‘Let’s play outside!’

Book your next playdate with nature

By Fawn Logan-Young

This summer, I’m challenging parents to take their kids’ COVID-safe playdates outside. 

Spending time outdoors has many benefits. Research shows that outdoor play helps children develop muscle strength, build self-confidence and learn problem-solving skills, not to mention one of parents’ favourite benefits: kids are sleepier at bedtime. 

I recommend picking up the book Forest School Adventure – Outdoor Skills and Play for Children by Naomi Walmsley and Dan Westall. This wonderful British book contains basic outdoor knowledge and activities classified by age group. 

Here are some activities you could consider:

1. Mini survivalist/bushcrafter – Spend an afternoon learning basic outdoor skills. Some activities could include: 

  • Learning about shelters and dens: A frame, baker’s tarp, lean-to, etc. 
  • Basics of fire making: Learning basic safety tips, sourcing materials, how to start the fire and how to maintain it.
  • Fire cooking: There are many ways to get creative with campfire foods. This can be as intricate or simple as you like, such as s’mores or cinnamon bun firesticks.

2. Tiny fantasy world creation – Imagine you are shrunk down to the size of a mouse. Now, that tiny mushroom in the grass is as big as a house. What would your world look like and how would you customize it with what you have around you? Kids can build 3D maps of their worlds, accompanied by digging mini dens and villages using strictly what is available around them (sticks, rocks, clay, etc.). As children develop their worlds, the backstories often come naturally. 

3. Amazing race – You can plan three-to-five mini games/puzzles to be completed by teams to determine the winner (could be parents and children, or two children depending on age and ability). As on the TV show The Amazing Race, each completion of a task leads to another
clue that brings participants close to the finish line. 

An example of a challenge would be “name that tree.” Figure out the names of trees around the area. Have the names written out and ask participants to match the tree names with the right tree. If tree diversity is limited, get creative with other plants and shrubs. Apps like iNaturalist are great to use if you don’t know how to identify the plants in your area. 

Things to consider when planning an outside event

  1. Ages: Plan activities that are age appropriate
  2. Location: Is this taking place in your yard or a public space?
    If the space is public, do you need permission? 
  3. Participants: How much supervision do you have? Is the event for both parents and children? Are the activities safe and OK with other parents? 
  4. Respect the environment: Explain to participants that they mustn’t disturb nature that is alive and off trail. Leaving no trace is a good practice 
  5. Backup plan: Rain happens. Plan a backup date or use the weather to your advantage, such as hosting a rain puddle stomping party

Activities can be as intricate or as simple as you would like. If you’re interested in planning your own outdoor event, connect with other parents regarding your ideas. You
never know what others
can contribute.

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