Today is Earth Day so our post today is centered around the ELC motto: Go Outside! ELC preschool educator Kathryn Humber has some suggestions for ways you and your family can engage with nature in our extended time at home. We hope you can find some time to enjoy this beautiful Earth Day with your family!
Having to shelter in place is hard – very hard. Not being able to go places like we are used to or visit friends when we want to feels wrong in many ways. We all know that this time of being asked to stay home and “flatten the curve” is so important for many who would be greatly impacted by COVID-19, but it is hard. It is hard on children, what they knew as normal has been flipped around and they are grappling with huge disruption to their lives. I am sure you have seen this in your own children; I know I have certainly seen it in my 5-year-old, Lucas. He has been testing boundaries recently and is quick to say (and sometimes, shout) things like “No!” or “I’m not going to…” when my husband or I ask him to do something. I know that the change in routine is adding stress and confusion to his life and he probably isn’t as physically active or stimulated as he would be at school. I, too, find myself working through many emotions that, at times, can feel overwhelming and I know that working from home for me (and probably you as well) means sitting in front of a computer to work remotely, decreasing our activity levels as well.
So what can we do during this time of isolation that will be beneficial for you and your child(ren)? What can we do to help with regulating our emotions and expending energy?
My answer: Go outside!
Thankfully, we are not restricted in being able to get outside right now. I hope you take advantage of this time to play with your children outside! Spending time outside can greatly impact the wellbeing of everyone, especially your children. Richard Louv (2013) reminds us that “Natural play strengthens children’s self-confidence and arouses their senses-their awareness of the world and all that moves in it, seen and unseen,” (p. 148). Being outdoors promotes creativity and imagination, teaches responsibility and care for the environment around them, encourages children to think and wonder, and reduces stress and fatigue (Cohen, n.d.).
Here are some suggestions for what you could do outside with your child:
- Chalk work- make a hopscotch path and hop through it with your child, make circles to jump to across the sidewalk/driveway, let your child use their imagination to draw anything they can think of!
- Blow bubbles and let your child chase them
- Water play
- Paint with water- All you need is a paintbrush or paint roller (or anything that you have that can get wet) and let your child paint the sidewalk/driveway, the side of your house, stones, or a fence with the water and watch it dry
- Pouring and scooping- Use a bucket or container of water and some cups of various sizes for your child to scoop and pour
- Mud play- While I know that mud play is messy and may not be for everyone, there are many great benefits to mud play (but that is a blog post for another day)
- Create mud pies/soups/cakes
- Mix ingredients together and see what happens as they dry throughout the day
- Encourage your child to run, jump, climb, dig, go on a hike, etc.
- Throw, roll, and catch a ball together
- Take a walk or ride bikes together
- Create an obstacle course with things you have at home
- Cones, boxes, tree stumps, ropes, painters tape, old tires, etc.
- As your child moves through the obstacle course your child will be gaining a better understanding of concepts such as over, under, through, and around
- Go on a nature hunt
- Search for and identify insects, worms, spiders, birds, flowers, etc. together
- Search for things that you can use your senses to find
- Feel something that is bumpy, smooth, rough, or fuzzy
- Find something that you can smell
- Taste (with parent approval, of course) something from a garden
- Search for something that you can see up high/down low or big/small
- Here’s a great pre-made graphic for an outdoor bingo game
- A “listening” walk makes for a wonderful sound discrimination activity. As you walk, invite your child to point out the sounds of birds, passing cars, whistling wind, even your footsteps on the sidewalk
- Spend time in a garden!
- There is a whole host of things you can learn and do in the garden. See this post from my co-teacher, Michelle Combs, about gardening with your children
- Have an outdoor dance party
- Bring a parachute or an old sheet outside and play parachute games (shaking it, circling with it, making waves with it, or bouncing balls on it).
- Play an outdoor game such as Tag, Mother May I, Hide and Seek, or create a new game together
- Right now, our colleagues at Mindstretchers have some wonderful (and free!) resources that you can check out as well
I’ll leave you with this quote from Richard Louv (2013), “We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children’s memories, the adventures we’ve had together in nature will always exist” (p.316).
I hope you take some time throughout the day to spend time outdoors with your child. Please reach out if you need more suggestions or ideas; we would love to support you!
Go outside and play!
Cohen, D. (n.d) Why kids need to spend time in nature. Child Mind Institute.
Pica, R. (n.d) Take It Outside!. Early Childhood News
Louv, R. (2013). Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. London: Atlantic Books.