It's a Friday afternoon and the kids are getting stir crazy. They're running in circles between the kitchen and living room and I'm struggling to tidy up books, paints, and apple peels. We homeschool and we love it, but let's be real - sometimes the days feel long come Friday at 3pm. Today was one of those days.
"Hey guys, let's head out to the backyard and play a game of Dodgeball," I suggest.
Within a moment all three have thrown their shoes on and are racing to the leaf-covered back yard, hollering and whooping. For a good 30 minutes, we run, we yell, we laugh and we get a little crazy. I can literally see their moods change as they expel their energy. Their bodies loosen, their dispositions morph, their faces even look more relaxed. When we finished playing, we headed back inside for a hot chocolate and several books around the kitchen table. The kids were calm, content, and much more agreeable.
Sometimes, a good dose of outside activity is all kids need.
But in our culture, countless children are missing out on this crucial outside play time. They're over-scheduled, often very inactive, and almost always on media overload.
The truth is, there are so many benefits to outdoor play for children. The good it does for them should not be ignored, but so often is. I haven't got this thing down by any means, but I want to make it a goal of mine to actually schedule outdoor game time. Every day. Not just throw it in when I see the children melting down - actually actively seek out great games and activities and implement them into our weekly schedule. I already know what wonders it will do for our children. These times are different from nature walks and Nature Study times which are often more reflective, calm outdoor activities (walking by a stream, picking apples, sketching a bird). No, we're talking about times of very active, fun, energetic games where children are allowed (and encouraged) to get a little crazy.
Charlotte Mason talks about this kind of play, and its benefits, in Volume One of the original Homeschooling Series:
"The afternoons' games after luncheon are an important part of the day's doings... the more they run, and shout, and toss their arms, the more healthful is the play."
In fact, she suggested children spend several hours outdoors every afternoon. She also advocated quite heavily for allowing children to be loud, to run hard, and to play enthusiastically. Of course, this is done in the right context and at the right time. She isn't suggesting a lack of discipline, but quite the opposite. For everything, there is a time. And children need a time get a little silly. They are, after all, kids.
Active, outdoor play also gives children a chance to breathe fresh air, bringing much needed fresh oxygen into the body. They'll also have the opportunity to release stress as they get their heart rate up. The acts of running, shouting, and getting rowdy will also allow children to release energy from their little bodies, enabling them to better focus and learn later on.
It's not always convenient to play outside games and activities and get silly with the children. But, I will say, it has unending benefits for both the kids AND the parents. As I play with them, I can feel my stress levels dropping and my energy coming back to me. It's a time of renewal for all. Let's endeavor to spend more time encouraging our children and ourselves to get outside and get active!
Yes, Children Need Active Outside Play to Get Them Content and Refreshed!!
Does your family have any favorite outside active games?