Kids are on summer break but they shouldn’t spend all day in front of the television. It isn’t healthy for their minds or their bodies. Find ways to encourage your kids to play outside in the backyard at least an hour a day. Here are a few inexpensive eco-friendly and healthy ideas to make the backyard a lot more entertaining for your young children.
Kids love to observe bugs. The good news is that they don’t have to go far to find them. Bugs are all over your backyard. So, give your kids a magnifying glass, a jar with a lid (holes punched in the top), a notebook (if they can write or draw) and a camera (if you trust them with one). Then send them outside and let them explore. With the very young kids go outside with them and show them good places to look for bugs: in long grass, near plants, under rocks, under debris, etc. Tell them to draw or write about the bugs they find. Later in the day or the next day help your kids identify (use the library as a resource if you need it) the bugs in their notebook. Older children can do the research themselves, just be available if they need you.
Grab your kids and the camping gear: the tent, the sleeping bags, the mosquito nets, the solar powered flashlights, the marshmallows, the organic chocolate and the gram crackers. Spread out the sleeping bags and mosquito nets and set up the tent right in your backyard. After it is all set up lie down on the sleeping bags, look up at the stars and point them out to your children. Can you identify them? Can they? If the stars are difficult to see, turn off the lights in your house facing the backyard. Tell your neighbors about you adventure with your kids and ask them sweetly if they will also turn off their lights facing the backyard. Don’t forget to listen to the sounds of the animals and bugs. Is it a frog, an owl or a squirrel? Most importantly don’t forget the scary story.
Replace the video games with a set of eco-friendly (second hand, borrowed, made of recycled plastic, etc.) binoculars. Give the binoculars to yours kids along with a book from the library about local birds, a notepad and a handful of colored pencils. Then gently push your kids out the back door and while encouraging to find birds from the book or just to explore the far out doors up close.
A good way to teach kids about sustainability is to teach them where their food comes from. A good way to teach them about where their food comes from is to teach them how to garden. Pick a spot in your yard they can have for their own garden or let them help you with the family garden. Show them how to place seeds in the soil, how to water the plants, how to compost, etc. When it’s time to harvest and eat the food they helped grow they will appreciate it a lot more.
Back yard games can be a lot of fun as well as healthy and inexpensive. The same games don’t have to be played everyday either. There are plenty f games to choose from such as: scavenger hunt, freeze tag, duck duck goose, Frisbee, etc.
For more ways to keep your kids outside join the Be Out There group and pledge to keep your kids outdoors during the summer. Also take a look at Family Fun and Better Homes and Gardens for more back yard fun activities including crafts and games.
Dan Shapley, “11 Creative Ways to Get Your Kid to Play Outside”, The Daily Green.