Today I'm sharing the importance of outside play to me and my girls as part of the Gymboree Hop N' Roll partnership with KaBoom! a national non-profit organization that works to ensure that all kids have a childhood filled with active play.
Last week for our Spring Break, I got a little taste of what the full three months of summer is going to feel like in just a few more weeks: endless stretches of time, with no planned activities, where my kids are going to need constant interaction.
One thing is very clear. It would be Oh So Easy to use a pair of iPads to keep these girls entertained while I get work done around the house.
On the surface, that sounds like horrible parenting, doesn't it? iPads as babysitter? But now consider those devices are loaded with educational math games, art tutorials, and eBooks. All parent-approved, seemingly high quality activities for the kids.
But what about real play? What about fresh air and running around and using your imagination to invent your own game?
I was not going to allow our vacation week to be drowned in a sea of screens. The importance of outside play is so big to me.
On the very first day of break, I got these peanuts dressed and outside right away. We decided to take a walk to our neighborhood playground before lunch.
On the way, we found signs of spring everywhere. Little Pea stopped within the first few feet and excitedly ran to get a pinecone as big as her head out of the nearest bush.
Before I could even stop myself, I snapped: "Put that down, we're going to the park!"
Then I paused. What on earth was my hurry?? Wasn't the whole point to get them outside? What's better than taking notice of pinecones and flowers and sticks??
I apologized and told Little Pea to go grab the pinecone again. She carried it with us to the park.
We also spotted:
- blooming tulips
- a flowering tree
- dozens of sticks
- snail shells
- lots and lots of crazy fat bumblebees
The walk to the park was an adventure in itself. When arrived at the fenced in playground, I let the girls run off to their hearts' content. For them, that means as much climbing and dangling as humanly possible.
Gymboree asked me to try out some pieces from their new Hop N Roll collection to see how it would hold up to their heavy outdoor play. I have always loved them for how easily I can remove dirt and stains in the laundry and how soft and comfortable my kids feel when playing while wearing them.
The Peanut tried on her dress (in BLUE, her favorite color!) and told me she was so comfy she felt like she was wearing pajamas.
Little Pea was thrilled with her twirly skirt and cute top. We don't buy specific separate "play clothes," I expect my girls to be able to wear anything from their closet at any time so for Little Pea that usually means skirts and dresses that can go from school to park.
The pieces we picked up from Hop N Roll are cute coordinating colors and simple patterns. The Peanut and I both love the stripes of her dress and Little Pea loves that she is wearing her sister's favorite color but in a different shade.
But what matters most to me, is that I don't even think twice about what their wearing, I know it is going to hold up when they run outside to play.
What's particularly awesome about the Hop N Play line specifically, is that a portion of the proceeds from the collection will support KaBOOM! - a national non-profit organization that works to ensure that all kids have a childhood filled with active play, especially those in underserved communities. From now through 5/31, Gymboree will be working to raise enough money to help build a place to play for 10,000 deserving kids in 2015.
So dressing my kids to play outside helps ensure that more kids will have a place to do the very same. I LOVE that. And even more fun, Gymboree has partnered with other experts to create a Playdate guide on Pinterest. Check out their playdate map and see if one of their suggested locations is near you!
5 ways to encourage outdoor play for kids:
1. Lead by example: Put away your own phone. When you're at the park, bring a paper book if you want to sit on the bench. Or chat up another parent and have some face time interactions.
2. Stop and smell the flowers: Don't make my mistake, your adventure actually starts from the moment you step out the door. If it takes you three times as long to get there, that is not a problem. Let the kids pick up sticks, point out worms, smell the flowering bushes.
3. Give them some freedom: Give your kids enough age-appropriate distance. You don't need to feel pressured to play WITH them every second, let them explore on their own from as far away as you feel comfortable.
4. Conscientious rule breaking: It drives me BATTY to see kids climbing UP the slide. But they all love it, don't they?? We were alone at the park that morning, so I let my kids get away with it until new friends joined us and we had to return to being courteous playground partners. Biggest. Thrill. Ever.
5. "Dirty" is a compliment: Try really hard to not comment on your kids' level of dirt accumulation with a negative tone. Instead say, "Awesome! Your muddy knees tell me you had an excellent time at the park today, what were you looking at closely?" Dirty kids come clean. I promise.
Now that you're ready to get the kids outside, take a second to check out the Hop N Roll line over at Gymboree here.
You can find their awesome Playdate map here.
Where is your favorite outdoor play space?