Hooray for spring! It’s time to fling open the windows, lace up your sneakers, grab water bottles and healthy snacks, and get your crew outside.
The benefits of fresh air, sunshine, and time in nature have been well-documented. They are increasingly important as technology vies to monopolize our attention, and our children’s attention as well.
This spring, make it a priority to unplug and get outside.
Here are seven ways to get outside with your family this season.
Make It a Habit
An evening walk after dinner, weekly visits to a new park, an early morning stroll before the day begins, or even an afternoon game of kickball—choose a fun and simple outdoor activity you can do regularly as a family and aim to make it a habit you continue for the long term.
“My husband and I love to walk around our neighborhood while our kids ride their bikes or scooter,” said LaKiesha Mallett, a financial coach in Commerce Township, Michigan. “This gives us time to talk and bond while exercising.”
Garden as a Family
Involve the whole family in the care and creation of your home garden. Miranda Wheeler of Farmington, New Mexico, lets her children help with the gardening. “It gives them a sense of responsibility and also creates plenty of quality family time together,” she said.
Give each child specific responsibilities or even sections of the garden to take ownership of. Herb gardens, flower gardens, vegetable gardens, bird gardens, and even fairy gardens are a delight to observe and foster, brimming with educational opportunities to boot.
Take Up a Sport Together
Many sports and physical activities are ideal for families to do together: tennis, biking, running, rollerskating, skateboarding, surfing, swimming, or simply walking are all family-friendly activities that encourage regular practice and self-improvement.
Start small with something simple that everyone enjoys. Set personal goals and celebrate everyone’s progress as it comes.
Create a Challenge
Make a list of every state park in your state and aim to visit them by the end of the year. Get a field guide to birds, insects, fishes, wildflowers, minerals, or whatever aspect of nature intrigues your crew and use it as a checklist to discover. You can also visit and rate the parks and playgrounds in your town or county.
“My family loves to do nature hunts,” Wheeler said. “I create a scavenger hunt for certain nature-related items—leaves, bugs, plants, etc. The kids love learning about nature and it is a fun way to keep them entertained.”
Embark on family craft projects that call for gathering materials in nature. Painting seashells, making a wreath, or painting rocks with positive messages are all easy crafts that require nature’s gifts.
Valerie Deneen, who advocates for creative play on her website InnerChildFun.com, suggests a color match activity. “Use paint samples, go outside, and try to match all the colors,” she explained. “I love how this helps to keep the family outdoors for a bit longer, plus the kids start to pay attention to small details they may not otherwise notice.”
“I like to bring the inside out,” said Brenda Kosciuk, a mom of two in Lake Ariel, Pennsylvania. “We might make a messy craft or take books outside to read. We also might have a picnic in the grass—my kids love this one—or take a toy that they’re playing with outside—Play-Doh, kinetic sand, board game, etc.”
“Bubbles. Kids love bubbles,” Wheeler said.
Pam Lobley of River Edge, New Jersey, is the author of “Why Can’t We Just Play?”
She used to encourage her young sons to play in the mud when they were of preschool age.
“One of my favorite things to do in spring was to take advantage of the puddles and mud,” Lobley said.
She would dress her little ones in rain gear and allow them to splash in puddles and run through the mud.
“They could get as dirty as they wanted to. It was joyful!” Lobley said. “The freedom of splashing through puddles instead of avoiding them is a delightful way to celebrate spring.”
Keep Nature Journals
Give everyone their own nature journal and supplies to fill with photos, sketches, found treasures, and personal notes. Head out regularly to explore the outdoors and capture what you discover in your journal.
“Go for a hike, and take lots of photos of any wildlife or scenery along the way,” Deneen suggested. “Later, at home create a scrapbook of your hike together.”