For many of us, being outdoors gives us a sense of safety and happiness that can’t be found indoors
By Melissa Stefanec
The year 2020 finds us in very unusual times. Many of us are second guessing the safety of all of our usual activities. Gatherings that were once a source of kinship and celebration are now a source of anxiety and concern.
As we negotiate 2020 on its unique and unwanted terms, one thing is for certain: our society is indulging in outside activities at an unprecedented rate.
For many of us, being outdoors gives us a sense of safety and happiness that can’t be found indoors.
In the spirit of celebrating all the good things being outdoors offers us, here are some activities families can enjoy outside the confines of their own homes.
Many of these activities are for younger children, but people of all ages just might find some joy and child-like wonder in these activities.
Family obstacle course
If you are looking to do something athletic outside but don’t want to deal with crowded parks, an obstacle course can be a perfect solution. You can use common household and garage items to build family challenges. You can also turn it into a family competition or personal-best competition. If you want an added challenge, see who can build the most creative or difficult course.
Minnow or rock catching
If you have young kids, the secret to an afternoon of fun may be as simple as a small net or a bucket. Most children love collecting things. If you have a child who is fascinated by animals, give them a net and challenge them to catch minnows. If your child isn’t into fish, set them free with a bucket to collect “only the best” rocks. At the end of the day, you can write or paint on the larger rocks to commemorate a day of fun.
There is always wonder in the skies. Whether or not you’re familiar with constellations, you and your children can engage with the starry skies. There are plenty of apps, books and instructional cards that can tell you where and when to look for certain constellations. Kids can keep a running list of which ones they find and use their imaginations to make pictures in the sky.
Outdoor flower garden
Clear a small patch of land and dedicate it to beauty. Making a small flower garden is a great way to cultivate tranquility in your family’s lives. Before you plant, decide what type of flowers you want. Perennials can provide years of beauty, but annuals are easy to clip and add to vases. Kids love colorful flowers, and having your kids take care of something living and fragile teaches them responsibility.
If you want to go camping, but don’t like the preparation involved, try backyard camping. When you camp in your backyard, you don’t have to worry about finding a grill or a toilet. If you forget the paper towels, you can just run into the house. You get the pleasure of sleeping outside, without the stress of packing.
Insects are an important part of our ecosystem. When you host a bug hunt, you engage your child’s natural curiosity and have a learning opportunity. Some insects are harmless; others are not. If you go on a hunt with your kids, you can teach them about which insects they can engage with and which they should steer clear of. It also gives you an opportunity to share how insects help our planet.
Make-your-own s’mores bar
If you are lucky enough to have a fire pit, you know how amazing s’mores are. If your family is tired of the same-old s’more, try a make-your-own bar. Put out different kinds of candies. Don’t be afraid to think outside the candy bar. Try gummies or fruit slices. Get different kinds of graham crackers or cookies. Let your family compile their creation and get toasting.
Take your family on a hike or send them into the backyard and gather different natural materials. You can gather leaves, flowers, sticks, stones, plant pieces, tree bark or other natural materials. Then take a heavy sheet of paper, such as cardstock or construction paper, and layout a collage. Once you have your picture perfected, use school glue to solidify your creations.
Depending on where you live, a garden can mean different things to different people. If you don’t have a lot of land, you can use a patio planter. If you don’t have a patio, you can plant in a simple pot. Vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, beans and lettuce all do well in planters or pots. Whether your veggie garden is large or small, there’s something special about growing your own healthy food.