Being ‘urban’ has it’s benefits, and yet one of the big drawbacks can mean that you and the kids spend more time in stores, watching screens or commuting than breathing fresh air without a care in the world. Our family is fortunate to live in a place where hiking, sailing, skiing are part of life, but not everyone is as lucky to have nature so accessible. The UrbanMommies team has put together a few ideas based on the passions of your kids for getting outside in the city.
The Artist: Take an hour-long walk in your urban jungle and collect bits of nature, scrap, litter and special treasures. Plastic gloves and hand sanitizer are a must. Wash your finds and let your little artist create a sculpture or collage at home.
The Athlete: Indoor circuit training may be de rigeur, but a few parkour-style obstacles in the great outdoors can go a long way. Use picnic tables for pushups, rocks for step ups and walls for vertical pushups.
The Photographer: Go on a city walk and use tips from National Geographic great Annie Griffiths, who we had a chance to interview. Teach the kids to become photo journalists in order to tell a story.
The Dancer: Every city has a park, or a wide open area. Take your little dancer and after an adequate warm-up, practice jumps – grand jetes and pas de chat are way better done in nature. Have a tapper? Do some soft shoe in the dirt. A jazz enthusiast? Find some sand and practice a routine getting really low with fluid knees. It will be the best workout of the week.
The Science Kid: This one is fun – and a whole ton less mess than doing experiments inside. Whether summer or winter, nature can provide lessons galore. Water as a gas, liquid or solid is always a hit. Or make goop. Or a non-newtonian fluid and do the washing up with a hose!
The Nature Lover: When my boys were younger they were given a bean seed at school, wrapped in a damp paper towel in a ziplock bag. They carried it to school and kept it warm under their pillow as they slept. After about a week, the seed sprouted and we planted it in a tiny pot. They cared for their seedling and then transplanted it into the garden, caring for it daily until beans grew and we had a special dinner.
The Astronomer: Stars are taken for granted by so many, and yet we can use them to help tech kids science, astrology, geography and many more things I’m not educated enough to know about. Even using an app like Star Charts while lying outside together, cuddled in blankets can create an appreciation of nature that may one day have them enrolling in NASA programmes for kids.
The Animal Aficionado: Checking out animals inside is pretty lame. If you have an animal lover but no zoo within walking distance, you still have options. Binoculars and a website on local birds can be like a scavenger hunt. Tidal pools don’t only exist in summer – the sea life you can find within thrives year round. Lifting a rock in the park can uncover a mini ant-world ready to spur questions and set the imagination into full speed.
I would love to hear a few more ideas of what you and your family do to get outside!