Outdoor Family Free Play

Photo by Seattle Municipal Archives

Do you remember any childhood days of going outside to play? I’m sure most of us do. We don’t need a scientist to tell us how great it feels to be outside in fresh air. It is interesting to note the research, however, that shows children who have free playtime outdoors tend to be better adjusted, better thinkers and less stressed than children who don’t.

So, what is free play? Free play is simply playing-no agenda, just play. You can get outdoors with your children in a setting of choice, with tools of choice and let their imagination go to work. Why not get away from studying, practicing, and TV and get outside to create and explore. Here are a few ideas for some outdoor family free play with your children (young or old) this new year:

  • Gardening- make your backyard a special place to play with the freedom to get dirty. Let each child have their own square foot garden in which to play and learn. Grow fruit trees or have pots of strawberries, tomatoes, etc. Give them gloves, gardening tools and baskets for gathering. It will be a great time for imaginative play while learning about nature.
  • Hiking-not just to reach a destination, but to also enjoy the journey- all the while getting to know each other better. Make easy homemade snacks ahead of time like dehydrated fruit, fruit roll-ups and beef jerky. Grab a walking stick. Play in the dirt. Pretend anything that interests your children.  These are great times to spark lateral (outside the box) thinking which often diminishes as our children get older.
  • Building or drawing-  It’s peaceful to get out of the house to create something. Allow your child supervised time with wood, hammer, nails and handsaws and let him decide what to make. If your child likes to draw, take drawing outside. Grab a sketch pad and colored pencils or chalk and let the child explore while finding things to draw.

What does your family do for play? Are there any new outside activities you’ve started with your family this year?

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