Take kids outside on Black Friday, instead of to the mall

Here are some simple outdoor activities you can do, and the time will fly by.

Today is Black Friday, that notorious annual shopping day when, as one Internet meme so accurately put it, “People trample others for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.” While there’s nothing inherently wrong with having a day dedicated to sales, particularly if they reduce the cost of items we actually need to buy, it is how we respond to it as a culture that has become problematic.

Every year there is growing interest in resisting Black Friday’s madness. Some people commit to Buy Nothing Day, started years ago by Adbusters, or join the #OptOutside movement, initiated by U.S. outdoor apparel retailer REI. I particularly like the idea of opting outside. Nature has a way of recalibrating one’s priorities very quickly, and suddenly the shopping that may have seemed urgent is much less important than fresh air and exercise.

Kids in particular could benefit from a “Wild Friday,” as coined by The Wild Network, instead of a Black Friday. The U.K.-based network, which strives to re-wild childhood by encouraging families and educators to spend time outdoors, has published a list of 10 things to do with kids on Wild Friday, far from the madding crowds. A few of them jumped out at me as fun, innovative ideas that would entertain my kids any day of the week.

The Take 10 Walk Home: All you need is 10 minutes to clear your head and feel the positive effects of nature. Make walking fun for kids by incorporating counting: “Walk for 10 steps, hop for 10 steps, skip for 10 then run for 10. You'll be surprised how much fun this simple game is.”

Eagle Eyes: Challenge your kids to seek out the smallest bits of nature they can detect, such as twigs, dew droplets or icicles, tiny bugs, fungi, thin strands of spiderweb, etc.

Listening Ears: This is a good one. Ask your kids to stand perfectly still and listen to the sounds of nature. They will be amazed at what’s audible when they stop to pay attention—the drip-drop of melting ice, the cracking of cold trees, the loudness of the wind, the calls of nearby birds, the chatter of squirrels.

This one reminds me of Richard Louv's advice in Vitamin N to teach kids to have "eyes like an owl, ears like a deer, and a tongue like a snake."

"[Have] kids use their 'snake tongues' 'to try taking the air, seeing which way the wind is blowing, and sensing the temperature.

"Cup your hands around your ears to listen to what's in front of you or cup them backward to hear what's behind you better, imitating the way deer shift their ears to hear.

"Look with 'owl eyes,' forming binoculars with your hands to imitate owls' fixed, forward-facing eyes, and turning all around."

Welly Walking: Instead of telling your kids to stay out of puddles, tell them to find puddles! Dress them in waterproof boots and rain pants, and head out into the water to play. Children are irresistibly drawn to puddles, and it’s such a shame that we parents constantly harp at them to stay out. Let them get wet; it’s not that hard to change.

The Wild Network has more fabulous resources on its website, so take a look if you’re needing more ideas for ‘rewilding’ family time, not just on Black Friday.

Another excellent book full of suggested activities is Richard Louv’s new book, Vitamin N: 500 Ways to Enrich the Health & Happiness of Your Family & Community, and Combat Nature-Deficit Disorder (Algonquin Books, 2016).

Tags: Kids | Nature

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