Outdoor activities parents and children can do together during summer holidays

Schools have started breaking for summer holidays and there is no dearth of ideas on how to spend them. But it is now becoming more evident for parents to prefer outdoor activities for their children.  These days’ children’s screen usage use has increased, and it goes up considerably in holidays, resulting in sedentary behavior and unhealthy eating habits. A study published in the Journal of Computers in Human Behavior supports the statement that children see 39% more screens during the summer as compared to their school days.

This increase is often followed by a decrease in physical activity, which can have a severe impact on their health. In today’s digital world, even toddlers (Pre-schoolers) are exhibiting signs of screen addiction, which poses major threats to their mental and physical health. An NCBI study on body mass index (BMI) in preschool-aged children found a direct link between a child’s BMI and the amount of time they spend engaged in outdoor activities. It also piques their interest in new experiences (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4571181/)

So, participating and engaging in outdoor activities during summer holidays is key because it supports holistic development and provides a necessary counterweight to screen time. Sports, camping, and hiking all enhance family bonding while creating a supportive environment in which families can thrive. Such shared experiences allow parents to exhibit positive behaviors and engage in what psychologists refer to as ‘positive parenting.’ This method improves parent-child connections and considerably helps a child’s cognitive and emotional development. Additionally, outdoor play is crucial for building physical skills like coordination, balance, and motor abilities.

The advantage of outdoors is also found in another study that says: ‘Residential green space in childhood is connected to lower risk of psychiatric diseases from an adolescent into adulthood,’ guiding children to spend time outside rather than sticking to screens can have long-term mental health advantages. It also suggests that children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to develop psychiatric problems (anxiety and mood disorders), emphasizing the importance of general well-being.

Now let’s list some of the activities you can try to promote healthier and happier lifestyles while creating happy memories simultaneously:
  1. Embark on a Scenic Hike

Nothing compares to the simplicity and beauty of a family hike. It not only provides the opportunity to discover nature’s beauty but also offers a physical challenge. Hiking, from spotting wildlife to identifying different plant types, can help generate awareness and experiential learning, and enhance family relationships while also encouraging physical and mental wellness.  It improves a child’s stamina, coordination, as well as balance.

  1. Go on a Treasure Hunt

You may play this in your own backyard or at a local park. Hide miniature “gems” and other fun items, then create a map with clues for your kids to follow. To add a bit of adventure, age the map with coffee and shred the edges. It’s an exciting method for children to exercise their problem-solving abilities and imagination. You may even hide the map elsewhere in the house and have the kids uncover it while making the bed or putting away toys.

  1. Play Capture the Flag

This classic and popular game is ideal for large groups, families, or when friends join in. It is not only exciting, but it is also an excellent approach to teaching communication, problem-solving, and teamwork skills and strategies. To define game limits, you only need two flags and a safe area. Aside from enjoyment and exercise, the game can also teach kids how to communicate nicely with others and improve their social skills.

  1. Set Up Camp Under the Stars

Setting up camp is an important outdoor activity that teaches youngsters survival skills and responsibility. It also helps youngsters learn social skills, collaboration, and leadership. Whether you’re telling stories or stargazing by the campfire, these experiences build lasting memories.

  1. Build an Outdoor Fort

Building forts is a common activity among children; it stimulates their creativity by building one on your balcony, backyard, park, or open place. To build the hideaway, they can use blankets, boxes, and other household materials, as well as sand and soil. This practice improves cognitive skills such as planning and problem-solving.

  1. Go for a Family Picnic

Picnic in your garden, historical place, or nearby park can be a refreshing way to get out of home. Planning it on a sunny day can help to prevent conditions such as rickets and osteoporosis. Parents might ask children to assist pick fruits for the picnic, integrating them into the planning process. Both parents and children can benefit from this since it provides adequate amounts of vitamin D and calcium, which helps to keep strong teeth and bones.

By Damayanti Bhattacharya, Principal-JML School, Mumbai.

This article appeared in Curriculum an online portal on 13th May 2024.

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