When I was in college, a professor commented that she could tell when it was spring because all of us walked around like moles who were exposed to sunlight for the first time in months. I think about this every year around this time when my kids pull away from the X-Box, put down the electronics, and yearn to be outside. My kids are not big on structured activities. My daughter has played basketball and my son takes swim lessons, but they like their weekends to be pretty free form. So, for a warm spring weekend when you want to put down the museum passes and skip the hundredth trip to the zoo, here are some easy and fun ideas that you can do to get your children active and outside.
Scavenger Hunts: A couple of years ago, my son requested a “Five Senses” Scavenger Hunt – a list of five things that each involved one sense. From there, we have created some elaborate lists that include a mix of indoor and outdoor items, as well as things you have to do (e.g. find a pencil and draw three shapes). Some lists involve walks around the neighborhood looking for things. I’ve created them in airports, train stations, and museums. Added bonus: If you are prone to misplacing things, put them on the list and get your kids to find them for you.
Chalk Drawings: Chalk is about the cheapest thing to buy and it unleashes creativity. The best part is that you can create a new drawing after every rainstorm. We even mark of sections so each child has a “canvas” to cover.
Parks: Living in Providence, we are fortunate to have some outstanding parks, including one at the end of our street. My kids and their friends are not really into the slides and swings, but they can spend hours kicking a soccer ball, playing hide and seek, or climbing trees. They both love to ride their bikes as well and will ride them to or around the park. I should mention that they rarely want to do these activities together, but that is another story for another day.
Obstacle Course: Put together an obstacle course in your front or backyard using hula hoops, jump ropes, frisbees, or other items you have around the garage. Endless permutations and your kids will participate for a while with the constant quest to shave just a second off their time.
Please note that sometimes imaginative play requires a bit of supervision. Climbing a tree is fun; noticing your son is over 30 feet up is heart attack provoking. Using the large recycling bin as a basketball hoop is creative; sending your little brother head first in to retrieve the ball is not a great idea. Using the rickety garage shelves for hide and seek because “Mommy won’t mind.” Guess what – SHE WILL! For the most part, kids can play independently, but you may need to lay down a few basic ground rules.
Fred Rogers said, “When children pretend, they’re using their imaginations to move beyond the bounds of reality. A stick can be a magic wand. A sock can be a puppet. A small child can be a superhero.” While I know it would be fun to be cheering from the sidelines of a soccer game or sitting and listening to a piano recital, I also know that left to their own devices, my kids are being creative and having fun. What parent does not want that?