This past year was more than enjoyable for many people. Most were fearful of the new COVID-19 illness, while others escaped into the glorious outdoors. What did you do? What about your children?
Us adults, well, we have experienced more life. We do better at understanding what might be going on and rolling with the flow. But the kids, imagine the space they must be in. Depending on who surrounds them, the world is strange and could be scary right now.
I am a special education teacher for a preschool and elementary school here in Washington and let me tell you, COVID has really helped the education system (NOT!) The guidelines, requirements, masks and social distancing make learning hard, but we are getting there. One thing my school has tried hard to do is to limit Zoom time. We know it is not healthy for students to sit behind the screen and to absorb and interact with their peers via technology. Some schools are running a hybrid and distance option, like ours. But even though a hybrid option is available, people are nervous or have health concerns and do not feel it is safe sending their child to school. Others do not want their child wearing a mask. No matter your opinion, I think you might be getting the point — school is not easy right now. And no one truly really knows what is going to happen next or if things will change any time soon.
Too Much Screen Time?
If you have kids, you probably have seen your child have Zoom fatigue. You yourself might be working from home and be tired of looking at screens. Our bodies were not meant for that. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry published an article in February 2020 that kids between ages 8-12 spend 4-6 hours on screens a day and teens up to 9 hours a day! What? That’s almost as much time as they spend sleeping. This is also pre-COVID-19 — imagine where they might be now! The article also shared that continued screen time can result in lower grades, mood problems, fear of missing out, less time with family and friends, and more.
But there is hope!
We have this wonderful thing just through the windows, just outside our very own doors. We have an escape from technology, from Wi-Fi and cell phone service. It may be hard to find, but here in Washington, the great outdoors is literally surrounding us. From the rocky, cold waters of the Pacific Ocean to the towering Cascade Mountains, over to the flatlands of Central Washington and east to the mixed landscape. With many creeks, streams, lakes, ponds, hills, valleys, and ridges feathered here and there across our expansive state.
Get outdoors! You and your child(ren). Soak in that fresh air and let it fill your lungs. It is so much more healthy for us than sitting behind our screens. Interact with one another, build relationships and promote healthy habits.
Here are a few activities that are great outdoor things to do here in Washington with kiddos:
- Go for a walk — notice the trees. What kinds do you see? What similarities and differences do you observe? Have discussions.
- Sit in the dirt/sand and dig. Create. Grab sticks, cones, rocks, grass, anything that grows or is a part of nature and make little houses, towns, creeks, towers, cars, shelters, anything that comes to mind.
- Go for a hike to explore a new area. To see a new sight, climb a new mountain.
- Workout in nature. Run a trail, climb a mountain, rock climb, or even do some parkour if that is what gets your heart pumping.
- Play catch. Throw a ball back and forth. Kick it back and forth. Use mitts, or not. Baseball, football, kickball, soccer ball, literally any kind of ball. Kick, throw, play keep away, bounce it, anything.
- Skip rocks across a pond, river, lake, or the ocean. Walk up and down the shoreline, observing the different habitats and inhabitants of the area. Look for characteristics within the stones you find. Can you skip a rock that is not flat? How about one that is jagged? How many skips can you get?
These are only a few activities that can be done outside and be enjoyed by people both big and small. They also require no money or effort. All of which can be done almost anywhere in WA. So, where you reside should not be a hindrance. The biggest take away I hope you get from this is that your time outdoors and with your family is the most crucial thing for your mental and physical health. It is good for you to be around others. It is great to be outdoors. And it is the best to nail it all with one stone — outdoors with family time and little to no cost.
One thing COVID cannot take away from us is the outdoors. One thing we have an abundance of access to here in Washington State is public lands, use and take advantage of them!