We've always known that young children should have opportunities to play outside as often as possible. Now we're learning that being outside during this particular time helps mitigate the spread of coronavirus. Since most of us will spend most of the next few months at home, there's no better time to think about finding or creating outdoor place spaces for your children to enjoy this summer. No matter how small your yard, opportunities abound.
The National Wildlife Federation has created an incredible and comprehensive guide for families: Nature Play at Home, A Guide for Boosting Your Children's Healthy Development and Creativity. The guide explains the social-emotional, physical, and cognitive benefits of outdoor play and includes beautiful photographs and simple directions. Here are some examples of what you'll find inside:
1 Shovel level of difficulty
"Loose Parts (natural and not) include almost any found object or play material that increases play and learning. To start, gather some of nature’s loose parts already present in your yard. Children’s creativity is driven by anything that can be manipulated, changed, or moved around. Rather than purchasing toys for your children play to with outdoors, consider recycling and reusing everyday objects and taking stock of what nature provides for free!"
2-4 Shovels level of difficulty
"Adventure Pathways create opportunities for repeated exploration and adventure, even in relatively small yards. Pathways can be simple: a footpath around the edge of the site sneaking around trees and bushy plants. Complexity can be added with logs, stumps, rocks, stepping stones, and other obstacles to balance, jump or clamber around. A looped pathway is more enticing. To a child it feels like it leads to a secret place. In larger sites, other settings along the path increase the sense of adventure and mystery. Settings such as backyard habitat, gathering places, grass mazes or fairy villages work well along a pathway."
4 Shovels level of difficulty
"Vine Teepees are structures of six poles, six to eight feet long, made of bamboo, sturdy branches, or painted PVC. The poles are secured at the top and covered with climbing vines. Teepees create mysterious, natural, private, child-sized spaces."
Another very similar and fantastic resource is Nature Play at Home by Nancy Striniste. For more on loose parts, perfect any time of year, check out Loose Parts, Inspiring Play in Young Children by Lisa Daly and Miriam Beloglovsky.
Have a great summer!