The summer season is a great time to get outside and explore a different type of playful exploration. After being “stuck” inside for months and trying to keep my busy son active, the great outdoors provides so many more opportunities. Here are some tips to encourage your little ones (and you) to move.
1. Dress for the occasion
When we go out for a day of adventure, I make sure I have appropriate footwear – sneakers or supportive sandals – so I can play with my son. I don’t want to have to say no to him because I’m wearing shoes I can’t run around in or get dirty.
2. Be ready for opportunities to play
Keep a bag handy that is stocked with a variety of sports gear. Throw the bag in your trunk so it’s always accessible on any adventure. Our bag includes:
- A soccer ball
- A baseball bat, balls, and gloves
- A small football
- Tennis racquets and tennis balls
- Small pylons to create goal posts or bases
- Skipping ropes
3. Fill up some water balloons
Working on throwing skills and hitting targets becomes tons of fun, especially if they get to aim at Mom or Dad.
4. Get your ninja warrior on
My son loves to turn any playground into an obstacle course. We investigate how he can use traditional playground equipment in different and interesting ways. Bring your stopwatch (I use the clock app on my phone). He loves when I time him so he can work on a personal best.
5. Keep a supply of sidewalk chalk
Sidewalk chalk can provide hours of fun. My son loved to draw on the sidewalk when he was younger. I encouraged him to physically trace the patterns he created. Hopscotch is a classic that works on so many skills like throwing, counting, jumping, agility, and it’s fun!
6. Stack up some hula hoops
Hula hoops are another easy piece of equipment to carry around and can provide endless fun. Put a pile of hula hoops in front of kids and they will go wild with their creativity. If they run out of ideas, here are more for you to try. You can even make your own with this fun DIY project.
7. Enjoy the journey
That is one of the best pieces of advice my dad gave me when my son was a toddler. I remember wanting to go to the playground and it would often take us an hour to get there. My son would walk up every driveway, climb over every curb, throw sticks and small rocks down the sewers. I just wanted to get to the playground to “play”. Then I would remember my dad’s advice: “This is play for him. Let him explore. Who cares if we never make it to the playground.”
8. Practice saying “yes”
It’s normal to want to protect our children and prevent them from getting hurt. The truth is if we want them to develop physical literacy, we have to encourage them to explore and take reasonable risks. When they ask if they can climb on something or run down a hill for example, try to avoid automatically saying, “No, that’s dangerous.” Let them try, be there to spot them if necessary or give them a strategy on how to approach the task so they can be successful. The more we allow our children to explore their physical abilities the more physical confidence they will gain. This is a priceless gift we can give them.
Get outside this summer and let your children lead the adventures. Who knows, you may learn something new too!