Posts Tagged ‘outdoor play’

The Sense of Wonder: Going Outdoors with Kids

From Super Nature Adventures:

2017-05-07-07-07-03It used to be that whenever we went hiking as a family, we were all “Go Go Go”. Did having a kid stop us? No way! We’d strap him into a backpack carrier and head on our way no matter how long the trail.  We were those people who’d brag about how far our kid hiked with us. Four miles, six miles… “oh, he’s good,” we’d say!

Then…well, then he grew too big for us to carry him.

There was whining. There were fits. Sometimes he’d seem tired one moment and be running the next. Or he would do something that seemed designed to unnerve us. One time, he just took off running in the direction of the trailhead as fast as he could. Another time he sat down on the trail and wouldn’t budge.

A while back, we sent out a survey to families about hiking that revealed that the kinds of challenges we were having are pretty much the norm. Lots of you shared stories about your kid rebelling while on the trail. As many of you noted, even if you are committed to getting outdoors, when kids revolt, going hiking with them can feel like a really big slog.

So…What to do about it? 
One resource that has helped us is Rachel Carson’s book, The Sense of Wonder. Carson is someone who is known as one of the founders of the modern environmentalist movement. As such, she has spent much of her career devoted to forging closer connections between people and the outdoors. The Sense of Wonder is great because in that book she focuses on the importance of nature for kids.

Here are a few of our favorite tips from The Sense of Wonder:

  1. “A child’s world is free and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement.”  Kids see nature differently than adults. Often, our own sense of wonder has faded or even disappeared over the years. Carson argues that the one of the simplest things we can do to support kids is to rediscover our own sense of awe and share in their joy when they are excited about what they find out in nature.
  2. “Many children, perhaps because they themselves are small and closer to the ground than we, notice and delight in the small and inconspicuous.” While adults tend to be destination oriented, kids tend often get excited about the beauties in the world that we miss because, as Carson writes, “we look to hastily.”
  3. “It is more important to pave the way for the child to want to know than to put him on a diet of facts he is not ready to assimilate.” Carson argues that kids must have a desire to learn first, and that our goals as parents should be to build that desire. Or to put in another way, early childhood is the time to “prepare the soil” for the “seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom.”
  4. “Exploring nature with your child is largely a matter of becoming receptive to what lies all around you. It is learning again to use your eyes, ears, nostrils and fingertips, opening up the disused channels of sensory impression.” We don’t need to be experts on nature to help our kids forge a closer connection to the outdoors. We do need to use our senses.
  5. Through these actions we can learn as much from our kids about the outdoors as they can learn from us. Children can help us strengthen our own sense of awe. For Carson, this is deeply significant. “Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life,” she writes. Through our sense of awe we find ourselves more connected to something beyond ourselves.

Carson’s advice has helped us to think about hiking from the kids’s perspective. We’ve put a lot of these ideas to work as we’ve been creating our monthly trail packets for Super Nature Adventures.  But you don’t have to only apply this advice to trails. Whether you are hiking with your child to a waterfall, or walking with them to the store, supporting a sense of wonder can help to deepen their connection to the outdoors.
~ Bryna

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Must Reads for the Nature-Loving Parent

Being an avid reader, I’m always on the lookout for good books. However, I am also passionate about the outdoors (as should be obvious from reading this blog by now). So how to combine these two loves? How about reading great books about getting outside?

Spending more time outdoors has been a hot topic in recent years, especially when it comes to children. The term Richard Louv coined, “nature-deficit disorder,” has become common language in the outdoor education community. Research has backed him up. The increased amount our youth are spending indoors in front of screens is negatively impacting their physical and emotional health and well-being.

The solution, getting outside more, seems simple enough. Yet this can still seem like a daunting task to many parents and teachers looking to carve free time out of a packed schedule. So maybe we need a little help?

Fortunately for us, there are a ton of clever authors out there that have taken it upon themselves to tackle this issue. And one blogging mama has compiled 10 great books to start with.

You can even read them outside if you like. 🙂

Read her blog here.

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Outdoor Classroom Day!

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Have you ever heard of Outdoor Classroom Day?

We hadn’t until recently, but we’re glad this program is around. More and more programs are popping up to get classrooms outside, this one just happens to be global. An international day dedicated to outdoor classes. How cool is that? Plus, this day falls in autumn, a great time of year in Michigan to get outside.

From the Outdoor Classroom Day About page:

“Outdoor Classroom Day is a GLOBAL campaign to celebrate and inspire outdoor learning and play! Why? Simply because although teachers and parents know that spending time outdoors is important, sometimes it is squeezed out of the school day by all the other competing demands.

Anyone who has seen the effect of taking children outdoors to learn and play knows how powerful such experiences can be. Play is essential for children’s healthy development, which means it’s an essential part of every day. Learning outdoors, or ‘learning by doing,’ creates lasting memories, helps build a greater awareness of the environment, provides more opportunities to think independently, and gets children feeling challenged and excited by learning.”

outdoor-classroom-dayThe official Outdoor Classroom Day website has tons of resources, activities, and lesson plans to help you out. You can even get your school listed on a global map showing everyone who is participating.

Anyone can participate, formal school or not. So mark your calendars for Thursday, October 6 and get your kids outside!

Dirty Kid, Clean House

With all the emphasis being put on children spending time outdoors there’s one major deterrent that hasn’t been addressed: dirt.

Yes, this can be the downside to playing outside, your kids covered in mud, sand, or grass, and then tracking all of it though the house you just spent hours cleaning. We understand your aversion, but have no fear there is a way to have both. A win-win situation where your kids can have all the outdoor fun they want and you can keep the dirt outside. Let this educator and mother show you how in her blog article.

On Embracing Messy Play

By   August 23, 2016

tips to embrace messy play outside

Getting kids outside is a challenge! We live in a dynamic, fast-paced world driven by technology, and our children’s lives are more scheduled than ever. Much of this comes out of the necessity to accommodate demanding work schedules. The consequence is a significant decline in the amount children play, specifically outside.

Exposing children to nature-based play experiences is essential to providing a balanced childhood. It gives children an outlet and a space that isn’t driven by preconceived ideas. There are no solutions, no goals, no levels, only simple objects, and space. The space I refer to is both physical and mental. You don’t need a lot of physical space to provide for quality mental space.

The most common concern I hear about nature-based play is that it is dirty and messy. The beautiful thing about outdoor play is that you can clean it up with very little effort; in most cases, water is all you need.

How To Keep The Mess Outside

Here’s my action plan for quickly cleaning up five little people every day:

How To Set Up A Clean Up Bin Outdoors For Messy Play

Step One: Gather a couple of towels – one for the ground and one for the body.

Step Two: Set up a clean up medium size bin/bucket. My favourite bin in terms of durability, longevity, and versatility is a Rubbermaid Roughneck 10 gal bin. This bin will be the key to keeping the unwanted elements of outdoor play outside.

Step Three: Fill about halfway with warm water instead of using hose water.  When I fill my bin, I tend to fill it on the slightly hot side as it will be sitting for some time before I use it. If you have the ability to fill right before you need it, you only need to use warm water.

This strategy is particularly important for kids who are not enthusiastic about spending time outside.

Washing off with cold water does not leave a positive impression.

The last thing you want children to remember about their outdoor play is that they had to clean up in cold water; they will be less enthusiastic about engaging the next time around. Over time this will change, but at the beginning set yourself and them up for success.

Step Four: Wash! There are numerous strategies you can employ here. Get in the bin and wash or use a cup and stand beside it. I have also found that a watering can is quite effective for getting the dirt off legs.

Step Five: Once you’ve washed the dirt off, stand on a towel beside the door and dry off.

Final step: Use the remaining water to clean gear. There is nothing worse than going to put on a pair of shoes that are filled with sand or covered with mud. This step will also minimize the excessive dirt from entering your home.

Having a clean up bin serves a variety of purposes. It keeps the mess out of your house and sets a standard for reference. For those moments when someone says “My hands are dirty” or “I’m getting dirty” you can reassure them that they will be cleaned up at the end so they can enjoy their time.  I do not recommend getting in the habit of cleaning mid-session or regularly as it sets a difficult standard and distracts children from engaging in meaningful play experiences.

Our Attitude Towards Outdoor, Messy Play Matters

A note about our role in shaping their willingness to engage in meaningful and messy play:

As adults, our attitude towards their play experiences will help develop their comfort levels with it. If you have a particular attachment to certain clothing pieces, set your children up with some outdoor play clothes that you will not get upset if they get dirty. When children know that the clothing and shoes they are wearing are meant to be played in and get dirty, they will be more willing to engage in trying. This too is part of teaching children how to play outside.

Read, a naturopathic doctor’s perspective on why getting a little dirty is good for the immune system.

 Bio:

Tara Gratto, M.S.Ed, M.A., B.A., is the mother of two young children and experienced educator, both in the traditional classroom setting and in an outdoor education environment. Throughout her teaching career she focused on integrating experiential education into her classroom to enhance learning. Recently embarking on a new chapter, she opened EducatorMama, a nature and play based preschool and beyond. Part of the vision that guides EducatorMama is to provide children with meaningful opportunities to explore and engage with nature by spending more time outdoors.

Playground in a Box

That’s right, you heard correctly. A playground in a box.

How is this possible?

Simple. Kids are naturally curious about things. They like putting things together, stacking things up, making forts, etc. Give them a bunch of random parts and they’ll create fantastic things.

It seemed fitting that we came across this post by Playground Ideas right after our video about the Power of the Stick. The two seem to fit perfectly together because what is more fun for a random box of pieces that a box of nature pieces?

Playground Ideas and Pop Up Adventure Play collaborated on the “Loose Parts Manual” to inspire unstructured play and encourage people to make use of what’s around them. The idea is, you don’t need to invest hundreds of dollars in playground equipment to get kids active. While nice, playground equipment isn’t the only option out there. There are many benefits to their playground in a box idea, not the least of which is that it’s cheap. Plus, depending on what you want your playground in a box to be, you could event take it with you. It’s portable! Can you say that of your slide and swing set?

manual

Thanks Playground Ideas, for this awesome picture. Love the background props.

 

You can download the manual for free, but you have to sign up first at Playground Ideas. Just enter a name and email address and it arrives in your inbox immediately. We can’t wait to go though ours. Happy playing!

Why Kids Should Play Outdoors

8 science-backed reasons for letting your kids play outdoors

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The average American boy or girl spends as few as 30 minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day. Only 6% of children nine to 13 play outside on their own in a typical week.  

But if you’re reading this, you probably already know that outdoor play is essential for children’s health and well-being. Here are eight science-backed reasons that prove you’re right.


1. Better vision – Multiple studies show that sunshine and the natural light of outdoors lowers the chance of nearsightedness and improves distance vision in children. Kids who spent more time outside had better distance vision than those who prefer indoor activities. A recent study from Ohio State University College of Optometry says that 14 hours a week of outdoor light is effective for better vision.

2. Better resistance to disease Multiple studies show that playing in the dirt (soil) outdoors helps kids stay healthy. Bacteria, viruses and other gross things in the soil actually help the immune system, and brain develop. Playing the dirt can also improve a child’s mood and reduce anxiety and stress.

3. Increased Vitamin D – It’s difficult to get enough of this nutrient strictly from food. 80 to 90 percent of our vitamin D actually comes from sunshine. Sensible unprotected sun exposure of 10 to 15 minutes will do it. After the first 10 – 15 minute exposure, it’s best to cover up with sunscreen.

4. Less Stress –  More than 100 research studies have shown that outdoor recreation reduces stress. This comes from a combination of factors producing positive physiological and psychological responses.

Also, in this poll, 90 percent of kids who spent time outside said being in nature and taking part in outdoor activities helped relieve stress.

 5. Better attention spans, even for kids with ADHD symptoms –  Several studies done by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign show that natural settings and green outdoor activities reduced ADHD symptoms in children. Activities outdoors specifically had greater positive impact than other settings. These positive effects are measured in children as young as age five.

A 2008 study at the University of Michigan found that memory performance and attention spans improved by 20 percent after subjects spent an hour out in the nature.

Likewise, 78%  of educators in a large survey reported that “children who spend regular time in unstructured outdoor play are better able to concentrate and perform better in the classroom.”

6. Better physical fitness – Outdoor play increases fitness levels and builds active, healthy bodies. One in three American kids who are obese. Running around, climbing, walking, exploring, and getting dirty burn calories and strengthen growing bodies.

Bonus: there’s ample evidence linking physical fitness and academic achievement.

Likewise, there’s evidence that simply taking a stroll outside increases creativity.

7. Better physical coordination –  Another way to say this is  better sensory skills. Playing outside involves uneven surfaces, rocks, branches, holds and unstable surfaces like gravel, sand and mud. Playing around these elements takes balance, agility, dexterity, and depth perception.

8. Better classroom performance – Multiple studies show that kids who spend time outside (including during the school day) do better in all academic subjects.

Exposure to environment-based education significantly increases student performance on tests of their critical thinking skills.

Factoring out other variables, studies of students in California and nationwide show that schools that use outdoor classrooms and other forms of nature-based experiential education produce significant student gains in social studies, science, language arts, and math. For example, one study found that students in outdoor science programs improved their science testing scores by 27 percent.

BONUS POINTS!

9. Spark curiosity & imagination – As kids grow, indoor environments become known, understood, and familiar. However, outside environments are dynamic and ever-changing. They are outside our control. As such, they invite the mind to wander, looking, observing.

10. Better nature literacy and local understanding – From TV, movies, books and apps, many kids know a lot about dinosaurs, pandas and sharks.  Bringing them outside lets them explore and learn about their own local ecosystem. Kids take immense, healthy pride from learning the names of the plants and animals in their own neighborhood.