Spring has finally sprung! Even if it is a tad soggy...
No matter... time to get the puddle suits on and enjoy splashing in some muddy puddles and explore the new signs of life all around us!
But sometimes it can be a struggle to think up activities for children or to tear them away from screens, so we've put together a handy guide on how to get outside more with your kids.
Have you heard of the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge?
If you haven't heard of the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge before, it's a fantastic way of building time outdoors into your family’s lifestyle. And with the Easter holidays upon us, now is the perfect time to get involved.
And if you’ve already begun the challenge this year, milder spring days are a chance to up the hours your family is spending outside.
What is the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge?
The 1000 Hours Outside Challenge comes from mother-of-five, Ginny Yulrich. It aims to encourage families to spend more time outside and avoid screen time.
According to research, children in the US are spending an average of 1200 hours a year looking at screens. The 1000 Hours Challenge encourages families to spend an equal amount of time outside.
Why is it important for kids to play outside?
“Early childhood is a period of rapid physical and cognitive development and a time during which a child’s habits are formed and family lifestyle habits are open to changes and adaptations.”
Obesity is a global epidemic. According to the WHO, 80% of adolescents are not sufficiently active. Early childhood is the perfect time to build healthy habits for your family for life.
Outdoor play is a great way to get kids moving; the very nature of outdoor play means it is more physical and less sedentary so it’s a win before you’ve even planned an activity.
Spending time outside in a natural setting has been shown to have a positive impact on a child's cognitive abilities. For children that suffer from attention deficit disorder, just a 20-minute walk in a park can improve their ability to focus.
The challenge is a 12-month project to get you and your family outdoors more - and you can start at any time of the year.
Here are our tips to get outdoors with kids this Easter holidays and get started on / turbo boost your 1000 Hours Outdoors challenge…
Wrap up warm!
Nothing kills a child’s enthusiasm to play outside like being wet and cold. If you have a good puddle suit and a pair of wellies, you can have hours of fun outside whatever the weather.
Sustainable British brand Muddy Puddles offers the perfect garments to protect your little adventurers from the rain and wind. Many of their puddle suits and snowsuits come with a removable fleece lining; perfect for the depths of winter as well as milder spring days - and come in fun colourful prints that kids will love.
All of the Muddy Puddles products we stock are made from 100% recycled materials; using a recycled nylon and an eco-friendly waterproof Bionic finish that is a fluoride-free high performance finish.
Plan Your Time
Don’t be intimidated by spending long stretches of time outdoors. One of the great benefits of outdoor time is the scope for unstructured play; where kids are left to create their own games.
Unstructured play is being squeezed out of modern childhood; with schedules packed with structured extracurricular activities and hours of homework to be done. Unstructured imaginative play has been proven to have significant emotional, and social benefits for children.
Make an effort to go out every day
It all adds up. As with anything, the more you do it, the easier it gets!
Why not try visiting the park at different times of day; what animals might you see at dusk? What about a moonlit walk spotting the stars? Can you walk instead of driving to school?
Are there activities the kids like doing inside that can be moved outside? Bringing the painting stuff outside adds a different dimension. And there are always the jumbo chalks! It doesn’t have to always be a trip out of the house. Playing in the garden for half an hour still counts!
Track your time
Make sure you log the time you spend outside, even the ten minutes here and there. It all adds up and it’s a great motivator when you see the hours add up. It helps you become more mindful of the time you spend in the open air.
An app is the most popular and easiest way to track your hours. There is an official 1000 Hours Outside app you can buy or there are several free alternatives like iHour or Simple Time Tracker. Some people just jot it all down in notes on their phone and total it up at the end of the week.
If apps aren’t your style there are downloadable printable trackers in the style of a mandala to colour in as you go. Or you can even make a chart and add stickers as you complete each hour across the week…
Prepare lots of activities
Although hours of unstructured play might be the ultimate aim, it can be a hard sell at first if your family isn’t used to it. There are lots of fun activities kids will love doing outside from childhood classics to forest school-inspired ideas.
Get wrapped up warm in their fleece lined puddle suits, pack the snacks and give some of our activities a try….
5 free ideas to do with your child outdoors
1. The Classics
They’re oldies but goodies! Playing ‘it’, catch and frisbee are a great way to kick off your time in the park. Why not try racing games, catch the flag or skipping?
Bring jumbo chalks to the park and mark out your own hopscotch or obstacle course and time the kids as they traverse it.
2. Cloud Gazing
All you need is a blue cloud-filled sky! The beauty of a puddlesuit like one from Muddy Puddles is you can lie down anywhere! If you bring a plastic backed picnic blanket for the grown ups, just find an open, comfortable place to lie in your garden or park and look up.
Can you see a face? Can you see a dragon? Can you see a fairytale castle? You can make up stories with the shapes you can see. You can even carry on the activity when you get home by researching the kinds of clouds you have seen.
3 . Fairy Garden or Superhero Hideout
Your kids can let their imaginations run wild creating a home for their favourite toys. All you need is a small outdoor space either in your garden or the park and natural materials like stones, pebble, sticks, feathers, leaves or whatever they can find to build their magical structure.
You can use a hula hoop or old plant pot and elastic bands and string to help create the structure. Once it’s finished you can encourage your little ones to tell you stories about their toys in their new home.
4. Animal Footprints Trap
Most of the animals that visit your garden come at night. From hedgehogs to foxes. Learning Through Landscapes outlines how to make a trap here.
Choose an area of your garden where you think animals might come in and out. Add water to soil till you get the consistency that will hold its shape when an animal steps on it and smooth it over. Spread it in a flat layer about 2cm deep and smooth it over (you might prefer to do this on a tray).
This is your trap! Come back in the morning and see what footprints you can find.
5. Bird Inventory
You would be surprised how many different birds you can spot in the park. You can make your own sheets and draw or stick on pictures of birds you’re confident of seeing. Or you can use something like free spotter sheets Wildlife Watch have on offer.
You can use an old cardboard box as a clipboard and let the kids take the lead, finding the best bird-watching spots in your local park.
We hope these ideas have inspired you to get outdoors this easter holidays and see where your kids’ imagination will take you!