How to get your kids to down tools and head outside…

Today my book Caro & Co ~ Helping Kids Find Wonder in the Everyday finally goes on sale. To celebrate, I thought I’d share some ideas on how we as parents or carers can actually get our kids out the door and build on a love of nature & outdoors and to experience wonder at little or no cost.

Five Simple Things:

Hedwig

Hedwig

  1. Mix the magical with the practical. By adding a few props to everyday chores or activities we can make outdoors a wondrous place for children. For example, sprinkle some glitter around the veggie patch and you have evidence of fairies. Place a few white pebbles along the lawn and you know that there are dragons about. Place one of their toys in a ‘comfortable’ spot in the garden and they’ll believe they come alive at night. My daughter had a stuffed Hedwig (Harry Potter Owl) when she was very little. Every night I used to put him in a different place around the garden. She was certain he could fly and would race outside each morning to see where he had ended up. It was a delight to witness her joy. Now almost 14, she still has Hedwig sitting on her bookshelf.  I admit that he’s not as prone to night-time flights as he once was.

    DSC_0821

    Hitting the off button isn’t as hard as you think…

  2. Set (at least) one 24-hour period of green time rather than screen time each week. Ban all technology for 24 hours. This includes parents too. It is easier than you think ~ this is my promise to you.  But plan ahead a little with this one.  Have in mind what you might replace the screen time with before hitting the off switch.  You could involve your children by asking them what they would like to do.
  3. Role model the behaviour you wish to see in your children. That is, set aside regular slabs of time in your own day to get outside. A walk with the dog, a game of footy in the back garden or local park, a bit of gardening, visiting a botanic garden, a stroll through your neighbourhood are all achievable. It doesn’t have to be hard, but in so doing, you are showing your children that outdoors is important, can be great fun and leads to overall better health.  Admittedly, if you work full-time this can be tricky, but not insurmountable.  Try and schedule a few early morning walks during the week and a couple of hours each day over the weekend.

    Doing "nothing" and enjoying it.

    Doing “nothing” and enjoying it.

  4. This is my personal favourite. Have a discussion with your child’s teacher about building some “active homework” into the weekly homework schedule. There are many studies that show formal homework offers zero benefits to primary school-aged children (but that’s a discussion for another day). For example, rather than rote learning some maths and transcribing it into a workbook, request that your child be set some tasks such as finding 10 leaves of different shapes and sizes, or counting and drawing all the birds they can see/hear in the garden. They could be asked to help mow the lawn with Mum or bake a mud cake with Dad.  Active homework, to my mind, leads to more engaged learning.

    A job for the kids ~ washing the dog...

    A job for the kids ~ washing the dog…

  5. Set them some regular outdoor tasks such as helping with gardening, feeding or washing the dog, tending the veggie patch, picking some flowers for an indoor arrangement, collecting and creating a found collection for a pretty indoor display and so on. The options here are endless (and age specific). Try NOT to help your child. Let them enjoy the mastery of these simple tasks by themselves.  You could set up a reward calendar to accompany their set tasks if you wish.

May I cheekily suggest my new book would make a great Christmas present?  I’d love your support, as writing it has been a joy and I’m so committed to helping parents give their children the gift of wonder. Richard Louv, who I admire tremendously says about my book: “Caroline Webster has written a brilliant book of simple and fun activities that will motivate young children to go outdoors, and will help them foster critical developmental skills as they use more of their senses to explore, imagine and create”.

Webster_front_300dpi

You can purchase it via the link in my sidebar above, or at all good bookstores and online. For interview opportunities please contact Jackie Evans on 0407 776 222 or jep.pub@bigpond.net.au

Until next time…

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