Ready for more time outdoors?
In a world of “24-7 tech,” social media, and constant connection, it’s far too easy for kids to overlook nature’s beauty. Beyond being a welcome change of scenery from screens, ponds and outdoor play offer a multitude of other unique benefits for young minds. And now that much of our country is practicing social distancing, it’s even more important to connect with nature.
What’s the Problem?
Research from the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) shows that kids are spending less and less time in the great outdoors. On average, children only spend four to seven minutes of the day in unstructured outdoor play. Compare that to the seven and half hours, on average, that they spend in front of electronic media. The lack of physical activity could put children on the fast track for chronic diseases, including obesity.
Fortunately, there are easy ways to turn this trend around – and now is the time to take action. Having access to a water feature, and the great outdoors in general, affords great ways to get kids outside and moving!
Nature Does a Body Good
Simply being in an outdoor setting benefits developing minds and bodies, especially when contact with their friends is limited – like the world’s current pandemic. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, outdoor play allows children to use all of their senses, which in turn helps them build skills such as spatial awareness and balance. It can also help improve their attention span.
Additionally, studies have shown that time outdoors:
- Helps make children lean and strong,
- Enhances imagination and attention span,
- Decreases aggression, and
- Boosts classroom performance.
A policy statement from the American Public Health Association noted that people of all ages and abilities enjoy greater health and well-being when have nearby nature in parks, gardens, greenways, schoolyards, and playgrounds as well as natural landscaping around homes and workplaces.
Other benefits of spending time outdoors include:
- A confidence boost. Playing outside is a lot less structured than playing indoors, giving kids their power to control their own actions and adventures.
- Creativity and imagination. The great outdoors allows kids to think more freely, design their own activities, and approach the world in their new and creative ways.
- Responsibility. Children who are tasked with caring for a living thing, such as a plant or fish, learn what happens if it’s neglected or not cared for properly.
- Unique stimulation. While nature seems less flashy and high energy than a video game, it does an amazing job of stimulating the senses. Kids can see, hear, smell, and touch outdoor environments.
Don’t Forget Fun
There are so many things to love about ponds and time outdoors. There are fish to feed and frogs to find. If they move quietly, they might just discover butterflies resting gently on the plants surrounding the water. And on a hot day, there’s no better feeling than taking off your socks and wading right into the pond.
Here are some ideas we love for fun in the great outdoors.
- Have a treasure hunt. Make a short list of things for your children to seek outside. You could even tailor the list to include things found around your pond. How about a plant that grows in water, a shiny rock, or a fish? As they search for items around the pond, they’ll naturally take in its other cool features.
- Identify plants and animals. Go online and print out pictures of the plants and animals that make their home in your pond. Then head outside with your child and match the pictures you printed to the living things in and around the pond.
- Photograph nature. In this instance, technology isn’t totally banned. Have your child use a camera, or even the camera on your phone, to take pictures of the pond and the nature surrounding it. Explore how lighting impacts the photographs, and have some fun playing with the different camera settings.
- Create art. Claude Monet was famously inspired to paint water plants – why not your child, too? Bring art supplies outside and encourage your child to sketch or paint the pond.
Ready for your own outdoor classroom? We’re here to help. Contact us for more information.