(Family Features) Remember taking off for a day of adventure on your bike, returning home only for dinner? Kids these days don’t have the same incredible experience of exploratory, unstructured play. According to a new survey commissioned by Nature’s Path, 54 percent of moms say their kids spend more time playing in front of a screen than playing outside.
“Playing outside in nature is critically important for kids’ development. Research shows it improves everything from problem-solving to cognitive ability to social relations,” said parenting expert Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions. “Between screen time and the busy schedules of both parents and kids, today’s children are spending less time outside and missing out on this fun and beneficial part of childhood.”
According to the survey, the majority of moms try to regularly get their kids outside to enjoy the lifelong learning and health benefits of playing in nature. The biggest barriers that prevent this are: fear of letting kids play outside alone, being too busy juggling other priorities and not having the time to supervise outdoor play.
Here are five fun ideas to get you and your kids outside and exploring nature:
1. Get crafty. Let your kids collect leaves, flowers, stones, pinecones or anything that strikes their fancy – and then craft together. Make leaf prints, press flowers between plastic sheets to create placemats, paint stones or sticks to look like animals or make a terrarium in a bottle. The possibilities are as endless as their imaginations.
2. Schedule it. Kids are used to planned sports and activities, so schedule an hour of outdoor play that they will come to expect. That’s where the planning ends – give them some ideas, but let them use their imaginations and engage in unstructured free play.
3. Explore at night. Turn a simple walk around the neighborhood into an adventure by going outside in the evening. Let kids take flashlights and glow sticks to help explore nature in a whole new way. Talk about the sights and smells at night and look at the stars together.
4. Share your favorite activities and make new memories. When you were young, did you love to skip stones on a pond? Build a fort? Jump in to piles of leaves? Tell your kids about your favorite pastimes and experience them together.
5. Get schools involved. According to the survey, the vast majority of moms (94 percent) agree it’s important that schools also help kids discover nature. Moms can help schools by bringing them a program that’s easy to implement. Nature’s Path EnviroKidz Ecokeepers is a hands-on, exploration-based program that blends a traditional activity passport for kids to fill-in with a modern-day treasure hunt that uses GPS on smartphones to find hidden caches. It’s free for schools and camps, and complements science and physical education curriculum. Parents can also download the Ecokeepers explorer guide and resources featuring activities to do with the family. The geocache app can be downloaded free from geocaching.com or your smartphone’s app store.
While busy schedules don’t always make it easy for moms to do everything they’d like to do with their kids, a little planning can help to get kids outside to experience all the benefits of outdoor play.