The play park has always been the go to place for children to let off steam. But, recently, councils have begun to favour the development of pay-as-you-play facilities over the improvement of free play areas. As play becomes increasingly privatised, parents are struggling to find alternative methods of keeping their children happy and healthy on a regular basis.

With more and more green spaces set to be sold off in the coming year, it’s incredibly important that we find new ways to introduce active play to our children’s daily routine. Whilst this is usually being achieved in schools, sitting idly at home over the weekend or during the holidays can have an extremely negative effect on a child’s wellbeing. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to get your kids out and about and none of them cost a penny.

  1. Scavenger Hunts Burn Energy and Develop Problem-Solving Skills

A scavenger or treasure hunt is an easy way to get your kids burning energy, whilst keeping their minds active too. You can either set up your own in your garden, hiding their favourite toys for them to find or collect natural items, such as leaves and feathers, as you take a trip into town or to visit friends. For older children, you might want to include clues that lead them to the next item or ask them to solve a puzzle before they can move on.

  1. Natural Play Areas Encourage Children to be Active

If the park is off limits, then why not try the next best thing. Natural play areas such as woodland can be just as exciting for young children, with so much to explore and experience. Not only are open areas like this great for running around, they can also be the perfect environment for stretching the imagination and building on creative skills.

You could encourage your children to make a den out of fallen branches or to see who can collect the most pine cones. Don’t be afraid to let them test their limits either. Whilst you don’t want your child throwing themselves out of treetops, a little risky play can help them develop spatial awareness and decision-making skills. Without these vital skills, children will be far more likely to misjudge dangerous situations in the future.

  1. Copycatting Can Aid Social Skills

If it’s raining or you just don’t have time to leave the house, then there are still plenty of opportunities for healthy play indoors. Simple games are often the most effective, especially if they allow you to join in with your children. Copycatting can be particularly absorbing for much younger children as they have the opportunity to mimic their parent’s actions. You can come up with as many different variations as you like for this activity and start to introduce more complicated games as they become more aware. Children take a lot from the enthusiasm of adults, so the more energy you have, the more they will want to play. Try and make your actions as active as the space allows, so you are both letting off some steam.

  1. Gardening Teaches Children about the Natural World

If you or your partner have green fingers, then try and encourage your child to get involved in gardening too. They needn’t slave away in the sun but helping you place plants in pots or water the flower bed can increase their love for the outdoors. Children will usually be very interested in the things their parents get up to and it can bring them great joy to be included in these activities. You could even help them start their own mini-garden, teaching them the importance of making sure their seeds are well looked after. There’s plenty of opportunities to get them moving as well, running back and forth to fetch you the items that you need.

  1. Head To The Beach For Some Sensory Play

If you live near the coast then the beach can be the perfect alternative. The sand and sea are just as exciting to children as the park and there is still space to run around and play games. For babies and toddlers, the sand can be incredibly therapeutic, as well as being a unique sensory experience. In fact, the entire coastline is full of new and interesting experiences — from the roar of the waves to texture of the seaweed. With so much going on your toddler is unlikely to run out of things to explore and they will return home inspired and worn out.

Author Bio: Sam Flatman is an outdoor learning specialist and an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Play. Sam has been designing playgrounds for the past 10 years and has a passion for outdoor education. He believes that outdoor learning is an essential part of child development, which should be integrated into the school curriculum at every opportunity.

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