I'm all for outdoor play time. In fact, I think kids should be outdoors for several hours per day in the summer (and even in the winter, although I realize it's harder to achieve that goal!) And a recent report on the health of our kids suggests the same - "the biggest risk is keeping kids indoors."
What's tough about summer is that parents aren't usually on vacation. And even if we manage to get some time off, the list of to-dos is mountainous. I find it hard to send my kids outdoors for hours when I have to be inside prepping meals, washing dishes, and making sure my house doesn't look like we had a recent visit from the tasmanian devil. Of course, I get outside myself when I can (and love heading to the park with the kids), but sometimes you just need them out of your hair.
When they're old enough, I'll have no qualms sending them off on their bikes into the neighbourhood. I tend to be fairly "free-range" in my parenting :) But right now at 2.5 and 5.5, my girls are not old enough to be let loose into the world without parental supervision.
So how do you ensure that your kids won't be banging at the back door to get back in?
Tips for Unstructured Outdoor Play
- Snacks: I don't know about you, but if my girls aren't well fed, they get whiny and unproductive. The great thing about summer is that you can set up a little picnic outdoors. This is where I like to sneak in the veggies - if I put out a huge plate of crudites and dip, I find the girls will eat LOADS as they run back and forth between their picnic and games
- Water Play: You don't want to leave young children around a body of water unsupervised - even a kiddie pool is dangerous. This is where sprinklers are very handy! If you're trying to be eco-friendly and conserve water, a water table is an amazing toy for any age. I also love these ideas for water play.
- Music: set up the boombox on the window sill (ok, fine, I guess it will be your iPod docking station and speakers) and pump the tunes. My girls LOVE dancing outside, and I'll supply them with long ribbons so they can do lots of twirling
- Games: organize an outdoor game that you know will take some time for the kids to complete. Scavenger hunts are amazing, although kids usually need some help along the way. An easier idea would be a good old fashioned obstacle course - there are some great tips and ideas on Pinterest!
- Toys: What would outdoor playtime be like without some toys? Of course children love making up games with random sticks, but as they get older, they usually enjoy being challenged by play structures and other climb-on toys.
We recently had the chance to check out the Eezy Peezy Monkey Bars from Just Play Toy Rental. If you haven't heard of them, JPTR is an amazing local toy rental service. You can "subscribe" to the service through a monthly fee, and have various toys dropped off to your house each month. Or, you can do what I did and pick one toy that you would like to rent. In the past we've tried out their travel toys for long car rides, and they've been a big hit.
They have an amazing selection of outdoor toys that would go a long way in supporting unstructured outdoor play. My girls loved the monkey bars (I've heard it's the most popular toy!), and I'm thinking we may book one of their birthday party packages for my daughter's 6th birthday. It saves me SO much time having to think about all the materials and games I would need to purchase. The toys/games are dropped off to your front door, and picked up again at a scheduled date. Eezy peezy!! ;)
So tell me - how will you support unstructured outdoor play for your kids this summer?
Disclaimer: I received the monkey bars from Just Play Toy Rental as a free trial in exchange for writing about them here on the blog. As usual, my opinions are all my own, and anyone who knows me knows I have lots of opinions :)