In this post regular contributor Debi Huang of Go Explore Nature shares ideas for enjoying an outdoor play date with your kids.
My kids are always up for a good play date. Granted, most of these dates involve other kids. But some are reserved just for mom, dad or even grandma. And more often than not, these play dates take place outdoors.
Why go outdoors? Taking kids outside is good for the body and mind. It allows kids and adults alike to take a break from indoor distractions, enjoy some fresh air and burn off energy. My favorite part about outdoor time with my kids is discovering the world from their point of view. These special “dates” give us a chance to connect not only with each other, but also with the world around us.
If you’re worried about planning the perfect outdoor play date with your child, don’t be. What matters to your kids isn’t what you do or where you go. It’s that you’re spending time together (and hopefully having fun!). A few simple ideas for an outdoor play date:
- Discover a new-to-you neighborhood park
- Go on a nature scavenger hunt in your neighborhood
- Have a picnic
- Head to the beach
- Fly a kite
- Play a round of mini golf
- Visit a local zoo or aquarium
- Or try one of Christie’s 14 ideas for dating your family
While some outdoor play date adventures are purely spontaneous, others require a little more planning. In either case, here are a few things I’ve found to help make the most of your special time together.
1. Decide what to do
Choose something that your child likes to do outside – maybe hunting for bugs, climbing trees or playing in the sand. Remember, you don’t have to go anywhere grand or far away. Even your backyard will do. You can involve your child in the planning of your outdoor play date or keep the specifics a surprise.
2. Put it on the calendar
The best way to make sure your outdoor play date happens is to put it on the calendar. Decide on a good day and time for both you and your child – something that works with any of your current obligations. You don’t need to carve out a ton of time; what’s most important is getting outside together.
3. Build up some excitement
Once you’ve set a date and decided on an activity, make sure your child knows about it. This makes the date extra-special; something to look forward to.
4. Gather your supplies
If you are going anywhere beyond your backyard, consider what you might need to bring along to make sure everyone is comfortable. Depending on the activity and the age of your child, you might want to pack a change of clothes, a jacket, snacks or a picnic, water, sunscreen, a camera, maybe even a notepad and pen.
If you opt for a backyard outdoor play date, decide what (if any) items you might need on hand. Having everything in place and ready ahead of time will allow you to focus more on fun and less on logistics during your play date.
5. Follow your child’s lead
You’ve picked a great place to explore and maybe even something special to do while you’re there. But guess what? Your child has an entirely different plan. Like chasing butterflies in your front yard instead of going on a neighborhood walk. Or losing interest in the hike you’re on because the creek alongside the trail is perfect for throwing rocks. What to do? Go with it. Do what your child gets excited about, even if it’s not what you planned.
6. Have fun!
Really, this should be Rule No. 1. Have fun! Enjoy yourself. Laugh, let loose and play like a kid. When you do, you won’t just connect with your child. You’ll remember what it’s like to be a kid again. And I promise neither you nor your child will be disappointed.
Do you go on play dates with your child?