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Top 10 Fun Outdoor Activities to Get your Kids off the Couch

Top 10 Fun Outdoor Activities to Get your Kids off the Couch

As childhood obesity rates continue to rise, it’s becoming more and more important to get those kids off the couch. Like you need an excuse! Outdoor activities are oftentimes the most memorable, both for children and adults.

Outdoors, you’ll have experiences that engage all of the senses. The deep green of a pine forest, the sharp, bright scent of pine needles, the rugged texture of bark, the sweet yet bitter taste of cocoa from a thermos, the sound of rust-orange needles crunching beneath the feet…

There’s only so much a computer screen can teach kids. The rest – the unbidden lessons that engage the entire being – come from nature.

  1. Treasure hunting

treasuremap

    If you think about it, hunting for treasure is every kid’s dream. Ever seen The Goonies? That’s what I thought. Bury some fake doubloons and create your own map, pirate-style. Then set off on an adventure. Or, if you want to get official, there are metal detectors made for kids. Take them on a real hunt for coins, lost jewelry, and trinkets. A great educational exercise is to research the area first before you take them out. You’ll learn a great deal of history and geography. When you’re actually hunting, you’ll notice geographical features you never noticed before.

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    1. Surfing

    kidsurf

      This is another activity kids love, but for many, it’s just a pipe-dream. Why not change that for your child? Kids make for great surfers because it’s a high energy sport and kids have less fear than adults. To kids, surfers are just plain cool. Contrary to the typical image, surfing’s not all about twenty-foot waves and beach-bumming it. Start small. Consult surfing tips for beginners. Find a used board at least one foot taller than your child (and yourself, since you’ll be doing it too!). A wetsuit is important because you’ll be spending a lot of time in the water. Find a less crowded area. You might want to hire an instructor. Then go, and if your kid likes it, why no make it a regular thing?

      1. Camp

      kidscamp

        Yes, kids act like they don’t want to go to a camp. But you don’t always have to listen to the complaints – in this case, complaints stem from a fear of the unknown. Great memories come from camp, and the bad ones, well, they give your kid a story to tell and adversity to overcome. But it does help to put careful thought into which camp is right for your child. Consider tips on finding the right camp. There are over 11,000 camps in the U.S., so you’ll want to think about whether it should be co-ed, religious, sports-oriented, highly structured, lengthy, etc.

        1. Fishing

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        kidfish

          I don’t know what it is about fishing, but many a kid has a knack for it. The whole beginner’s luck cliché rings true. Kids don’t try too hard when they fish, and if you’ve ever been fishing before, you know trying too hard doesn’t work.  To get your kid interested in fishing, don’t overwhelm them with an intense, hard, long experience. Provide them with polarized glasses, which eliminate glare on the water. Take them out on a nice day, bring snacks, plan ahead, and if you’re fly-fishing, check out a Tenkara rod. They’re simple—rod, line, fly—the easiest fly rod to learn on.

          1. Fort-building

          fort

            A fort can be as big or little as you want, depending on how big or little your kid is. Do it in your backyard, or do it in the wilderness. The backyard fort is as simple as sheets over a lower branch or a clothesline. Or use scrap wood and nail together a basic hut. In the woods, gather branches and create a lean-to. Kids love forts so much because their imagination knows no bounds.

            1. Horseback riding

            horseback

              Whether your kid is old enough to hop on a horse, or at pony-riding age, this is an exciting activity for kids. Doubtless, you remember the connection you shared with animals as a child. Horseback riding takes that connection to the trail and gives them a chance to learn about these magnificent animals. Before you put them on a trail horse, consider lessons and whether or not they’re ready. Get professional input, and help them understand the sensitivities of horses. Once they’re ready, riding can help them build confidence, strength, coordination, and focus.

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              1. Canoeing

              canoe

                Find a river or lake, hopefully, one with an island, and take off on a canoe. This is the type of adventure any kid wants to experience. Time on the water with just you and your child is peak quality time. Make sure you bring life vests in case the unexpected happens. Also bring snacks, lunch, and basic survival supplies. Give your kid a chance to row. Especially if your child has never done this before, you won’t believe their enthusiasm.

                1. Building and flying a kite

                kite

                  The great thing about flying a kite is that it doesn’t take a lot to build one. Get a plastic bag, kite string, two sticks, scissors, and ribbon. Tie the sticks together like a cross, then cut the bag in a diamond shape to fit. Tie the bag to the frame. Tie the flying string onto the horizontal stick. On the end of the kite, tie ribbon for balance. Then, find a windy place and let it go! This actually takes a lot of practice and work with the wind, but it’s a blast.

                  1. Touring the zoo

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                  zoo

                    This is a great chance for kids to learn about different animals, and it’s a classic activity for kids. It’s also a great chance for you to let them make up their own mind on whether they agree with the idea of zoos, to begin with. At the end of the day, the zoo requires a lot of walking and a lot of observation. These are both good for kids.

                    1. Hiking

                    hike

                      Can’t forget this one! Hiking is fun for young and old. There are some fantastic destinations for hikes, such as Yosemite’s Valley Floor Loop, the Appalachian Trail, Jay Peak, and more. These can be the focal point of your next vacation. Find a hiking stick for yourself and your child, all the better if it’s a stick you whittle until it’s smooth. Get the supplies and set off to immerse yourself in nature, in the engagement of all your senses. You and your child will never forget the experiences you have on your hikes.

                      Featured photo credit: flickr.com via flickr.com

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                      Dan Matthews, CPRP

                      A Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner with an extensive background working with clients on community-based rehabilitation.

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                      Published on September 21, 2020

                      The Danger of Overscheduling Your Kids

                      The Danger of Overscheduling Your Kids

                      I am a parent of three children aged 8, 6, and 6. Like many parents, I struggle with knowing the right balance of activities for them. I don’t want my kids to miss out on opportunities to play sports and participate in activities that will enhance their lives and help them grow as individuals. However, I also don’t want them to become overscheduled kids, to the extent that they get worn out and stressed out.

                      There is a balance in providing activities for our children and overscheduling them. The tendency for the latter is prevalent these days. Our lives — and the lives of our kids — are increasingly overscheduled and overworked. Thus, we need to understand the dangers of having overscheduled kids and how to prevent this from happening in our own families.

                      What’s Wrong with Overscheduling Your Kids?

                      1. Overscheduling Can Burn Out Our Kids

                      When our kids are on the go and scheduled to the max from a young age, their potential to get burned out before reaching high school is quite high. The New York Times reported some research on burnout and found that burnout with kids relates to their workload, along with their parents’ propensity to experience it.[1] This means that overworked children are more likely to get burned out than others. Similarly, overscheduled parents tend to have overscheduled kids more often than not.

                      Burnout

                      When a person is burned out, they feel overwhelmed and exhausted by what others expect them to get done daily. Children who are involved in too many activities with little to no downtime have a high chance of experiencing burnout. When parents place too many expectations on their kids, they also have an increased potential to burn out.

                      If you get the sense that your child is feeling overworked or overwhelmed by their daily activities, you need to know which ones can be cut back. If they have too many activities outside of school work, for instance, then that is one area that likely needs to be downsized.

                      An overworked child will present various symptoms like moodiness, irritability, crankiness, despondency, anger, stomach aches, headaches, rebellion, etc. Cutting back their activities will help to relieve their stress and reduce the said burnout signs. If your kid has severe burnout symptoms, though, then professional help from a pediatrician or therapist for children should be sought.

                      Downtime

                      Downtime is key to helping relieve burnout. If children don’t have free time during the day to have any rest, they are more likely to become burned out than others. Downtime means unorganized free time to do what they enjoy or relax. Cut back your kids’ extra-curricular activities if they don’t have downtime in their schedule.

                      Here are more tips on creating downtime for the children: How to Create Downtime for Kids.

                      2. Overscheduling Kills Playtime and Creativity

                      Kids need time to be kids. When their schedules are filled every day with activities like organized ballet, soccer, and music lessons, and they only take a break for dinner and bedtime, then they are overscheduled. They need to have free time after school to relax and play. When they don’t have that and proceed from one scheduled activity to the next, they are missing out on playtime.

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                      Playtime is crucial to child development. If they cannot get enough time to play, then their ability to develop their creativity decreases. The Genius of Play explains that there are six major developmental benefits that children get from playtime:[2]

                      • Creativity
                      • Social skill development
                      • Cognitive development
                      • Physical development (i.e., balance, coordination)
                      • Communication skills
                      • Emotional development

                      If children don’t have time to play because they are always on-the-go, then they are missing out on the developmental benefits of play.

                      Children need downtime after school so that they can unwind, play, and decompress. Research from the Journal of Early Childhood Development and Care showed that kids need to play to deal with anxiety, stress, and worry.[3] Playtime provides an outlet for them to manage these emotions in a healthy manner and helps with the development of their creativity.

                      Children need free time to play every day. Fifteen minutes at recess is not enough. They need time for it after school, at home, outside of the constraints of scheduled activities.

                      Solution

                      Ensure that your child has time to play after school. This is especially important for young children who greatly benefit from playing. Limit organized activities so that your child is not scheduled every day and can play after school. If they have an activity every hour, then it doesn’t allow for playtime.

                      3. Overscheduling Causes Stress and Pressure

                      When kids are overscheduled because their parents are so intent on having high-performing children, then they will feel stressed. Parental pressure upon a child to do well in academics, music, multiple sports, and religious studies is a reality for many kids. The children scheduled in all of these activities can often feel stress and pressure, especially when they are expected to succeed in all of them.

                      It is hard enough for kids to be good or succeed at a single activity. For a parent to overschedule their child and expect superior performance in various activities, that is a recipe for a stressed-out child.

                      Solution

                      Parents should not schedule kids in multiple activities with the expectation of superior performance in all. They should also consider the child’s interests. If the child is not interested in one activity, then they are likely to feel stressed and pressured to do it.

                      For example, if Suzy has been taking piano lessons for four years, and she no longer enjoys learning the instrument, then perhaps it is time to take a break. If Suzy is forced to continue with the lessons and daily practices, then she may feel pressured to continue performing simply because her mom wants her to do so. This can lead Suzy to resent her mother for forcing her to keep on doing something that she doesn’t like anymore.

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                      Let your child help in selecting the activities that they get involved in. Also, put a cap on the number of activities they are doing. If they have a different activity every weekday, then they are likely overscheduled.

                      Kids need downtime and time to play, too. If they need to do a new activity every day, that downtime is diminished, considering the time at home or outside of the scheduled activities is limited. This limited time is then filled with homework, mealtime, and bedtime prep. Eliminating activities several days a week will allow the child to have some time to play freely. The younger the kid is, the more time they need playtime. As they get older, they can take on more activities; however, under the age of 13, playing daily is a must for children.

                      4. Healthy Eating Falls by the Wayside

                      Any parent who’s busy chauffeuring multiple kids to different activities after school knows how tempting fast food can become. Fast food, however, leads to less healthy food choices. French fries and hamburgers — the staple combo in most fast-food joints — cannot help your child thrive nutritionally.

                      When families are overscheduled, they tend to go for easy and quick meals. When rushed, many of us make poor food choices because we aren’t taking the time to think about a meal’s nutritional value and a balanced diet for our children.

                      5. Family Mealtimes Become a Thing of the Past

                      When we are taking our kids to sports and other extra-curricular activities that fall during dinnertime, the family often misses out on sharing a meal at home.

                      This is true in our own home. There are certain nights of the week that we have practices, and so we either eat together early (if possible) or eat separately, depending on what our schedules allow.

                      There is so much value in having family dinners. It provides an opportunity for family members to discuss their day, including their work and school activities. It is a time when technology is set aside so that everyone can truly focus on communicating with one another and catching up on what is happening in each other’s lives. When a kid’s activities are scheduled every evening, then that family time at the dining table gets lost. Dinnertime becomes a thing of the past as we overschedule kids and ourselves.

                      Try learning more about family time here: How to Maximize Family Time? 13 Simple Ways You Can Try Immediately.

                      Solution

                      Assess our schedule during the week to ensure that there’s always time for dinner with the family. Make it a point to establish a dinnertime schedule for the evenings that you do not have prior engagements scheduled. Remember: the time that you have with your kids under your roof is fleeting. Before long, they will be grownups and start living on their own. You need not dismiss or minimize the opportunity to bond with your children over meals.

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                      Having family mealtimes also allows you to make excellent food choices. This way, parents can create balanced and healthy meals and teach their children about the importance of eating good food for their bodies.

                      How to Turn Things Around?

                      1. Fix the Displaced Ambitions

                      Parents with overscheduled kids often mean well. They want their children to succeed, so they give them every chance to make it happen. They sign them up for various lessons, sports, and activities that may help the kids find success in life.

                      In other cases, the parent probably didn’t get such opportunities when they were young and felt that they missed out on many things. Hence, they provide those missed opportunities to their kids during their own childhood.

                      Carla is an example of such a parent. Carla always wanted to take dance and ballet classes as a child. She heard her friends talk about dance classes and performances, and they would even bring recital photos to school, showing their beautiful, detailed costumes. Carla wanted to be in those dance classes and learn ballet and have the opportunity to perform in a beautiful costume in front of an audience. Unfortunately, her family could not afford to give her that opportunity.

                      When Carla gave birth to a baby girl, she had visions of her little one growing big enough to take dance, ballet, and even tap classes someday. She was looking forward to dressing her daughter in dance costumes and watching her take lessons and eventually performing in recitals. When Carla’s daughter Anna was old enough to enroll at a dance class at four years old, she was thrilled. However, after a few months, it became clear that Anna was not enjoying these classes. She would cry before every lesson, begging Carla to let her stay home and not go to class. Her daughter had no interest in learning to dance.

                      In truth, it happens to many parents. They would enroll their kid in an activity that they wanted to do as a child but never got to try. Unfortunately, a parent’s interest is not always the same as that of their kids’. The child may humor mom or dad for some time and do the activity out of compliance. But if the child does not enjoy it anymore, they will eventually make things clear to their parents.

                      Parents should listen to their children. If the activity is something that they do not enjoy doing, ask the children what they think they would like to do, and then eliminate activities that they are not into. Similarly, teach them commitment by finishing a program, but don’t enroll them again in the same class if they absolutely do not want to do it.

                      Let the kids try different activities at a young age. Sometimes they don’t know if they like something until they try it out.

                      2. Try Clinics of Camps Before Committing

                      Don’t enroll your child in three sports at the same time to see which one they like or excel at. Doing so will make your kid overscheduled. Instead, you can use the summer break or preseason camps or clinics to try a variety of activities they are interested in.

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                      As an example, all three of my children said that they wanted to do lacrosse. We had already tried soccer, and it was not successful for two out of three of them. They would rather chase butterflies down the field or play tag than actually participate in their games. Therefore, before committing to lacrosse and spending a great deal of money on their gear, I signed them up for a sample clinic. It was a one-day program that intended to expose children to the sport and see if they would perhaps enjoy playing it. I was surprised to find that the three kids enjoyed lacrosse, so we signed up for the season. It was nice to be able to see them try out the sport in a clinic before committing to an entire season.

                      Most towns and cities have parks and recreation department. This is often a good place to check for clinics and camps for various activities. Our local department even offers art and dance classes. Most of them meet between two and four times total, so the children can get some exposure to the activity before signing them up at a private facility for a more long-term commitment.

                      3. Take an Inventory of Your Weekly Activities

                      Often, we do an activity without reflecting on how much we are already committed to doing each week. Before we commit to any more activities, we must be willing to look at everything that each family member does. Every child’s commitment is another responsibility for the parent as well. Parents must take children to and from each practice, so you need to consider the drive time for any activity.

                      For instance, if each of my three kids signed up for three different activities each week, I would be running myself ragged. Three activities for three kids means taking them to nine activities during the week. That doesn’t include the games that will likely be scheduled on the weekends. Three activities for every child, therefore, is too much for our family.

                      If some practices overlap on the schedule, then you need two parents or responsible adults to transport the children to different locations. Before you sign them up for multiple activities, you need to factor downtime, stress levels, and your ability to take them to each activity in the equation.

                      Consider the following before your kids can commit to various activities:

                      • What is the time commitment for the child each week? Do they have enough energy and stamina for the activities? Do they get enough downtime daily to prevent burnout?
                      • Is practice time required outside of their scheduled team practices and games?
                      • How long is the travel time for you as a parent, along with wait time during practices? Do you have time allowances for these activities in your own schedule?
                      • Does the activity time conflict with other activities on the schedule? Will it eliminate family dinners on a regular basis?
                      • Does the child really want to do the activity?
                      • What is the motivation for signing up for the activity?
                      • Is this activity or commitment going to cause a great deal of stress on the child or other family members?

                      Check out these time-management tips for parents: 10 Time Management Tips Every Busy Parent Needs to Know.

                      Get The Kids Active and Involved!

                      Despite everything, it does not mean that you shouldn’t sign your child up for different activities like sports, music, dance, karate, etc. They are all great activities that can help children develop a variety of valuable life skills. The goal is to enroll them in things that they genuinely enjoy and avoid overscheduling kids by not letting them sign up for too many activities at a time.

                      More Tips for Scheduling Kids’ Activities

                      Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

                      Reference

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