Modern technology has brought innumerable benefits into our lives. Unlike our cavemen ancestors – or even the humans that lived a century ago – we have amenities. Most homes have electricity, running water, central heating, and access to the internet. This means we can survive harsh weather conditions and extend our day past sunlight hours. It also means we generally spend more time indoors.
This is sometimes a benefit for adults. Spending more time inside means we bond better with one another. Whether it’s our colleagues at the office, our friends at the bar, or our roommates at home, all that time together brings us closer, and that’s mostly a good thing. But for kids, all that proximity can be detrimental.
Children are only really together in school buildings, and their schedule isn’t built for leisurely bonding. They get at most an hour of playtime during lunch and recess. The rest of time they are expected to sit still, be quiet, and focus on their books or the teacher. They are discouraged from playing in class or talking to each other. This doesn’t exactly foster connection and pleasurable friendship.
These kids can sometimes build better bonds as they walk home together, or maybe if they share a school bus route. They can also make friends with kids that live close to their homes. Children make friends by playing together, and staying inside the house doesn’t help, because this mostly restricts them to their siblings, and they’ve had enough of them already.
Turning your backyard into a play space provides a safe, supervised area where they can invite neighbours and school friends for fun afternoons of exercise and bonding. Having your kids outside is a blessing for parents too. It lets the kids use up their energy is a secure way, and you know exactly where they are and what they’re doing. So, how do you begin turning your boring old yard into a home-made amusement area, especially for modern kids that need constant stimulation?
The trick is to wean them off technology. They may be used to smartphones, video games, and microwave snacks, but none of these encourages physical exercise or imaginative play. You kind of want to go back to basic with your kids. Invite them to play like you did ‘back in the day.’ Or better yet, step even further to your grandparents days, when children could keep themselves amused with a box and a stick.
This might seem like a cruel and unusual form of punishment – both to you and your children. But it will engage their creative minds, teach your kids to literally think outside the box, and exercise muscles they had forgotten they had, both physical and intellectual. We’re going to discuss eight natural elements you can use to turn your yard into a home grown adventure.
Start by making things green. If your yard doesn’t have any grass, plant some. It’s not as complex as it sounds. Many landscaping companies offer turfing services. They will come over and install it for you, and within a few weeks, you have your very own soft green garden to play in. While you’re at it, plant some quick-growing trees and flowers. The colour will stimulate kids, and looking after the garden will instil life lessons as well.
Once you have a yard full of soft, sweet, smelling greenery, the kids can begin their games. You will notice that your turf draws ants, ladybugs, grasshoppers, and other critters which teach children and give them something fun to discover. You might need to take some time teaching them that creepy crawlies can be safe and are nothing to be afraid of, and you may have to learn that lesson yourself. But get familiar with the types of insects that can be harmful, and invest in some anti-rash ointments and ecological bug spray, just in case.
Introduce a few animals to your space, both for play and to teach them nurturing skills. The animals you choose will depend on your kids’ age and how much responsibility you want, since you will probably look after the animals more than your kids will. Fun pets include kittens, puppies, tortoises, iguanas, or even chicken. Get the kind of pet that will run around in the yard with kids.
Water is another children’s favourite. You can install sprinklers to keep your turf green, and allow the children to jump around in it and make their own tiny fountains and waterfalls using their imagination. Plan B is to install inflatable pools, or have a home-made pond where they can race boats or keep frogs and fish. Always supervise closely, to avoid accidents.
Lay a sand pit as well, just like the sandbox at school. If you’re brave enough, you can put up a mud pit where they can splash around and practice making sculptures and mud pies. Beware of the mess though, and deworm the kids regularly, just in case.
Finally, incorporate lots of seating space. It could be as basic as strategically placed rocks and logs, or as complex as an outdoor activity set that includes colourful nooks and benches. You can also install some swing sets, slides, merry-go-rounds, or jungle gyms, depending on your budget and the number of kids using your space.
If you’re worried about keeping your kids safe and occupied, or if they’re spending too much time indoors, give them exciting reasons to go outside and they will. It will seem like a wild expedition to them, but for you, it’s peace of mind, safety, and a chance to keep a closer eye on those boisterous neighbour kids.