Let Kids Eat Dirt | 8 reasons why kids should play outside!
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The benefits of kids playing outside this summer…
There are so many opportunities for outside summertime play days.
But how can I supervise 5 kiddos under 8yrs old outside this summer? An answer for us during this summer has been to hire a mother’s help. This was a must for me, as our youngest was just born at the start of the summer, during our farm’s 1st cut of hay. (goodbye daddy 🙂 ) We’ve hired our mother’s help to come in three mornings a week. Especially to supervise my 2.5yr old playing outside. As I’m in the house so much (seriously, albino!) with our new baby!
As my new part-time job is nursing, I can’t really supervise my kiddos outside as I can only carve out 30mins here and there. And you know kids — they could play all day outside — coming in the house only when hunger strikes. But it’s so important that they get out.
Why outside playtime is beneficial for our kids… here’s my 8 reasons.
1- Physical Activity
No brainer here. We all know that physical activity benefits our children. And what better place than outside to run, jump and be active.
2-More outside time cuts down on inside TV time
Outside playtime helps stop the inside tv time. While this one is a win some days in our family, my husband will be the first to tell you that this is also a huge fail some days in our house. How easy is it to use TV as a babysitter?! But I admit — I love it! I get this guaranteed break during the day because of our TV. I can sit in quiet in the kitchen while the kids are in the living room… in quiet = the perfect mommy break.
But I also think that the kids really enjoy the break and the routine that tv will be on from 1:30 – 3pm and they can count on that time to sit still, relax and enjoy their favorite shows. Though the flip side is that there are times after tv is turned OFF — it’s like these crazy hyper, or super emotionally charged, kids wake up. Probably, too much tv time. I feel like TV time vs. playtime is a fine balance. A balance that is held when there’s been outside time too.
3-Kids finish their day feeling satisfied
Kids will feel content with the work they did. A child’s play is their work. It’s how they learn, grow in knowledge and experience their environment around them. Studies have also shown that outside playtime will lower our kids stress level. I know right?! Kids and stress in the same sentences. But hey, if exercise and endorphins work for adults then sure, why not our kids too.
4- Kids finish the day feeling tired
… pretty much self-explanatory —
5-Kids outside make for an easy cleanup inside
There is nothing like a very occupied child in play that will stay out of trouble, and out from under moms feet in the house. I can really get some work done quickly inside the house. While my mother’s help is here throughout the week I can stay inside and focus on household chore I really haven’t been able to get to today.
6- Outside playtime helps lower the risk of allergies and other immune disorders.
While there is pros and cons to kids eating (literally) dirt, if having very dirty kids (some days) helps keep some allergies at bay and bumps up the immune system — sure! I’m there.
7- Bump up vitamin D level.
Me, I’m pasty white, but I’m ok with that for my period and time in my life, in my new part-time job nursing. But studies show that kids health is benefited when they receive more sunshine. They receive more vitamin D than just what they are getting in their diet. Vitamin D increases bone strength, and helps to prevent heart disease and diabetes. So who wouldn’t want to more sunshine?!
8– Imagination station of life
A place where the imagination can run wild and free during play = the great outdoors. Where sticks become swords and shoes are not for wear but for building castle walls… While I’m all for using what you’ve got and not spending too much money on expensive outside toys, I have found somethings that will keep the kids super busy outside.
-sidewalk chalk. We don’t have a sidewalk close by, but we have a back deck that the kids will color the wood till there’s no chalk left.
-inside little toys. I love going through and decluttering things throughout the house. One benefits for some new outside fun is some inside toys that are older, outgrown, duplicates or missing pieces. What could be more fun then burying and finding little inside toys, outside. These “new” outside toys then stay outside!
-sand pile. Being on a farm, we get a dump truck load of sand in our backyard periodically, as its slowly used for calf bedding. But no matter where you live, you can get a container of sand for play. Make or buy your own sandbox. Or use your local parks or beaches!
-swings! A child can spend a long time on the swings once they’ve mastered the art of leg pumping.
-yard sale finds are the cream topping to outside playtime. You can find very inexpensive toys that wont matter (to mom) how long they last, or how hard the kids play with them or if they get coated in mud.
-last but not least … water guns!!!! Enough said!
Make it a Successful Dirty Playtime
Taking a few practical tips to set in place before or during a child’s dirty outside playtime will help you not feel overwhelmed with the mess to clean up afterward.
-get the children to do as much of their own clean up as they can. A 2yr old will need complete help. A 4yr old will need partcil help. A 6yr old will need not much help.
-send them out READY! Make sure that the clothes that your children are wearing are rough clothes that you wont care if they survive the mud. Also be sure to send them out fully ready for sun and bugs with, obviously, sunscreen, and mosquito spray!
-be sure that the timing of the dirty outside playtime works. If it’s just rained outside and your sandpile is obviously beach worthy… save that sandpile for 2hrs before bedtime. (or after suppertime) That way when the children finish playing in the sand 1hr later you have 1 hr to slowly work through bath time, and clean up dirty clothes.
–have a bucket! A bucket of warm soapy water on your back deck or front stoop will go a long way to keeping the mess outside of your house. With an old towel nearby they can wash their hands and feet and clothes!
-be ready for the extra laundry. Embrace it. It’s going to happen. Especially with little children and especially with summer, but even more so with outside dirty playtime. This summer has been super wet and rainy for us (very unusual). So everyday that those sandy clothes come into the house I rinse them out in the laundry sink and immediately put them in the wash. If they are super stained with dirt, I will scrub them by hand quickly or even ask the older children to help scrub out the stains in their clothes, using just soap good ol’ dish soap.
So, because of the new baby and the overwhelmed feeling I get every time I think of packing up and leaving the farm with all my kids, by myself. (not used to 5 yet :0 LOL), we stay home a lot! I LOVE it. But to balance out our excessive at home-ness the kids are outside a lot. With the sandpile and swings in the backyard, we have made it our place to be this summer. Our thing to do!
What’s your kids favorite outside toy or activity? Leave me a comment below with what your family does!
By: Sharon Schuler