Getting Children Outdoors During a Pandemic

2 young girls playing with leaves

The days are getting shorter and the sun is setting around 5 PM. Schools are still closed and many children are barely getting out of the house. Who can blame them? Playdates are simply not a not a risk worth taking during a pandemic. But children need to get out of the house and away from screens. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention children and adolescents need at least sixty minutes of physical activity every day. Going outside is be great for both adults and children both mentally and physically. So, how do can we get our children the outdoor physical they need while keeping them safe?

The Benefits of Outdoor Activities for Children

  1. Outdoor play can reduce a child’s risk becoming nearsighted.
  2. Greater exposure to bright light, which will enhance their health and mental performance;
  3. Increased activity levels, and greater freedom to run, jump, and climb;
  4. Connecting to nature may lower a child’s risk of behavioral problems;
  5. Cooperative outdoor play can help children learn social skills;
  6. Positive Nature experiences can help children appreciate nature; and
  7. Outdoor play can teach kids to take calculated risks and become more confident in their abilities.

List Provided by: Gwen Dewar, Ph.D


 K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid)

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to get children to do outdoor activities. Here a few basic things you can do when your children are outside.

  1. Try a scavenger hunt. Make a list of things in your backyard you want them to find and see if they can find it. Or you can simply hide things from them and see if they can find them (like an easter egg hunt, but in December)
  2. Play Hide and Seek.
  3. Bust out the side walk chalk
  4. Just take a simple walk around the block. This will also work with teens!
  5. Play with the dog outside
  6. If you’re feeling especially bored; set up an obstacle course in your back yard.
  7. Build a Snow Man
  8. Have a snowball fight

*Just remember children will reflect your level of enthusiasm. If you’re not enthusiastic about the things your proposing, they won’t be either.

Use Technology to your Advantage

Many children are spending more time in front of a screen gaming than their actually doing school work. Some kids are actually play games while their supposed to be zooming at school. (You know who you are). But you can use technology to your advantage.

You can use apps like Pokémon Go to find Pokémon. Walk around your neighborhood or travel to your local parks and try to “catch them all.”

Most cell phones are now equipped with cameras that are on par with professional cameras. Why not have a photo contest? Make a list of things to photograph and see who can take the best photos.

For Example:

  1. Funniest Face Picture
  2. Where was thig Picture Taken?
  3. Best Black and White Picture
  4. Most Artsy Photo
  5. Weirdist Photo

The Pedometer Challenge.

We’ve all seen the smart watches that have that have built in pedometers, but they usually have a price range above $100. But you don’t need to spend that much to buy a simple pedometer; they can have a starting price at around $20. So why not challenge you kids to a pedometer challenge. See how many steps they walk in one day, and see if they can beat their record. This type of challenge works best with a reward system, so make sure to have some type of goal for your child to strive for.

*You might consider rewarding more walking with more game time. The more they walk the more they play.

When It’s Just Too Cold.

There will eventually become a time when it’s simply too cold to go outside. That doesn’t mean the physical activities should stop. Here are some ideas to keep children physically active during the really cold months.

  1. Try Yoga.
  2. Clean the House
  3. Play the Floor is Lava.
  4. Look into a video workout program you can all do
  5. Buy a Nintendo Wii (they’re pretty cheap on Ebay).

In Conclusion

The bottom line is any physical activity is better than none. Sitting in front of a tv or computer all day only promotes a sedentary lifestyle which can have long term health effects, especially on young children. Children can play outside and be safe; just remember to follow the public guidelines. Keep at least 6 feet apart from people who are not in your household family, wear a mask if your going to be around anyone other than your household family and wash your hands.

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