Ask a toddler if they want to go outside for a stroll, there can never be a ‘NO’ as an answer, you know why; because that place (outside of walls) is full of innumerous opportunities to explore, learn and have lots of fun. I am sure all parents will agree with me on this part about outdoor play as it’s so much necessary for kids of all ages for their healthy all round development. Toddlers have the energy level of an active volcano; you can’t hold them inside for long.
Now if you are a parent to a toddler, imagine a scene where your 2 year old at home is being too cranky, crying and screaming for no reason (or for some lame reason), throwing the worst of tantrums and nothing seems to work for that moment. In such a situation, you would wish time to stop for a minute so that you can at least breathe a complete cycle of inhalation and exhalation. What could have worked in that situation is a scene change from being inside the house to go outside the house and letting your 2 year old act in whatever manner he wants to. Because when your child is outside, he has more freedom and space to conduct his physical activities and use his brain in a more constructive way.
In young children, this love for outdoors comes very natural to them but sometimes the situation is reversed where parents find it quite difficult to send or encourage their kids to play outside just because these kids get too dependent on screen media entertainment for their daily dosage of activities (their mind gets tired but their physical energy remains unused). So, it’s very important to control and manage how kids spend their time and parents must help them in making wise media choices. It is recommended by American Academy of Pediatrics to avoid use of digital media in children younger than 18-24 months. To read more about this, you can check my blog post ‘Is Screen time educational or distracting?’- Click here!
Another issue which I have noticed with kids while in the play ground is that they get easily bored after sometime, instead of getting involved in constructive play they start losing interest and get more destructive, they get irritated and occasionally, indulge in little fights too. While most toddlers are accompanied by caretakers or parents but rarely they indulge in their play probably because they want them to be independent. But in my opinion toddlers are still very young and need parent’s guidance even for such natural phenomenon as Play!
So, here I want to share my experience on how to make outdoor play more fun for toddlers.
1» Always look for a play space where there are kids older than your child (same age kids plus older kids is a plus point). Why? Because toddlers are quite inquisitive and observant and having company of older kids helps them in building social skills, just being around them can provide social and intellectual stimulation for younger minds. But keep a limit to this playtime for say 10 minutes, as older kids might not find it helpful if a younger kid keeps bothering them with their play. Also, this may not work with every kid; some children always look for company in same age group so it’s better to observe their behavior and then encourage them accordingly. Having older kids playing around always work better for us.
2» Provide a natural play area for your kid- don’t look for safe or clean places once they are outside. Let them run on the rough ground if they like it and allow them to explore whatever messy surroundings they want to but be with them and guide if playing in that particular area can cause severe harm in any way. The best and fun part of playing outside is getting messy. Let them spoil their clothes; let them get sweaty and smeared in mud; just let them use their imagination and skill in a complete free way. Let them fall and rise on their own, getting hurt a little is part of free will outside play and let the injury marks speak that your child had fun outside the way he wanted. There is not a single day without bruise marks on Nemit’s knees but we are happy with that. Nemit got featured in Babychakra’s article for Johnson’s- ‘Embrace the mess because cleaning is made easy now’.
3» Get involved in your child’s playtime– very important point mostly overlooked by parents and care takers, just don’t sit or stand in a corner with mobile in hands because this way you are just keeping an eye on your toddler but not being a part of his playtime which is actually what your kid want, our time. Toddlers still need their parents around; they feel secure and loved when parents show interest in what their kids are doing rather than just giving instructions. Run a little, laugh a lot, get bit messy too and then look at your child’s face for that divine smile of satisfaction. This can be the best bonding time too. We have seen a big difference in Nemit’s behavior since we started getting involved in his play.
4» Learning life’s lessons while playing– You can teach some important things to your child during this outdoor play time. You can start with Play time limits, while bringing your child out tell him that you will stay for 30 minutes or 1 hour and then will head back home, many young kids show tantrum when they are asked to go back home. Initially child will not understand much neither he will pay any heed towards that but if you will keep repeating the same thing daily, gradually he will start understanding the concept of time and this will ultimately help in reducing the tantrums while going back home. Then you can teach your tot about sharing toys, it is very normal for a kid to act too attached and emotional for his stuff but if he shows interest in other kid’s toys then you can gently introduce the concept of sharing things happily with friends. This is an ongoing learning process, we are done with setting play time and Nemit happily walk towards home when I say “it’s time to go back” but it took us 2 weeks to reach at this understanding. Now we are working on sharing stuff with other kids.
5» Don’t let the outdoor play get boring– It may never get boring for the kid but repeating same activities and games daily can get monotonous for parents who accompany them. So to avoid the play to get dull and boring introduce new games or DIYs which will keep the parents involved and kids happy. Few ideas for making outdoor play fun can be Car wash, Water balloon play, picking up dry trash on the way, collecting different shapes of stone, collecting leaves and twigs from the ground, take dog for a long walk, water the plants in the park, play and jump in puddles, these are some activities we do during our play time outdoors. You can add many more to the list; just keep your options open.
I hope this blog post help parents to make play time for their kids more fun and engaging. I want to know your views on this, how you are spending time outdoors, what activities you take part in, share some of your ideas here with us. I feel so loved reading your comments. Please do share our posts if you find them helpful, that is highly appreciated!
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