Like so many things that were normal years ago, outdoor play for kids now has a term that refers to it. Children who manage to spend time playing outside without game controllers in their hands are now called free-range children. In some circles, parents who allow their kids to play outside without constant supervision cause raised eyebrows.
Let your children create their own toys and games
If you let your children play in wind, sun, rain and even snow, you will soon learn that they don’t need expensive video game consoles and games. Instead, their imagination and creativity will have them using items in the backyard as more fun toys than what you could ever buy.
Have you ever let your one or two-year-old kids loose in the kitchen where they have access to plastic storage containers and a few of your older pot and pans? I promise that would encourage creative play from a young age. Try it the next time you consider letting your child play with your smart phone to keep them busy. Sure, it will be a bit noisy, but so what?
Children can even have fun in a small backyard
You will be surprised with how kids can create games, regardless of the size of your backyard. Those who live in apartments could allow their kids creative outdoor play at public parks. And I bet they will hear the angels sing if you take them on the occasional camping trip! I’ll share some ideas to satisfy the creativity of “free-range” children.
Children NEED Bicycles
Start teaching your kids to ride bicycles when they are still very young. The combination of independence, mobility, speed and exercise is invaluable during a child’s growing years. Again, if you don’t have enough space, make frequent trips to the park, and let them ride. It is an invaluable part of growing up.
Do your children have rain gear?
No, your kids will not melt if they play in the rain. Instead, they can have loads of fun. Just the thrill of dressing up in the raincoats and boots — or crocs — will be half the fun. A good shower of rain can transform the backyard into a whole new play area, so let them have fun while it lasts.
Water is water, and if rainy days are scarce, a hose or water sprinkler will provide as much fun. Water can transform a play area into a mud kitchen and a sandbox into the beach. Let them create their own fun with a watering can, a wading pool or even an outdoor shower.
A shovel is an essential tool for children
I have yet to meet a child who does not love digging holes. All the more if you supply a shovel or two. Allocate an area of the backyard for digging holes or trenches, using the mud to build walls or make mud pies. The same goes for shoveling snow in the winter. Imagine the fun of digging out snow forts and building defense walls for snowball fights.
Let your children learn in a fun way
Most kids have a natural curiosity when it comes to garden bugs. Try not to go “eew” when they bring you a bug found in the garden. Get them a bug box, or let them make their own. They will not even realize that they are learning valuable lessons about nature, the need for oxygen to keep bugs alive, and a host of other lessons. Let them recreate the area where they found the bug by adding sticks, leaves and even soil. They will also learn the importance of letting the bugs go to find food to stay alive. Even if they find out the hard way that bees sting, it will be one more valuable lesson learned.
Add a magnifying glass to their tools
A magnifying glass can take their explorations up a notch. Imagine the fun of viewing scurrying bugs and other critters up close when they turn rocks over in the garden. When you go on a family hike, let them use binoculars to watch birds and help them identify them in a bird book.
Let your kids mess about in boats
Kenneth Graham, author of Wind in the Willows, said nothing is worth as much as messing about in boats. This is not available to all, but if you live or have vacations near the water, don’t deny your kids the fun they could have in a boat. Even if it is in a small rowboat, canoe, raft, kayak or paddleboard, the exhilaration will be worthwhile.
End the day on a high
To help your free-range child wind down after a day of excitement, let them pull out the sketchbook and draw whatever they want. It could be something they encountered or experienced, a bird or insect, reliving the day’s excitement will get them ready for bed. Many parents keep those drawings as records of the different stages of their children’s lives.