Don't Just Play, LIVE Outside!

©. K Martinko

By transferring daily activities such as cooking, eating, and sleeping to outdoors, you can increase the amount of time you spend outdoors, which is especially important for children.

Spring is slowly but surely spreading its warmth over this part of Ontario where I live. The gardens are full of flowers, the sun shines for long hours each day, and the birds are singing constantly in the trees. My kids are eager to spend time outside, pulling on their shoes to run around the yard before breakfast and staying out for hours after getting home from school. It’s easy to love being outdoors when the weather is nice.

Far too often, however, outdoor time is thought of as something special or, at the very least, something that comes after all the necessary indoor tasks have been completed. Lindsay Coulter, the ‘Queen of Green’ for the David Suzuki Foundation blog, amusingly describes it as “dessert – something only to indulge in once chores are finished and the to-do list is done (like that ever happens).”

Parents can maximize their children’s outdoor time by incorporating it into everyday living. The best way to do that is to transfer activities that normally occur indoors to outdoors, if possible. Simply by being outside, kids will find things to do, grow comfortable in an exciting new setting, and learn far more than they ever would cooped up inside the house. Some activities that can be moved outdoors include the following:

1. Reading

family reading outside

Loren Kerns/CC BY 2.0

Instead of snuggling up on the couch, take a blanket out to the lawn. Let your kid pick at blades of grass and spy on laboring ants while you read aloud to them. Lie in a hammock or on deck chairs to enjoy the sunshine. Lean against a tree. Outdoor parenting advocate and blogger, Rain or Shine Mama, suggests storytelling outside by taking prompts from the world around.

2. Eating

outdoor tea party

© K Martinko

Who says you have to sit at the table to eat? Fill your plate and take it outside. Sit on the front step and watch the world go by. Have a picnic on a blanket, or create a fancy tea party on a table on the lawn. Lie in the grass to eat a sandwich. Eat in a treehouse. It sounds crazy, but food eaten outside always seems to taste better!

3. Cooking

cooking outside

© K Martinko

Kids are fascinated by cooking outdoors. Although it takes a bit more work, carrying all the ingredients and tools outside, it has that fun feel of camping. Cook over a fire, a grill, or a camp stove. My old house even had a gas cooktop installed outside, next to the barbecue, that allowed me to do summer preserving outdoors while my kids played nearby, which is something to consider doing if you enjoy outdoor cooking a lot.

4. Sleeping

napping in a hammock

J Aaron Farr/CC BY 2.0

Lazy summer afternoons can only be made better by napping on a blanket in the shade of a large tree or while rocking gently in a hammock. While this won’t work for toddlers and preschoolers, you can let your older kids have ‘quiet time’ outdoors on a blanket. You can also put babies outside to sleep, as Scandinavian countries have been doing for centuries, even in the frigid depths of winter.

I realize these examples assume you have access to a grassy yard, which may not be the case. You can still do these activities on a balcony or in public parks and courtyards. Nature is all around, if you’re willing to seek it out.

Teach you kids to love the outdoors by showing them how livable and enjoyable it is. Your kids will never forget those lesssons.