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Habitot Children's Museum

Habitot Children's Museum
2065 Kittredge Street
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 647-1111
www.habitot.org

Parenting Q&A
Parenting Question of the Month How do I encourage more outdoor play – my child just wants to stay inside!
Parenting Q&A It turns out that the biggest deterrent to kids playing outdoors in an unstructured way is actually parents' attitudes. Children are naturally tempted by indoor, screen-based entertainment, but it is leadership of parents that can keep that in perspective. How often do you go on hikes or take your kids to nature areas, the beach or out to the backyard (if you have one)? Are you subconsciously limiting your child's outdoor play to sports fields or parks with playgrounds and swings? Do you yourself experience anxiety outdoors, or are you fearful of your child getting wet or dirty, or getting bumps and bruises?

Outdoor, messy, exuberant physical play is essential to children's physical development and is crucial to their ability to self regulate. Running, jumping and climbing are all activities that help children release energy and calm themselves down. Encourage your child to explore the world in safe, physically challenging ways so that they can children become aware of their own limits, such as how high they can climb or how fast they can run. Outdoor play also gives children an opportunity to achieve important developmental tasks such as exploring, risk-taking, fine and gross motor intelligence and an understanding of natural materials. Regular outdoor play reduces obesity and increases overall health. Through outdoor activities children scientific awareness such as how ice feels, what happens to dirt when it rains, and what animals eat. Outdoor activities can help your child learn fundamental information about how the world works and can nurture a sense of environmental stewardship:

• In the backyard, use a hose or cups of water to make mud and have your child explore what it feels like (see Habitot at Home activity). The experience of touching and rubbing mud is a great way for your child to develop fine motor skills and hand eye coordination. If you have a sloping backyard, let your child carve some rivers with a hand trowel, pour water from the top and let the water flow downstream. Lay down together on the grass and imagine what the clouds look like. Plant a garden, or even one fruit or vegetable plant, and watch it grow.

• On a hike, look for one color, or be quiet and listen for sounds. Take hikes during rain storms and in the evening besides during the day. Before going for a walk, wrap a piece of masking tape to your child's ankle, sticky side out. See what collects on the tape. Or, wrap the tape around your child's wrist, and attach found flowers, leaves, and other natural objects to make a "nature bracelet." Investigate weeds growing in the cracks in sidewalk and look for bugs under a pile of leaves. Hang from branches and climb trees.

With open space surrounding the Bay Area, there are no shortages of great places in nature to explore. Once you set the stage for outdoor experiences, your kids will follow your lead!

Parenting Resources

Books and Articles for Adults:

Louv, Richared. (2008). The Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Book.

Winslow, Marjorie. (2001). Mud Pies and Other Recipes: A Cookbook for Dolls. New York: Walker Books for Young Readers.

Outdoor Activities for Toddlers. (2009). Family Education Web Site: http://fun.familyeducation.com/outdoor-activities/toddler/39264.html

50 Ways to Get Kids Hooked on the Outdoors. (2008). Texas Web Site: http://www.tpwmagazine.com/archive/2008/mar/ed_1/

Syrkiewicz, Jen. (2009). Top Ten Tips for Getting Kids Outside... How to Encourage Children to Spend Time Outdoors. Suite101 Web Site: http://kids-outdoor-activities.suite101.com/article.cfm/top_ten_tips_for_getting_kids_outside

Rixon, Dianne. (2008). Avant Yard: 75 tricks to get your kids outdoors. DIY Life Web Site: http://www.diylife.com/2008/07/11/avant-yard-75-tricks-to-get-your-kids-outdoors/

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