Autumn and winter are here, and all most people want to do is stay inside.
We all know the feeling – the daylight’s fading fast, it’s chilly, a bit damp and grey outside and it really doesn’t look all that inviting. The thought of staying inside, warm and cosy, is very appealing.
But despite the allure of being snug, it isn’t a good idea to just snuggle up and stay in. Our kids need to be out and about (and we do too!).
There are so many benefits to getting outside.
- Kids need sun exposure to make vitamin D, a vitamin that plays a crucial role in many body processes – from bone development to boosting the immune system.
- Playing outside and a dose of daylight also helps regulate their sleep/wake cycle.
- Regular exercise boosts physical health in both the short and long term and children should have at least 1 hour of exercise each day.
- Exposure to sunlight increases the brain's release of a hormone called serotonin which helps kids feel calm and focused and is a natural anti-depressant.
- Unstructured time and free play help children develop creativity, problem solving skills and curiosity.
- Playing in nature enables children to appreciate it and have a greater urge to respect and protect it as they grow.
We know being outside is healthy for kids’ bodies and minds in so many ways. But how do we encourage kids to go outside during Autumn and Winter when the flicker of screens and a warm home is so inviting?
Read on for 3 fun ideas...
Make a walk an adventure
Rather than say, ‘let’s go for a walk’, instead you could encourage your kids to come treasure hunting with you.
You could go and collect materials in order to create a gorgeous display when you get home. Or perhaps you could take a compass and follow co-ordinates you have mapped out. Maybe you could go geocaching?
Just a little bit of thought can turn any walk in to a great adventure and will make you excited to head off.
Here is an example of a display your child could make from some found Autumn Treasures. Maybe they could give it to an older relative or neighbour who doesn’t get out much?
Create a scavenger hunt
A scavenger hunt is always a brilliant reason to get outside and engage all the senses. Your kids don’t have to bring home what they find – spotting them is enough.
Here are some things you could include on their list (and you could change the list each season):
- Orange leaf
- Yellow leaf
- Red or white berries
- 2 soft feathers
- A flower
- A big puddle
- A spider's web
- A seed
- An acorn
- The sound of the wind
Experiment with pinecones
Pinecones are really smart, and this simple experiment will prove it to your kids. First get them out and about collecting them and then come back and have a go at this fun experiment.
You will need:
- 2 similar size glasses or cups
- 2 dry and open pinecones of a similar size and shape
Put the pines cones into 2 separate glasses and fill one glass with water. If your pinecone in the water floats to the top, put something on top of it to weigh it down.
Wait 1 hour and then pop back to see what has happened to the 2 pinecones.
How it works
When they get wet, pinecone scales close up tight to keep the seeds inside safe. It is because pinecones are hygroscopic which means they can absorb moisture like rainwater.
When they are dry and warm, pinecones keep their scales open so their seeds can be released.
Prompting kids to explore, examine and get creative with nature is a brilliant way to get them outside more, even in the colder months.
Becky Goddard-Hill is the co-author of A Year of Nature Craft and Play, which helps kids discover the treasures and pleasures of our natural world with 52 fun activities following the seasons.
The book is filled with crafts, gardening, games, art, and science activities for children aged 7 years and up that are budget-friendly and will entertain all year round.