Ask any child what makes them happy, and likely TOYS will be on top of their list. Aside from pure joy, toys also foster experimentation, imaginative play, and social interaction. Given the value of these coveted childhood possessions, should parents shower their kids with as many toys as they can afford? While most children would answer a resounding YES, studies have shown that less is often better. The benefits of limiting toys can lead to resourcefulness, creative exploration, and results in longer attention spans with a greater appreciation for what they do have. Arguably the best benefit of all is that children are more apt to play outside and develop a deeper appreciation for nature. For physical activity, resiliency, education, and adventure, the great outdoors is, in a sense, the best toy of all and one that they will never outgrow.
You may be thinking that’s all well and good but that only applies to when it’s nice out. Inclement weather need not deter you from exploring the many wonders of the outdoors. As the Swedish saying goes, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes”. If you are dressed for the occasion then there’s nothing stopping an adventurous heart. In fact on days in which it is raining or snowing, just might be the most enriching experiences of all. Children are typically less fazed by harsher weather conditions and can develop a bond with nature while playing out in rain or with mud, snow or ice. It gives hands-on encounters with the seasons that can lead to insightful conversations about how plants and animals survive during different times of year.
In recent months, Southern California has been getting some much needed rain. There are days on end of steady rainfall. However, don’t give in to the lure of passively watching experiences on a TV or tablet when you could be out living it. Rain, rain need not go away because it just ups the ante of fun. Get your raincoat and galoshes on and start jumping in some puddles. Children will delight in the loads of mud just waiting to be shaped into delicious mud pies, as they enjoy a tactile experience of running their fingers through gobs of mud. And brothers and sisters should watch out for the unexpected mud balls headed their way. Artsy will come alive with mud paintings or by creating land art with leaves, sticks, rocks, pinecones, and more. For your budding scientists, it’s time for a nature hunt as you go in search of creatures that emerge in the rain like worms and snails. Watch the water flow as they sail a self-made nature boat, and experiment with what sinks and floats. THEY’LL LOVE IT!
At Kidspace we have a great appreciation for nature and have therefore devoted roughly eighty percent of the museum’s campus to outdoor learning and play. Come climb, pedal, and best of all get wet and muddy all year long at Kidspace!
Blog entry by:
MaryAnn Viviano, Chief Operations Officer, has been with Kidspace Children’s Museum since 2004. Prior experience includes working for the American Red Cross after receiving a BA in Communications from the University of Texas at Austin.