Outdoor activities and sport are of supreme importance for child’s healthy development. However, the time kids spend outside of home is not only an ingredient of a healthy lifestyle, but also a great mode to learn about the world and their immediate surroundings. The way we choose to spend time outside depends on the conditions we live in, creativity, enthusiasm and a certain amount of dedication to active lifestyle. Outdoor culture depends on climate, geographical zone, landscape, habits, traditions and even values people have in a particular country.
So, in order to have a global picture I have asked 16 parents from 10 different countries to share their favorite outdoor activities peculiar to their homeland.
Nimmi’s account from Sri Lanka
Since Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian ocean, the most popular outdoor family activity is enjoying the white sand, aquamarine warm water, collecting beautiful shells and catching cheeky crabs near the sea line. Children take advantage of the 365 days of summer and spend most of the day playing outside. One can see them playing imaginative creative games, hide and seek, treasure hunting. Cricket is the national sport and apart from multiple professional clubs, kids play cricket in every neighborhood and playground. In Colombo (capital) there is an enormous zoo, where you can see a unique elephant show performed every day. If you want to spend quality time outside of the city, you can visit waterfalls, tea estates, sea turtle hatchery or elephant orphanage. In the elephant orphanage children can cuddle baby elephants, feed them with milk and watch them wash in the river.
Corina’s account from Kyrgyzstan
When we traveled here we noticed a lot of children horse riding. It seems to be the most popular activity outside of the cities. Also, there is the second largest saline lake – Issyk Kul – and it feels like you are at the seaside. So lots of families spend summers at the lake. The temperature is not too high and the surrounding mountains are breathtaking. Table tennis seems to be a national sport and you can see many children and teenagers playing it outside. Our favorite outdoor activity is hiking in the mountains and discovering the beauty of Issyk Kul.
Ute’s account from the Netherlands
When spring comes, the first thing you notice in the Netherlands is adults and children going by bicycles, skating, roller skating, playing football, going by boats and doing many other outdoor activities. Dutch people are especially famous for their water sports. Every child is supposed to know how to swim and hold a diploma of at least level A. Here you can go fishing, (para)sailing, boating, kite and wind surfing, rowing, swimming, diving and water skiing. And most of these sports can be practiced from the age of 12. There are lots of playgrounds, well equipped sport grounds, ping pong tables, climbing frames and swings in each neighborhood. Our family loves playing badminton, football, basketball, table tennis, frisbee, cycling and jumping on the trampoline. In winter we prefer ice-skating.
Lana’s and Abigail’s account from Philippines
It seems that Filipino kids are the most creative and inventive when it comes to outdoor activities, maybe because they still have no access to sophisticated gadgets. Among the most popular games are: Patintero, Tumbang Preso, Iring-Iring, Palosebo, Sipa. There are more than 40 traditional outdoor games, played with pleasure by children and whole families.
Sharmillah’s account from Cambodia
In Cambodia you won’t see many organized playgrounds, and there are not many children playing in the streets. Most of the Cambodian kids are busy helping their parents in the house or garden and watching after their smaller brothers and sisters. However, children from richer families or expat families often have get-togethers like play dates, sleepovers or outings, which are mostly a once a week activity. Of course they have their own traditional games, but not so many as in other countries. In Phnom Penh there are several amusement parks with lots of play areas, swimming and skating activities. There is one peculiar type of outdoor activity loved by the Cambodians – eating out. You can see whole family (usually they have big families) setting long table in the backyard with lots of delicious food, chatting and eating together.
Tatiana’s account from Canada
Canada is famous for its winter sports. Kids love tobogganing, playing hockey, skiing, skating at outdoor skating rings that are set up in public squares. My family doesn’t do too much of outdoor activities in the winter, it’s pretty cold. Our girls love playing ringette at different rings in the neighborhood. Ringette is a team sport activity played on an ice surface. Ringette uses some rules and equipment that are similar to ice hockey; it requires the use of a straight stick to control a blue rubber ring; with the objective of the game being to score goals by shooting the ring into the opponent’s net. The sport is officially co-ed, though it is primarily played by female participants.
Koloud’s account from Washington, USA
We live in Washington, and it’s well known for hiking, skiing and kayaking. Our favorite thing to do is camping on our property. We love seeing the terrain change each year as less ash is visible and more green is coming through.
Sara’s account from Colorado, USA
We live in Colorado, USA, and we are outdoor enthusiasts: we bike, hike, ski, ice skate, swim (in the summer), climb rocks, ride horses, and also go to playgrounds frequently. My five-year-old son loves skiing more than anything, and all summer long asks when he can ski. Then in the winter he always asks when we can go camping!
Becky’s account from Texas, USA
We are in Houston and for most of the year we enjoy soccer, basketball, riding bikes, playing at the park. Also, when it is very hot outside (March-October) everyone loves to swim! We have tons of neighborhood pools, and lots of people have pools in their backyards to beat the heat. There are a couple of outdoor pools that are open year round, and of course we have the beach less than an hour away.
Daria’s account from Peru
In Peru where I spent my teenage years everyone loved to play soccer! People also went to the market not just to buy things, but to socialize. Usually kids in Peru are busy helping their families. You can see children helping with herding sheep or llamas, girls are spinning yarn using the drop spindle. Elder kids are often watching after their siblings and carrying them on their back. A good game of soccer is the best recreation that isn’t work-related for young and old alike.
Meera’s account from India
Indian children love to fly kites, ride bicycles, play marbles, badminton and cricket (equivalent of baseball). Those who live near the coast prefer spending time at the beach. We never had structured parks or playgrounds except for schools, but with westernization, certain social classes today have access to play areas and more popular sports and activities. But the mainstream population still relies on free street play.
Varya’s account from China
In China outdoor activities are quite organized and scheduled. Young children come out to play with their caretakers and are guarded and attended to their every whim. Older children barely have any time to play as once they are in the education system they study and attend extra classes. Schools have specific outdoor time so children are not cooped up all day. My children love playing at the sand beach and going to the parks. We feed the fish in the ponds, and we look for leaves and seashells. We enjoy biking and scooter riding.
Tanya’s account from Australia
In Australia children spend a great amount of time outside. Almost every school is equipped with tennis courts, a soccer field and in some cases even a swimming pool. The importance of sport and in particular outdoors sport for children is constantly emphasized. As part of the curriculum children can learn swimming, surfing, kayaking, football, basketball, and netball. Many families spend evenings at the beach where they enjoy swimming and water sports (during the warmer months) and playing with sand and walking along the waterline. My one year old son prefers playing at the beach to any other activity. Wildlife parks are a favorite place for many families. In such parks animals are living in the natural environment but are used to visitors. Visitors walk around the park and are free to pet or feed kangaroos, wallabies, emu and other animals. There is usually a special place for younger children where they can feed and play with little rabbits, goats and other domestic animals. For a few hours a day visitors can come as close as holding koalas, in the presence of the workers of course.
When I remember my childhood, the associations that come to my mind are – freedom, games, friends, neighborhood, playing outside. There were not many organized activities, playgrounds or sport grounds, but we didn’t need any cause we were inventive. However, the most precious memories are about hiking with my family in Moldova, camping on the shores of the black sea near Odessa, skiing in the mountains of Romania and going with sledge down the biggest hill in the town – unforgettable outdoor activities we did together! My biggest hope is that my children will also cherish those precious moments we spent discovering new place and expanding horizons together!
Here are some outdoor games from different parts of the world you might like to play with your kids: