Some screen time is inevitable, given that our children are digital natives. And busy parents sometimes need to hire the services of the 'iPad Babysitter' while they bang out 20 minutes of chores. But it's important to get the right balance with children encouraged to play outside as much as possible. Being outdoors not only boosts well-being, it also strengthens the immune system and fosters environmental stewardship. So here's a bunch of games and ideas to help encourage your children to get away from the TV and tablet and get outdoors more this summer.
1. Play the journey stick game. Native tribes use these to recount a journey or story. Set a destination and walk to it collecting items along the way that you will later add to your journey stick. Collect feathers, twigs, leaves, daisies and so on and find an all important wand-length stick on which to record your journey. Each time an item is collected, talk about where you are on the journey to enable recollection later. On your return home tie the collected items to your stick in order of discovery to tell the story of the journey you went on.
2. Wheels. The children get to choose which wheels to use to go to the park/woods - scooter, roller boots, skateboards, bikes? Get them to draw a rota of which wheels will be used first, second and third on following trips out to encourage future outdoor adventures.
3. Spy camp. A variation on hide and seek. Dish out some notepads, pencils and either cameras or toilet roll holders. First of all is the decision who gets to be 'spy' first. This involves whoever can climb a tree or run up the nearest hill first. Everyone should get a turn to avoid sibling bashing. The spy counts and the hiders hide but rather than simply find the hiders, the spy needs to creep up on them without letting the hider know they've been found then return to base and write down where that person is and repeat until everyone is found. If the spy is discovered, the spy-busting hider becomes the spy and takes over the notes to avoid repetition.
4. Forest bathing or woodland walking. Simply finding your local woodland, going there and soaking up the sounds, sights, smells... really connecting with nature by mindfully noticing what you all hear, see, touch, smell and even taste. This is a good introduction to mindfulness, paying attention to the present moment, as well as to getting the kids outside.
5. Treasure hunt. Grab some buckets from a bucket and spade kit and go on a treasure hunt. Each child should be given a specific object or set of objects to seek out: round pebbles, large stones, twigs, different types of leaf/bug and so on. As well as generally looking for items, tell children they can use the material collected (except the bugs) to create a small mural on paper which spells out their initials or names.
Have fun! Happy Summer Holidays from the Climbing Trees Kids team.