Got a crabby or bored toddler on your hands? There’s nothing like a blast of sunshine and fresh air to turn that frown upside down. Not only are the great outdoors good for her mood, but it’s important for her health, too!
“Kids are naturally drawn to physical play outdoors,” said Amy Chand, youth fitness specialist for Akron Children’s Weight Management Clinic. “And staying active is important for a child’s development. Exercise through play helps kids gain muscle strength and coordination, increase flexibility, and develop their fine and gross motor skills.”
In addition, staying fit can improve self-esteem, help maintain a healthy weight and decrease the risk of serious illness, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.
Not to mention, outdoor play is vital for the absorption of vitamin D, said Chand.
“As Ohioans, we have low vitamin D levels because we’re not out in the light most of the day,” she said. “Vitamin D is crucial for a toddler’s good health and development by helping to build strong teeth and bones.”
So get your little ones up off the couch this summer and into the great outdoors. It’s a matter of their health!
Chand offers 5 active, outdoor activities to keep your toddler on the move and smiling — maybe even giggling — all summer long. There’s no need to travel far. These games can be played right in your own backyard.
In your driveway or sidewalk, use chalk to draw a large circle, about 2 or 3 feet in diameter, with a caterpillar face and antennae. Then, draw 10 or more smaller circles to create a jumbo-sized caterpillar. Using a stopwatch, challenge your toddler to run from one end of the caterpillar to the other. He also can step or jump from circle to circle.
Number the circles and vary their colors to use it as an educational tool to teach your child number recognition and colors. For example, encourage your little critter to jump from the red circle to the blue one.
Create an obstacle course using cones, hula-hoops and other household objects. Let your creativity, and your child’s interests and abilities, drive you. For example, kids could step or jump in and out of hula-hoops, run around and in between cones, or crawl under a line of kitchen chairs. For toddlers, keep it simple by focusing on one activity at a time. Do the obstacle course first to demonstrate how to do it and have fun with it.
Backyard scavenger hunt
Start by cutting out fun shapes, such as circles, hearts or critters, butterflies or caterpillars, using colorful construction paper. Your toddler can even color or decorate the shapes. Then, “hide” them in your backyard. Make sure they’re mostly visible — and reachable. Then, have your toddler search and find the shapes using a basket or butterfly net. You can use a stopwatch to make it even more exciting.
Beach ball toss
Using permanent marker, write a different movement, such as jumping, dancing or walking backward, on every color on a beach ball. Then, standing across from each other, throw or roll the ball back and forth. Whatever color your toddler’s hands land on when he catches the beach ball, he must then perform that activity.
Free play in the sprinkler is always a good time, plus it gets your toddler running about in your backyard. Make a game of it, and you can make it even more interesting for your little one. For example, challenge your child to “swim” like a fish through the sprinkler. You also can play “Simon Says” with commands such as dance in the water or jump over the sprinkler head.