The sun is out, I see grass emerging, birds singing… It’s about time! If you live anywhere where it gets cold during the winter, you can probably relate to the immense elated feeling when the snow is gone and you feel the heat of the sun. It feels as if we are breaking free, when getting a breath of fresh air is more than just refreshing, it is exhilarating. Did you know that being outside also allows for opportunities to strengthen and practice executive function skills – especially for kids?
- Task initiation when starting different games or activities
- Flexibility when working with others or when something changes
- Emotional control when they get really excited or things don’t go their way
- Sustained attention and working memory when engaged in prolonged activities
- Planning and prioritizing
- Self-monitoring and being present in the moment
Not to mention other health benefits:
- Vitamin D absorption supports bone growth, can reduce cancer cell growth, help control infections and reduce inflammation
- Grounding (the act of putting your bare feet in natural grass) can reduce inflammation, improve sleep, and regulate the stress response
- Making their own choices allows for self-governing skills which supports child development
- Being active is the best way to get out of your head (helpful for overthinkers)
- Helps relieve stress, anxiety, and depression
But in the age of technology, it can sometimes be a struggle to get your kids outside. Do you get sick of the “I don’t know what to do, I’m bored” comments? Incorporating use of playfulness, choice, and imagination are great ways to keep kids engaged and support their ADHD strengths. Here are some ideas to get your child engaged in play that supports their brain development and autonomy:
Play Games Together That Build on Connection
Play outdoor games together while focusing on encouragement, praise and playfulness. This increases positive connections which support healthy relationships. It also provides opportunities for social-emotional learning and building skills for positive peer connections. Using silly tie breakers and trying both perspectives can encourage flexibility and problem solving. Have your children make up different games together or have different versions.
Get Creative with Family Walks
Collaborate as a team to re-enchant your walk by tapping into your inner child and your kids’ imagination by pretending you are going on a quest to find mythical beings. If fantasy isn’t your vibe, what about being a detective to notice something new you have never seen before or an explorer by using identifier apps for plants, rocks and bugs.
Outdoor Process Art
Process art is a form of artwork that is open-ended, focuses on the use of different mediums, and has the sole purpose of expression. Not the end result. If you are seeing perfectionist tendencies or inflexibility, this is a great way to practice how to break those habits and let loose! Need ideas? Just Google “outdoor process art activities”.
If you think about a kid’s day, they are often told what to do for extended periods of time. What to wear, when to get up, what to do, where to sit, when to speak, when to play, when to learn… the list goes on and on. Children strive to have a sense of autonomy, but rarely have a chance. So let’s talk about play, more specifically unstructured play. “Unstructured play is a set of activities that children dream up on their own without adult intervention. This type of play rarely has predetermined goals or objectives but instead allows children to create their own rules and establish their own limits” by The Genius of Play. The benefits of unstructured play also goes on and on such as cultivating creativity, self-reliance, problem solving, leadership, self-determination, etc. Follow this link see more information and research: The Critical Role of Unstructured Play in Child Development.
I encourage you to get outside, join your kids, wonder, play, be free, get creative, and let go of adulting for a moment. You will be surprised and enlightened in what you will find.
Alicia Kohls, M.Ed, PCAC
ADHD Coach and Life Coach, Executive Skills Coach