love to interact with all the people and dogs that walk by. Engaging in play with them and keeping and accompanying them on their adventures around the yard or neighborhood reduces their chances of meeting up with other kids or approaching passersby.
Playing with your kids also allows you the chance to bond with them and create a sense of normalcy. It’s likely been weeks or even months since they last had a playdate with their friends. Distract them from the strange goings-on in the world and their possible sadness over not seeing their friends by becoming their new playdate. Moreover, being with them may make them feel safer in a world where face masks and distancing are the new normal.
4. Create Opportunities for Play
Even though you can’t set your kids loose on the playground right now, your options for outdoor play are practically endless. The only thing limiting you is your own imagination. Create opportunities for your kids to use their own imaginations by heading outdoors for a few hours each day. Bring the hula hoops, chalk, yard games and other playtime items along with you. You might even fill up water balloons or pull out the sprinkler if the weather is warm.
Then, spend the day expressing yourselves through free play. Pay close attention to nature and all the living things around you, too. Watch the ants make their homes or look for insects under rocks. Pick flowers and twist them together into crowns or fairy wands. When evening rolls around, catch fireflies or go stargazing. Soon, your kids won’t even want to pick up their tablets. instead, they’ll be begging you to lead them outside and onto another adventure.
Appreciate This Time Together
Whether you’re currently working from home or are without a job thanks to COVID-19, odds are you won’t have this much free time with your kids again — at least not for a long time. As soon as things begin returning to normal, you’ll have to return to the office and leave your kids to have their own adventures. Moreover, you’ll have to find other ways to cope with stress and anxiety.
Therefore, it’s important to appreciate this time you have to spend with your kids. Instead of looking at playtime as a chore or something to check off a to-do list, see it as an opportunity to bond, play and grow with your kids. Once the stay-at-home orders lift, you’ll miss this time, so get outside and play!