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Outdoor Activities for Family Fun in the Dirt

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By: BIRTHFIT Collaboration
Lindsay Mumma, DC
Gina Sirchio-Lotus, DC, CCN
Melissa Hemphill, Captain, USAF
Erica Boland, DC
Lindsey Mathews, DC

Reconnecting with nature, returning to the playfulness of our youth, and innovation are part of our core values here at Mother Dirt. We partnered with with the wonderful team at BIRTHFIT to give you some fun activities to do with your family, that do not involve a screen, and will reconnect you with nature, each other, and your sense of discovery and play.

BIRTHFIT Collaboration

Lots of parents are concerned about screen time for their kids, but they also aren't sure what to do without it. Early on, TVs, iPads, computers, and phones became in-house babysitters. Children can be mesmerized and engrossed by moving pictures, and can even be aggressive if we try to move their attention elsewhere. Research isn't exactly conclusive about damaging effects of screen time, but there are plenty of studies pointing toward its ill-effects.

BIRTHFIT Mamas spend time finding ways to engage their children in activities that create a connection with the outside world. Here are some suggestions for playtime that don't involve a screen.

Lindsay Mumma, Doctor of Chiropractic and BIRTHFIT North Carolina, mother of one with one on the way

To create a list of activities we like to do best, I consulted our in-house expert: my 2 year old. He suggested jumping. That's a great idea, but here are more options :)

1. We love creating obstacle courses, both inside and outside. Outside, we just put some 2x4s up onto our woodpile and my son enjoys balancing on them and/or jumping on and off of them. Inside, he rides his plastic tricycle. If you're thinking we're crazy, you might be right! We live in 1000 square feet, so it's not like this is super convenient; but it's totally worth it. Even when it's rainy, my son gets lots of exercise and we can create bridges or tunnels or simply obstacles for him to ride around. I've come to accept that my house will be messy and disheveled. It's allowed us to prioritize getting rid of extra stuff and helped us say no to extra things that aren't really necessary.

2. We spend a lot of time in our garden with our chickens, which brings us outside as a family to work and play. My son is a master at rounding up our chickens after they've been ranging in the yard, and loves to help in the garden as well.

3. We often cook as a family. My son has literally been cooking eggs since before he was two. While sometimes giving your children autonomy can be scary and messy, it also allows you more freedom and develops your child's independence. The more opportunities your child has to experience real life activities (like putting the chickens away, cooking eggs, "helping" make the bed, sweeping the floor, etc.), the more time you'll have to interact together.

Gina Sirchio-Lotus, Doctor of Chiropractic, BIRTHFIT Chicago, mother of four, Clinical Nutritionist

Here are some short and sweet ideas from Dr. Gina that will definitely spark adventure and creativity:

1. Do a scavenger hunt! I make individual lists for different ages.

2. Join library reading clubs.

3. Go to the farmers market to pick out the weirdest new item and see who can cook it best.

4. Bake treats together, package them up and make secret deliveries to your favorite elderly neighbors.

5. Go bowling - a great rainy day activity.

6. Go to the zoo and learn about different animals.

7. Take a train ride to the city and go to a museum, aquarium, restaurant, or visit a relative. In addition to the thrill of the train ride, your child will have more room to move during travel.

8. Play rock star! Learn some lyrics, create props for instruments, maybe even build a set, and put on a show.

9. Build forts, great for inside or outside. Get creative with your building materials and put your old bed sheets to use.

10. Get a little dirty and play in a sandbox.

11. Paint outside. When using water-based paint, the sun will dry it quickly, allowing the kids extra paint time, and more time to create.

12. Buy supplies and kits from the educational teacher's stores. Some of our recent favorites are ice volcanoes and bubbling chalk paint. (Fun for everyone!)

Melissa Hemphill: BIRTHFIT Colorado, mother of three, Air Force Captain

Melissa has definitely had to get creative with kids on the road and limited supplies. Here she shares some of her family's favorite experiences:

In a family of creators, some of our favorite non-screen activities are puzzles, recycle bin raids, and Lego contests.

1. For the recycle bin raid, we pull out all of our recyclables, scissors, tape, glue, pom-poms, pipe cleaners, googly eyes (whatever crafty things we can find) and just create. We throw some newspaper down on the floor and build there because, let's face it, most things that start on the table end up on the floor anyway. Outdoor-only creations are fun too! Have the little ones pick up leaves, sticks, rocks, and let their imaginations run wild.

2. I wish I could take the credit, but my sweet husband came up with the Lego contest game. He randomly divides all the Legos into 2 buckets, sets a timer for 30 minutes, and asks our children what they can build. We have a few rules - only use the bricks in your bucket, no peeking, and Mom picks the winner ;)

3. Simple puzzle days, still-life drawings, and book making are always a go-to activity in this house too!

Erica Boland, Doctor of Chiropractic, BIRTHFIT Wisconsin, mother of four

What has helped most is to not worry so much about the mess and remember that we are making memories. It is really pretty simple if you put yourself in your kids' shoes. A few things we love to do as a family of six:

1. Cook. Take the time to teach your little ones to nourish their bodies with real food. By allowing them to help cook you are teaching them how to care for themselves.

2. Create. We have crayons, markers, scissors, paper, tape, and more available at their reach at all times. The responsibility of using scissors and sharp objects safely and respectfully is a bonus. They are also taught to use their imagination freely instead of "coloring inside the lines." If you aren't creating with them, ask them to tell you about their creation, and how they feel about what they did. So many lessons can be learned from a simple creation.

3. Explore. Take ten minutes after supper (before cleaning up) to get outside in your backyard or local community. Other days try a family workout using nature and natural body movements. Touch different things in nature and talk about what each family member observes.

Rethink and reimagine

You may notice some overlap from all of us: the BIRTHFIT crew has a lot in common! What we've all discovered is that it can actually be a lot of fun to turn off the screens and get to know the people you live with. Everyone can benefit from the quiet of no background noise, and you can all benefit from connecting to one another instead of tuning out. Keep it simple, and reconnect while you disconnect!

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