Research shows many benefits to being outside, for both children and adults. From socialization and exercise to a mental health boost, the benefits of being outside not only help give us an appreciation of nature but can also help keep us healthy. Plan accordingly for outdoor time, especially in the heat. Don’t forget to take breaks in the shade, drink plenty of water, and wear protective clothing or sunscreen.
We’ve gathered some fun summertime ideas to try—for infants to school-age children.
Infants: Water! Whether at the beach or in your backyard, infants love to play with water. Providing a shallow dish of water for your baby to play with can provide hours of fun that’s a little easier to supervise. You can add food coloring, toys that float or sink, or even a little bit of non-toxic soap to create bubbles. The water will also help keep them cool. For older infants, you can add a little bit more water and cups for them to fill and dump the water with.
Toddlers/Twos: Sand! When young children manipulate sand, it’s not only fun, but helps them to build the small muscles in their hands and arms. If you don’t have a sandbox or if space is limited, get a shallow container (such as an under the bed storage bin) and fill it with sand. You can bury different objects in the sand for your child to discover or add a bit of water and a variety of cups, spoons, or sand toys to build with. If you are feeling a little daring, you can add food coloring to the water when dumping it in to create multi-colored sand. You could also make a volcano science experiment by adding vinegar and baking soda.
Preschool/Pre-K: Challenges! Children love a good problem-solving challenge at this age and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Set up a bucket of water on one side of the yard or area and an empty bucket on the other. See how quickly they can transfer the water without moving the buckets. You can provide a variety of tools such as sponges, cups, or even large spoons, and see which tool will help them do it the fastest.
School-Age: Game Play! This age provides a perfect opportunity to teach your children some of the old classic games such as Mother May I, What Time Is It, Mr. Fox?, or Hopscotch. Want to try something a little different? Grab a jump rope. If you have enough people, two can hold either end while someone tries to jump with a non-breakable cup filled up halfway with water. Try not to spill it! You can also tie one end of the rope to a tree. Have multiple kids? Challenge them to each jump 5 or 10 times and compare who spilled the least amount of water.No matter what you choose to do outside, take note of the wonderful embedded educational (and health) value it brings!