Ideas for Outdoor Play that Won’t Break the Budget
Summer is upon us, and for most of the U.S., it’s a scorcher. What can we do to encourage children to play and learn outdoors without breaking the bank or resorting to herding them into an air conditioned theater? Playing outside is a great thing, and can help open up even the quietest, shyest of children. Here are a few ideas that you can share with the parents of the kids in your practice to get kids out from in front of the television and into the outdoors. These activities will give parents an opportunity to work on their child’s pragmatic language skills when discussing their outdoor adventures afterward.
Go to the Park
When choosing a park, make sure it’s a safe park that’s clean and well maintained. A simple online search will often give you parks in your area, and sometimes reviews to let you know what sort of shape the area is in. The best time of day to go to the park (and not have to worry about heat exhaustion) would be in the early morning or late afternoon. Ask your child what sort of activities they’d like to engage in; this can be a great chance to open up dialogue on their preferences of activity, gauge their mood, and get them talking. There isn’t much rhyme or reason to playing, and even the most methodical child will often find something at the park that brings them joy. If the child doesn’t feel like playing, ask them to touch and explore the things around them. The cool metal of a monkey bar, or the rough bark of a tree nearby. For the more kinesthetic children, this could be more beneficial than play. Some parks will have a water and sand table for those who like to create while being tactile, and these are worth their weight in gold. Overall, whatever you decide to do at the park, have fun with it and your child!
Campsites are often only $10-$12 a night to rent, and camping gear can be steep, but borrowing some from an outdoorsy friend or fellow parent for the weekend will never go amiss. Even if you just camp in your backyard and tell stories, camping is a great way to get kids outdoors and engaged in active play in the world around them. Catch fireflies, roast marshmallows, and cook what you can over a campfire if your city permits it. During the day, teach your child to identify the plants around them, and make etchings of the bark of trees, harvest different leaves to compare their shapes, or even identify new birds. Camping is a great way to get kids outside, and interested in nature.
Ride your bike!
Whether you own a bike or rent one, biking is a great outdoor activity for kids. Find a safe trail, or if your child is older and prefers to ride trails – a decently challenging trail – and go for a bike ride. Biking is a great way to get a workout as well as to see the sights. Hiking by the water or along a nature trail will get kids talking at the sights they see along the way. Stop for frequent water breaks, and point out new things you find along the way.
Overall, getting children outside to play doesn’t have to be expensive. Getting kids talking about the world around them and experiencing it first hand is a great therapeutic tool. What have you learned by taking kids outdoors?