New Year’s Resolution
Last time my kid went outside, he fell in some mud, dribbled strawberry juice down his face and shirt, picked up a variety of dirty branches, leaves and sticks, and tried to grab a couple of pigeons by luring them closer with a piece of turkey. This is, if you think about it, feeding one bird to another bird – which just seems wrong. Otherwise, though, it was exactly the day I’d been hoping for.
Lately, my wife and I have started to worry about our son’s time spent outside of our home. Whole days go by when he doesn’t leave our loft in downtown Los Angeles. Some days he is merely paraded through the downtown streets, past hundreds of cars and buses with just a few cement-bound trees in sight, to a small pocket park that he can run through in under 60 seconds.
Sometimes my wife has work to do, sometimes it rains, or she may have 14 errands to accomplish in the space of an afternoon. On certain days, when you factor in lunch, a nap, reading time and getting out of downtown in traffic, it just doesn’t seem worth the effort to leave home.
But with a new year, we’ve made a resolution. The boy goes out every day, rain or shine, into nature. So today, it was to the Wednesday farmers’ market in Santa Monica, and then to a picnic at Palisades Park overlooking the ocean. Tuesday it was a walk in Pasadena’s arroyo. My wife took him to a playground at Griffith Park on Monday, and Sunday we all went for a long hike, with my son hauling himself up the mountain for a good part of the way.
But this may not even be enough. Kids need to not only spend 90 to 120 minutes in outdoor play EVERY day, but they need the chance to get dirty, climb things, chase squirrels, etc.
In other words, be a kid.
We may not make it happen every day. The trick is not to beat yourself up about it, but try your best to give them that outside play as soon as you can.
Whether you stay home with your child, have a caregiver, or take them to preschool or elementary, here are some tips for getting outdoor play under your child’s belt every day:
- Make outdoor play a must-do errand, like going to the dry cleaner or getting the car washed.
- Make a commitment to spend at least one hour outdoors with your child, and if you feel that cuts too much into your schedule, try bringing other things with you to do while your child is digging in the dirt. There’s nothing that says you can’t sit on a bench while paying your bills or making your grocery list.
- Walk your child to school and home.
- On the weekends, make sure you’re doing something outdoors both Saturday AND Sunday. You do this realizing it’s just as important for your child as all the other things you want to accomplish on your days off. And the bonus: It’s good for you, too.
- Talk to your preschool about the amount of outdoor play your child is getting on a daily basis. If it isn’t 90 to 120 minutes, find a way to work with the preschool administrators and teachers to make it a priority.
Playtime for preschoolers is essential, study says. (via CNN.com)
All Work and No Play: Why Your Kids Are More Anxious, Depressed (via The Atlantic)
Share your family’s new year’s resolution in the comments below.
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