When you were growing up, you probably weren’t a big fan of school. You longed for afternoons and holidays when you could spend time outdoors, walking up and down the street, riding your bike, putting up lemonade stands, and many other exciting ideas. And since it was a more innocent time, your parents weren’t too worried about you playing outside.
However, because of safety issues, a lot of our childhood activities are no longer available to our kids. Technology has also given them addictive indoor entertainment, so they hardly want to go outside anymore. If we want them to exercise those play muscles and get some wind and sunshine, we need creative ways to get them out of the house.
One way to do this is to build a fun backyard playground, complete with modular playsets. You could even get together with neighbours and make a bigger unit that all the kids can use. It makes a great Christmas present.
You could buy a Geoclimber Playset that comprises four metallic beams vertically dug into the ground, forming a large cube. Ropes are tied from one beam to another, forming a rectangular structure. On one side of the structure, there is a blue rock climbing wall. It has colourful hooks that serve as footholds.
On the opposite side of the rock climbing wall is a knotted rope wall that kids can use to get to the top of the structure. As the name suggests, this playset is geared towards climbing, which stretches limbs, encouraging growth, and developing motor skills in the process.
The Geoclimber has a webbed section that builds on the kids’ agility, balance, and creative thinking as they figure out how to get across the web. The ropes are brightly coloured and have equally bright hooks for mental stimulation and mood improvement. Navigating this playset will keep your children busy for hours.
It will also give them a sense of achievement that is great for self-esteem. Supervise the kids as they play, and get the bigger ones to help the less athletic ones so that they don’t acquire a negative attitude to ‘hard’ physical activity. The playsets are safe, have no toxins, are easy to construct, and require minimal maintenance.
Extend the fun by introducing an element of competition. Organise an obstacle race. Since the playset can accommodate ten to fifteen children, you can get all the visiting nieces and nephews involved, as well as some of the neighbours. It could be a simple test involving a timer as they race up the playset, or you could include complex tasks like relays, bike rides, and a treasure map.
While physical activity is important, not all children enjoy a vigorous play. Some kids are more nature-oriented, while some would rather just read a book. If you force them into boisterous outdoor games, they will become resentful and may end up hating exercise altogether. For young ones like these, you need to be a bit more creative in luring them outdoors.
Introverted children often enjoy being mummy’s helpers or working with daddy on his chores, so that’s one way to get them outside. Recruit them to help you with the domestics. You could plant a kitchen garden, rake leaves, or water the plants. Keep it all light and playful so that it doesn’t feel like work.
For bigger kids, you can sneak in some actual work, like washing the car or cleaning the tools, though you’ll probably have to pay them to do it. One suggestion is to barter their entertainment options. For every 20 minutes if outdoor work they do, offer them 20 minutes of screen time. Keep their electronics safely out of sight so that you can enforce the new rules.
Of course, the easiest way to get your kids outside is to offer them fun food. Make the holiday feel like a holiday by dining alfresco. As often as possible, make your meal times a fun yard picnic or barbeque. Invite their friends over and make a party of it. The friends can bring their parents, If you have lots of family visiting for Christmas, then you already have numbers. Use paper plates and disposal dishes, and serve mostly finger foods for easier clean-up.
Nature lovers can be occupied for hours with a simple task. Give them glass jars and send them out to catch bugs. You might want to give them child-friendly antihistamines before they begin, in case they catch any allergens in the grass. One caveat is to include a nature lesson. For example, you could get them to feed and water the bugs, or free the bugs at the end of the afternoon, teaching them that all life matters. That’s one way to nurture a budding environmentalist while giving them lots of healthy outdoor exposure.