Around here, we are always looking for great new ideas to get families outside and active. Please welcome Michelle to the blog today – she has some great ideas on everyday ways to get out and get moving! As always, please read to the bottom of the post for more about Michelle and where to find her online.
Growing up in rural northeast Arkansas, we spent a lot of time outside, most of it entirely unsupervised. My brother and I knew freedom. We often wandered as far away from our house as 2 or 3 miles. We literally came home when the bell rang. It was a large cast iron bell my mother had inherited and we knew when it rang, we needed to get home without wasting time. The landscape of our roaming included 20 acres of woods, two different cow pastures, an old, abandoned and uncovered well, two ponds, cotton and bean fields, railroad tracks and gravel roads. With all this around, our only seriously enforced restriction was highway 63 which ran in front of the house. After all, the highway was paved and people whizzed by at high speeds in and out of Jonesboro.
My 5 kids don’t know outdoor freedom in the same way, partly because we no longer live in a rural setting and partly because the world seems less safe than it did just a few years ago. I say “a few years” because I’m not even 50 yet. Since we know fresh air, sunshine and exercise are good for kids, how do we get them outside when video games, satellite TV and comfortable lounge chairs are the competition?
My husband is always outside in the driveway or garage. He’s either repairing or washing something. We learned a while ago that kids love to be underfoot when you’re washing a car so he let them help. They’re older now, so it’s a requirement but when they were little, he would give them their own bucket of water and soap and have them scrub the bumpers and headlights. When we drove at night later on, he would comment how great the lights were working because they were so clean. He also had them separating tools and things like nails, nuts and bolts.
Last weekend, my husband and I watched in proud admiration as my youngest son worked on installing his new HID headlights himself. He was outside for hours working with his latest toy and happily stayed out there until the job was complete.
TREASURE HUNT AND FLASHLIGHT TAG
Neighborhood treasure hunts worked when they were younger. They enjoyed the challenge. My son Clint said once it was “almost like a video game in person.”
My kids have always loved to play flashlight tag. There is something about being outside at night with a flashlight in hand that kids just love. Of course, the game has evolved from our oldest to youngest. Our youngest two use cell phones as a flashlight, but at least they’re outside. Although recently, we bought a bag full of $1 flashlights and passed them around. The kids absolutely went nuts for them and loved the ‘old school’ technology while the batteries lasted. We’ve had to enforce rules to keep from annoying neighbors. Only go on lawns of kids playing the game and no screaming like a wild thing unless hurt or attacked.
TREATS AND TOYS
Buy things specifically for outdoors such as a badminton game set or something that squirts water. Water guns were a favorite of our boys and they played all manner of games with those in hand. Teams of boys formed and the games became intricate with numerous rules and yes, occasionally a fight broke out. But those boys are still friends today.
Sticky treats such as popsicles or chocolate covered frozen bananas that can only be eaten outside come in handy as well.
Remember the bug collections we had to do? All but my oldest got all the way through elementary school and never once had to collect bugs. Well, I found that disturbing. After all, studying bugs and their roles in the ecosystem as a whole is a good thing, right? So I had them collect bugs and we looked up the details and scientific facts. We’ve collected leaves, acorns and pinecones too. Their dad inadvertently set them on another collection path; nuts, bolts and screws. One of the kids brought home a huge bolt and it wasn’t long before Dad found a good use for it. This was eye opening and now the kids are always bringing home such things.
TRICK OF LAST RESORT
You may not believe this because I’ve already stated I’m not even 50 yet, but I was a teenager before we had air conditioning in our house. I even had a friend who wouldn’t spend the night during summer months because of the lack of a/c. Today’s kids don’t understand discomfort and every now and then, when there is no good reason for them not to be outdoors, simply turn off the a/c and say the unit needs a break. They don’t have to know the ‘unit’ you’re referring to is yourself. But this will get them outside, even if it’s just to walk to a friend’s house. If you coordinate with another parent or two, you will soon see a cluster of kids under a tree devising some method of entertainment. And guess what? It’s outside!
Michelle Rise is a homemaker and Mother of 5 and Disney enthusiast. With over 20 years of experience trekking through the Disney parks with her Family, Michelle has become an expert on navigating families through Disney. When not writing or teaching her children to drive, Michelle can be found chasing the family dog up rainbow mountain with her husband of over 25 years, Ben. You can follow Michelle on Twitter, @Rise7Up, for all of her latest writings.
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