There is no spring activity more fulfilling than getting the children outdoors to explore the new seasonal growth. How can your child enjoy the outdoors in a meaningful way? Just walk outside and let your child be your guide. Being guided by your child in spring outdoor exploration ensures you aren’t micromanaging your trip outdoors or turning it into an educational lecture. Let them take in the beauty and reflect on what they are seeing.
The concept of getting the kids outdoors
The American and European concept of “get your kids outdoors” may seem odd for a Yucatec Mayan family. The Yucatec Mayan children, who live in Mexico, the Yucatán Peninsula, northern Belize and parts of Guatemala, naturally walk outside to play on a daily basis. They are encouraged, actually expected, by their parents to play outside. Yucatec Mayan children play within an “earshot” distance from the parents, so the parents can work and take care of the household. The children play within the family compound, uninterrupted unless an event occurs such as injury, sadness or discontent.
The concept of free play (uninterrupted and unmanaged playtime) has been talked about for decades. Free play promotes a child’s thinking skills, enhances social relationships and teaches emotional regulation and physical limitations. Exposure to small objects in nature helps children build fine motor skills on their own. Children will naturally grasp, stack, crinkle and sometimes even lick their findings.
Here are some ideas of places to go for spring exploration
Foraging: Foraging, or looking for wild food sources, is one meaningful activity sure to bring delight to the face of the young explorer. Do you have any natural berry bushes that are edible? Is there a local orchard to take your children to where they can pick fruit? (Be sure any wild potentially edible item really is edible, as many berries and mushrooms can be toxic to humans and animals.)
Flower Viewing: Around the world, collecting and viewing flowers is a pastime that is enjoyed by all ages. After a long winter, flowers bloom, marking the beginning of spring. Our state flower in Texas, the bluebonnet, is currently in bloom and creating stunning fields with layers of beauty. Where in your corner of the world can you find flowers? Taking in the sights of flowers is fun, but it’s worthwhile going to a place where your child is able to touch and gather the flowers.
Finding Shed Treasures: Looking on the ground and amongst plants, children can often find stems, rocks, discarded colored leaves and even flowers that have fallen from their mother plant. These items can go in pockets or a paper bag you have brought along to store the treasures.
Water Play: Water play is easy, and fun. Shed your preconceived notions of staying dry and jump in! Still not convinced? Then just stand back while your child jumps in a puddle or runs through a sprinkler. Allow her to sift through mud or dance in the rain.
Cleaning up the Environment: This is an area you can choose to model for your child. We are working on free play, so lead by example. If you see trash, pick up the trash on your own. If your child doesn’t pick up trash, that’s okay, you can continue to pick up trash on your own or with others.
Sources for further reading:
Roopnarine, Jaipaul L., Patte, Michael M., Johnson, James E., Kuschner, David, International Perspectives on Children’s Play, Open University Press, 2015, print.
Brussoni, Mariana, Olsen, Lise L., Pike, Ian, Sleet, David A., Risky Play and Children’s Safety Balancing Priorities for Optimal Child Development, International Journal of Public Health, August 2012, 9(9). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3499858/