Healthy Indoor Activities
For indoor activities, a new game or book, puzzles, or a craft project can engage as well as distract when the hours seem long. Learning to play familiar songs on a simple musical instrument can provide a wonderful sense of pride and accomplishment. Small electronic keyboards or lap harps are inexpensive and good for beginners. A shallow indoor sand box, a miniature rake, and a collection of stones or shells for arranging and re-arranging can keep children calm and busy for hours. Activities with digital devices should be kept to a minimum to avoid eye fatigue, too much stimulation, addictive behavior and exposure to RF microwave radiation.
As mentioned earlier, engaging children in preparing food is also a great indoor activity. Sorting beans, washing vegetables and fruits, measuring and mixing ingredients in a bowl are fun and educational. For younger children, even cleaning up involving water play, is appealing!
Yoga is also great for all ages, and instructional programs are easy to find for home use. Look for beginner or children’s classes or even restorative yoga for adults. This is fun to do with your child, as the movements are easy to learn, and everybody benefits from this gentle exercise.
Healthy Outdoor Activities
Outdoor activities provide strengthening exercise and fresh air…or at the very least, a change of perspective. It is well documented that unstructured, outdoor time is important for children of all ages, but only a small percentage of today’s children play outside on a regular basis!
Extensive research concludes that knowing and experiencing the natural world helps our mental, physical and spiritual health. Can your child identify common backyard birds or the trees on your street? Can you remember the last time you lay together on the grass or the sand and watched the clouds drift by? Are there woods or natural spaces near your home that your child frequently visits? Knowing these places in all seasons puts your child in closer touch with the natural world. Try to find the time every day to venture outside, even for just a few minutes.
For a more structured outdoor experience, nature centers, botanic gardens, and state or local parks can provide healthy, natural spaces for enjoying the great outdoors. Parks or schools with creative playgrounds or trails for hiking are also good destinations.
Planning and planting an organic vegetable garden is another way to explore the magic of plants as well as a chance to grow some of the new vegetables your child has discovered. In just a few weeks or months, your child can watch a seed sprout, turn into a plant with flowers and produce something edible!
Gardens teach children so many valuable lessons, especially nurturing and patience. Planting a seed, waiting for tiny seedlings to appear, and caring for them as they grow is an experience children are naturally drawn to.
Planting a tree also provides a wonderful opportunity for your child to bond with nature. “Volunteer” tree seedlings or a small locally-grown specimen are most likely to thrive and easiest to plant, whether it be in your own backyard, a school yard, or a community green space. A child can only feel pride and accomplishment in this small act of giving a gift to the earth.
While it may not be possible for your child to attend camp, a family camping trip might be a good way for you to enjoy nature together. Children instinctively like to explore, and campgrounds, as well as nearby nature preserves or wildlife sanctuaries, are good places to do this. Your child can participate in the camping experience on many levels, such as reading a book or writing in a diary by flashlight while tucked into a sleeping bag, swimming in a lake, or gathering wood for a fire. Camping adventures create very special memories for everyone.
For those who would rather stay closer to home, just spreading a blanket on a beach, in a park, or in your backyard and waiting for the first stars to appear can be a memorable event.
Activities to Avoid
Avoid congested downtown areas or busy city streets where vehicle exhaust, especially from diesel-powered trucks and buses, makes the air unhealthy to breathe. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), among other public health agencies, considers reducing exposure to diesel exhaust a priority, especially for children. If you are living in a city, going to a park for outdoor exercise or playground time is worth the effort as trees help to clean the air and act as a buffer for some air contaminants.
Amusement parks, water parks, malls, and other crowded public spaces are also potentially unhealthy destinations. They can overstimulate and may be a source of transmissible infections, even when they don’t tempt with unhealthy foods. Video games, too much television, and even loud music can put stress on a child whose body needs a quiet healing environment. Screen time before bedtime can make it difficult to fall asleep.
Inspired by Richard Louv’s book “Last Child in the Woods,” Take A Child Outside week was founded to help connect children with nature.
The American Academy of Pediatrics weighs in on how important play is in a child’s development.
EarthEasy – An excellent, informative page about gardening with children.
Colorado State University – Here is a nice section about planting a garden with children.
The USDA’s Team Nutrition – Tips on starting a garden at child-care centers and preschools.
A beautiful magazine to spark the imagination with ideas and creativity. Although not specific to children, each issue contains
Waldorf-inspired child-friendly or children's activities that engage small minds and hands in food, family, art and creative projects. Free from distracting advertising.
The Lost Art of Reading Natures Signs by Tristan Gooley
When writer and navigator Tristan Gooley journeys outside, he sees a natural world filled with clues. The roots of a tree indicate the sun's direction; the Big Dipper tells the time; a passing butterfly hints at the weather; a sand dune reveals prevailing wind; the scent of cinnamon suggests altitude; a budding flower points south. To help you understand nature as he does, Gooley shares more than 850 tips for forecasting, tracking, and more, gathered from decades spent walking the landscape around his home and around the world. Whether you're walking in the country or city, along a coastline, or by night, this is the ultimate resource on what the land, sun, moon, stars, plants, animals, and clouds can reveal--if you only know how to look!
Play the Forest School Way by Jane Worroll
The rise of the grassroots Forest School movement in recent years is part of a groundswell of concern about the wellbeing of our children, with many media scare stories about child obesity, nature deficit disorder (as described in Last Child in the Woods), and lack of exposure to risk. This outdoor adventure manual is the antidote Packed full of ideas, from making nature jewelry and whittling a bow and arrow, to building a shelter and foraging for food, it also celebrates the Forest School philosophy of encouraging self-esteem, confidence, and social skills through engagement with nature. The activities contain variations for varied age groups, small groups like play dates or birthday parties, as well as things to do with just one or two children. Parents are encouraged to guide the play but the activity instructions are written in a simple style with fun illustrations so that kids can take the lead as well.