The Benefits of the Great Outdoors
While getting exercise and building skills are certainly good reasons to get the family outdoors, there are many others as well. "I think a little bit of sun is good for kids," says Jeremy Braccio, a father of two from Phoenix, Arizona. "I like them to get fresh air and for them to get exposure to nature at this stage so they can begin to appreciate plants and animals."
Sauerwein echoes this sentiment. "Zoe is a big Dora the Explorer fan, and one of the things she loves to do most outside is put on her backpack and get out her plastic pink magnifying glass and go exploring. Sometimes she'll bring a little basket along and collect her finds, such as leaves and pinecones."
Don't be surprised, too, if some outdoor play puts everyone in a better mood. "I like to be outside, so there is definitely a benefit for me when we play out there," Braccio says.
Paventi notes that after spending time outside her son seems to listen more and not be as argumentative when it comes to bedtime. Sauerwein states that backyard play seems to make her daughter take longer naps and be less cranky because she has released her pent-up energy.
"Fresh air is proven to make kids sleep better," Norton says. "Any physical exercise or activity aids in concentration, too." Norton also encourages inviting other kids over to play and letting the children create their own games and work things out among themselves. "The social lessons they learn in the backyard can help prepare them for recess and other situations they will encounter in school," she says.
If all of these reasons aren't enough to make you want to head out the back door with jump rope in hand, remember the original purpose of National Backyard Games Week—bringing people together to have fun. Whether that means chasing each other around with squirt guns or engaging in a friendly game of T-ball, the object is to find activities that build positive relationships, and leave memories that will last long after the summer sun has gone away.
4 Ideas for Homemade Fun
Backyard fun does not have to involve fancy equipment. Turn items you have around the house into hours of creative play!
- Create an obstacle course: Kids love to race against others or to try to beat their own best score. Create a backyard obstacle course in which kids have to hula-hoop three times, jump over a stuffed animal, skip to the fence, and bunny-hop to the finish line.
- Turn the sandbox into a deserted island: Bury play coins (or tops from milk jugs) in the sand and let your child pretend to be a pirate digging for treasure.
- Make some Bozo buckets: Gather up boxes, laundry baskets, plastic flower pots, or any other convenient containers you have on hand and put six of them in a line behind one another. Let your child see if she can throw a ball or bean bag into each, one at a time. A miss means you start back at the beginning with the first container again!
- Construct a soccer challenge: Help your child learn to control and kick balls by setting up objects for him to maneuver around. See if he can bring the ball around the swing set, in between two lawn chairs (set them closer or farther apart from one another depending on skill), and into a hula-hoop placed on the ground as the goal.