November 04, 2013

How to become a playing family

Enjoy this guest post from our friends at 1000 Hours Outside, a blog that encourages parents to take their kids outside more and discover the amazing benefits of play.

As the saying goes, "The years fly by, but the hours are long." Raising a family can seem grueling at times and there's an endless amount of choices surrounding how to spend our years rearing children. Of all the options out there, free play and providing time to "just be a kid" often gets lost in the mix. However, the research is out and it points to the overwhelming importance of play. Whether you've always known this or it's just coming to the forefront of your parenting practices, here are five quick ways to infuse play into everyday life.

1) Find a nearby trail.
Use your city's parks and recreation website or look for trails through your local or state parks. There is so much variety in nature. Your kids will be engaged from the moment you step on the path. As a general rule we try and stick with trails that are less than two miles. We don't bring along any toys but we do make sure to have a few snacks and some water! While you're out on your adventures, add photos and rate the trails you visit on the Map of Play.

1000 Hours Outside - Trail

2) Invest in some loose parts toys.
Loose parts toys are materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, taken apart and put back together in multiple ways. Check out the picture below to get an idea. Instead of buying a plastic toy for the next birthday or holiday, help your child build creativity and imagination with stumps, logs, rope, crates, boxes, buckets, fabric, and the like. Children tend to prefer loose parts over fancy toys anyway.

1000 Hours Outside - Loose Parts

3) Invite some friends along and watch the creativity soar.
It's certainly safer to be outside with someone else and it's more fun, too! All the different personalities and ages that are brought to the mix are good for child development.

1000 Hours Outside - Friends

4) Let loose.
One of my best days ever as a mom was when we came upon a shallow inland lake and let the kids swim in their clothes. You can tell by their faces that is was one of their best days, too!

1000 Hours Outside - Splash

5) Step back.
Spread out a picnic blanket and observe. You will be amazed and inspired. Children are so engaged with life.

1000 Hours Outside - Step Back
Photos courtesy of 1000 Hours Outside.

Jen, Lisa and Ginny are moms (both part-time working and stay at home) who have a passion for getting kids outdoors. Stemming from their backgrounds in health and fitness and education, they are driven by trying to provide a carefree childhood coupled with all the health and developmental benefits that outside time provides. They have nine kids amongst them who all love running, building, picnicking, playing and napping in the open air. Their blog, 1000 Hours Outside, is meant to encourage moms and caregivers everywhere to take their kids outside more and discover all of the amazing benefits. 1000 Hours Outside hosts monthly gift card and product giveaways to give families that extra incentive to make this investment into free play in the open air.

parent perspective, parents, outdoor play, play outdoors, guest blog, parenting