It’s more important than ever to encourage your child to spend time outdoors — making sure they appreciate what’s outside their front door. And you don’t have to go far! As the lighter nights come in, spend time after school in the back garden or down at a local allotment and have fun whilst educating your children.
Spending time in the garden is a great way for children to develop their skills and learn more about the world.
One way to do this is through messy play. There is an abundance of research behind the advantages of messy play and how this unstructured form of activity can really help your child develop. This can be done in the garden with sand, water or even mud! It’s all about breaking down the usual rules that your child might face, such as being restricted to a play mat or not being too disruptive with toys. Encourage your child to draw shapes with different (child-friendly) tools and their fingers in various materials — this can help children to build up their finger and arm muscles, which is useful for when they come to hold a pen.
Let your child discover new textures to get excited about. They become used to handling solid objects, such as toys, and these are easy for children to learn because they don’t change shape. For example, letting your child come into contact with mud, a softer material, lets children broaden their knowledge and allows them to compare and understand new textures.
Many children come home with piles of homework that they’ve been assigned to do. Why not encourage them to do it outdoors on a fine evening? Your child might have spent all day behind a desk at school doing their work and it’s nice to have a break from this when they come home. Make it easy for your child to work outdoors by purchasing a gazebo or having a table and chairs outdoors where homework can be done. 85% of teachers reported that they saw a positive impact on their pupils’ behaviour when they were taught outside. In addition to this, 92% of pupils said that they preferred their lessons to be outdoors.
It’s been scientifically proven that children who learn outdoors are more aware of their responsibility of caring for the environment.
Making dietary changes
More studies have found that children are more likely to eat healthy produce if they played a part in growing it. This can be a great way to improve their diet and get them outdoors.
Choose fruit and vegetables that are relatively simple to grow. These could be: strawberries, cabbage, radishes and potatoes. You can decide on the size of your patch and watch as your child runs outside to see what has grown that week.
What jobs can you assign your little helpers?
Give your children some responsibility in the garden. Assign them some tasks to do daily, or even weekly, and it’s likely that they’ll start to look forward to spending time in the garden.
Why not ask them to grow you a sunflower? Each day your child can head outdoors to see how their plant is growing and practise some maths skills through measuring. This can be exciting for a child, as often the sunflower will grow taller than them!
If you are tidying the garden yourself, encourage them to get involved. Let them trim the edges of your garden, add a bag of compost to soil, water the plants or do some de-weeding — it’s a nice way to spend time together, too.