April 20, 2021 - 8:00am -- lehman.488@osu.edu

The sun is bright today but the wind is still a little brisk with spring this year.  Think of all the things we might be doing if we were outside today or the things that are on your list.  I’ve enjoyed working in the yard picking up sticks, looking for new buds on the trees or flowers, or just taking the dog for a walk.  With many of our responsibilities, it’s easy to let the time slip away through the day without getting a little exercise and fresh air.  When we spend time outside with our children, they have a wonderful classroom of new experiences and we can enjoy the moments of discovery with them.

It’s interesting to find more and more information that indicates time outside for children is just as important as good nutrition and a good night’s sleep.  It’s a time to connect with nature and learn about colors, textures, and so many living things that are available in our back yards.  I’d like to take just a minute and encourage readers to try a garden to enhance outside activity this year. 

When we think about having learning experiences for kids through the summer, the garden or backyard can lead to conversations in math, science, reading and vocabulary.  As adults, we benefit from the fresh air and exercise also.  Gardening supports children’s curiosity about the natural world and to build confidence as they grow and nurture plants that ultimately produce items for them to eat.  Rulers and magnifying glasses are great tools to share no matter what age to investigate things that we might miss at first glance.  Here’s a few other tips to consider while your outside this spring or summer, whatever you choose remember that you are building relationships  by spending time together engaged in activity and learning.

*Make a wind sock from an empty powdered drink or oatmeal container and crepe paper streamers.

*Take a study stick and tie strings or fishing line to metal items to make your own wind chimes.  Things like old keys, beverage cans, old silverware, small piece of pipe, etc. work well.

*Select a few garden plants and make a container garden.  Use either a bucket or ornamental container for them to care for and observe the changes as they grow.

*Take an empty milk carton or other small container and make a boat to use outside in the puddles after a spring shower.  Which way does the wind blow it?  What ones sink or float?  What or how much can I put in the “boat” before it sinks?

*Take a strip of contact paper and make a loose bracelet.  On a walk around the yard or park pick up unique items that will stick to the bracelet.  Leaves, seeds, pebbles, flowers, bird egg shells, are all great conversation starters.

*How many different shades of green can you find outside?  Take a piece of paper or coloring sheet outside to color with no crayons….just the grass or the leaves, or the bark from the tree.  Ask permission before using flowers but they all share natural colors to enjoy.

*Make a chart of the sky and what it looks like at a particular time during the day.  See how it changes through the week.

*Plant a “theme” garden like herbs and tomatoes to make a salad or pizza.

*Make a list of favorite places to hike or plan a weekend campout

*Plan your family vacation that incorporates outside activities that everyone enjoys - canoeing, horseback riding, archery, or even time at a beach.

There’s so many more fun things to do outside, but hopefully these will get you started thinking.  One of the most common comments, is “there’s nothing to do outside!”  I think once you begin looking, you’ll find so many fun things that they’ll forget about TV and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.  Make a list of favorite things to do and keep adding to it so that there’s always something fun to enjoy as a family. 

Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.

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