Spring has sprung bringing beautiful weather in Texas. Spending time outside can have benefits for every member of the family. The American Academy of Pediatrics tells us that time outside helps encourage creativity and critical thinking. Time outside has also shown to decrease anger and aggression while improving impulse control in children. According to the American Psychological Association, nature has both physical and psychological benefits. It can boost your mood, your cognition, and can help with your overall heath.
So here at The Warren Center, we challenge your whole family to get at least 15 minutes of outdoor time each day. To help, here are some activity recommendations provided by The Warren Center’s physical therapist, Sam Ewing, PT, DPT, SC:
Outdoor activities for babies
We know it may seem daunting to take your baby outside, but the fresh air can actually be a great way to calm your baby down. Family walks are a great way to engage with your baby, whether you put them in a stroller, wear them, or just carry them, it’s a great way for you to get some exercise while exposing your baby to new sights, sounds, and smells.
Try bringing a blanket outside for playtime and have your baby do tummy time outside or work on sitting and playing with toys on a blanket. Working on these skills in a new environment is great for learning. While on your walk, collect different items from your environment like sticks, flowers, leaves, acorns, dirt, or whatever you can find and let your baby explore the different textures with both their hands and feet. Just watch out — they may try to eat it!
Outdoor activities for toddlers
As your child gets a little bit older and becomes a toddler, they may want to engage and explore more in the outdoors. If that’s the case, playgrounds are a great option at this age. It allows your child to explore in a relatively safe environment and provides lots of opportunities for socialization and motor challenges. Make sure to check out the stairs, swings, and slides.
Family walks are still a great option at this age, but prepare for lots of stops to allow your toddler to look at things. Ewing says she often likes to bring a small bag with her to allow them to collect “treasures” like rocks, leaves, sticks, and things they find interesting. If you bring them home, they are great for art projects or sensory bins. Messes are a lot easier to clean up outside than inside. While outside, there are lots of different sights and sounds, which can be a great way to work on language by labeling common things such as airplanes, cars, or pets.
Outdoor activities for preschool-age children
As your child reaches preschool age, they will still enjoy unstructured outdoor play but you can begin to implement more structured activities as well. Planting a garden is a great way to learn about nature. If you don’t have room for a garden, a lot of plants can grow in plastic cups. Outside time is a great place to work on activities such as throwing and kicking a ball. The odds of breaking something are much less outside! Obstacle courses and scavenger hunts are another great way to engage your preschooler. You can work on following instructions while also keeping them active. You can start teaching your kids simple games such as tag.
And when in doubt, kids of any age tend to enjoy playing with bubbles or water. You can just bring a tub of water outside with some cups from your kitchen and let them make a big mess.
These are just a few ideas to get you started playing outside! Hopefully it will encourage you to get outside and enjoy the fresh air this spring. If you are currently working with a therapist at The Warren Center, we encourage you to reach out to them and ask how your child’s specific goals can be worked toward while outside. Maybe you can even do a session outside this spring!