So, it's February. Here in the great state of Ohio, more specifically Cincinnati, that means a lot of WET weather and not much sunshine. As you can see from this picture, we had one GLORIOUS SUNSHINY day at the beginning of this week. We spent 5 straight hours outside. For the most part it was this little dude, my husband and I as the two other big kids who still live at home were doing their big kid (basically adult) things. I confess, that many days like this, we head out to a park, nature center or preserve, because quite honestly it keeps me from getting distracted by all the "stuff" at home that I think I should be doing. But on this day, we stayed home and while Aiden explored, climbed and had unstructured play, we worked in the yard and did some exploring too.
At the end of December, I came across this great website and blog 1000hoursoutside.com .
I was immediately enamored with her challenge to spend 1000 hours outside over the course of one year. As an occupational therapist, mom and self-proclaimed granola this challenge spoke right to me. We printed off the fun record sheet and began tracking. Guys, this is TRUE SENSORY! When kiddos have an opportunity to play and explore in this manner, they are having experiences with every sense: visual, auditory, tactile, taste, vestibular and proprioceptive. Outside is one of, if not the best place for kids to develop their sensory processing skills. There are trees to climb, mole hills to smash, ditches and puddles to explore, riding toys/bikes over and through various terrains, building forts, helping mom/dad/caregivers with chores like raking leaves or taking down christmas lights, smashing things, jumping on and off things, making messes and the list goes on. It may sound like we live in some rural area, but we live in suburbia. No matter where you live there are opportunities for play outside and in nature. If it's a park, kids are still working their sensory systems as they swing, play tag, climb up the slide backwards, hang from bars, jump from play equipment and so on.
Since that sunshiny day at the beginning of the week, Aiden has asked every morning before we head to school "Mommy, can I go climb my tree?". The first morning was just as we were preparing to get in the car. I said "Buddy, we gotta go." He responded "PLEASE mommy, just once." I'm an OT for crying out loud and I know he needs this, so I said okay. I walked over to the tree with him and as he climbed he told me all about his method and his favorite tree branch. He got to his perch and looked out and then came back down and off we went. He has done this same thing each morning even in the rain. He is SO much more prepared to head off to school because of this. His body/brain knows what it needs.
I'm not saying you have to commit to 1000 hours. Just try making time for outside, no matter the weather and see the benefits in your kiddos development and behavior.