It’s no secret that outdoor time for everyone is invigorating, healthy and necessary, and getting outside in all seasons is important. But for children and families with little kids, getting outside is even more essential. Most kids thrive in the natural world and given the freedom to explore at their own pace, can come up with some pretty cool ideas, observations and imaginative ideas. Like most moms of little boys, I’ve discovered the many fun things a stick can be. From a magic wand to a rake, to a truck, sticks are one of my son K-Bear’s absolute favourite things to play with. We even now have a designated stick basket right inside the front door, where he can bring back his favourite ones for safe-keeping, and there are also never any less than half a dozen big pre-school sized walking sticks lined up outside our house waiting for their next walk. In nice weather, hours will easily go by as we play and hang around in the backyard. We have a little sandbox, play equipment and outdoor toys like many families do, but the most interesting items normally are those which can be found in the natural world: rocks, sticks, backyard critters, etc.
It’s so, so important to get outside in all seasons, even if the time spent outdoors changes as the temperatures drop. I know it’s harder to get outside on those cold winter days, but even a 15-20 minute walk around the block (you can pull the kids in a sled) can help invigorate your mind and body, and the fresh air is awesome, especially when cooped up inside with the heaters on and windows closed. Trying to stay active by finding fun activities for every season that you can enjoy as a family, will help ensure you all get the outside time needed as well as that fresh, fresh air.
One of our favourite things to do in every season, is to go on a hike. Each season offers a new experience, view, treasures to find, and scenery to explore. As trees fill out, leaves change and die off, or the greenery becomes covered in snow, it’s like a whole new canvas with each passing season. And as much as I contemplate moving to (much) warmer pastures (we will one day, I hope!), it’s nice having the four very distinct seasons as they each offer new and exciting activities for us to do outside. Creating a scavenger hunt list for hikes can be a fun activity to do for the children, and each season brings new items to find. This can also be a great lesson to teach children. Nell over at Rhythms of Play also offers some great ideas for connecting with nature throughout the seasons.
It’s no secret that we are a beach-loving, warm-sun-on-our-faces-makes-us-happy family, so the spring and summer, and even early fall are our favourite seasons. But every season can bring magical wonders.
SPRING offers a fresh new awakening as all animals, us included, rouse from our winter slumber, the days become longer, and the sun warmer and brighter. Being able to sleep with the windows open and waking to the sound of chirping birds is a sure sign that spring is on its way. Mama animals and birds begin giving birth to their offspring and the whole natural world seems to wake up. I love these warmer days as it’s more enticing to get outside and we start planning and planting our garden, something which is so fun to share with children as they can watch their vegetables grow and pick them for the daily meals. This year we’re going to make a separate small garden patch for K-Bear to plant whatever his little heart desires. He loves tending to the garden: watering, weeding, and picking the vegetables when they’re ready. Giving children the opportunity to care for their own little piece of land can teach them so many important skills and instills a lifelong appreciation of where their food comes from.
SUMMER, my favourite time of year by far, always seems to go by far too quickly. Spending a day at the beach is one of the best ways to pass a summer’s day. Playing in the sand and water can occupy a child for hours. We bring a few simple beach toys with us – pails and shovels – and that is enough to let the imagination run wild. Mixing sand with water in itself offers an ample amount of learning and creative exploration time for children, especially little ones. And the refreshing lake or ocean is great to cool off in. Summer is also the perfect time of year for longer hikes (pack hearty snacks and a lunch and lots of water), picnics, long bike rides, and camping trips. I actually never went camping as a child, and the first time I experienced a real camping trip wasn’t until my early twenties. I hope to be able to show our children the magic of “roughing” it in a tent, cooking all our meals over a campfire, and bathing in the lake, when they are all young. I can’t think of any child who wouldn’t get excited to sleep under the starts in a tent, snuggled in close to mom or dad all night long, after a long day spent exploring the surrounding forest or beach.
FALL, while it signals the beginning of a colder season and all the animals start to tuck in for the winter, offers some beautiful scenery changes as well as opportunities to teach children about the changing seasons through the altering colours, falling leaves and colder nights. It’s also a bit of a refreshing change sometimes from sticky summer nights (although I do really love those nights). I think fall is my favourite time of year to hike. It’s not too hot, not too cold, and not too muddy like spring can sometimes be with the melting snow and excess rain. I love the crisp fall air. It’s also the time of year where you pull in the rest of your garden bounty and rake the garden over for the next season. You can teach children about hibernation and migration as well, since most of the animals either snuggle in for the winter or migrate south. K-Bear is always SO curious about what the bears, birds and bunnies do for the winter, and he loves the idea that the chipmunks have a massive tunnel system under our backyard lawn for their winter slumber (yes, our backyard is a chipmunk haven).
As WINTER descends, the first snowfall offers so much excitement for children. Even though I love, love, love spring and summer, the first snowfall is so exciting. Building snowmen/women, tobogganing, snow forts, icicles. There is definitely not a lack of things to do. And snow is such an awesome sensory play experience for little kids. Whether eating it (white snow only!), sliding down it, or building with it, there are tons of learning experiences to be had. While it can sometimes be difficult to convince them to get outside, or take MUCH longer to get them ready with all the snow gear, it’s always worth it once you get outside and they can roll around until their hearts are content. Teaching children about freezing lakes is also pretty neat for them and being able to skate on the frozen water is a pretty cool novelty. Skiing and snowboarding are also two activities that can only be done with snow, so if you do either of those, it’s a fun way to look toward this season, and to ensure you’re still being active outside.