Outdoor resources for kids that will encourage more time outside.
As I write this I can hear the bangs from outside as my 11 and 9 year olds crush up rocks, then grind them in the mortar and pestle. They use a funnel to get the powder into jars and then label them things like ‘tropical island’ (white), and ‘desert fire’ (red). They’re making their own nature paint.
In the background there are squeals and giggles coming from their younger sisters who are 6 and 4. They’re huddled into the yoga swing together seeing how fast they can spin, immersed in their own game.
A typical morning in our home. There are things to do, games to be played! They spend a lot of their day outside, even on home days, and this is something I have consciously tried to encourage. In a world where more and more time is spent indoors, cut off from the natural world, I want to make it easy and enjoyable for them to get outside. I see the benefits of that every single day. Whenever we are sick, or the weather is bad, the change in mood is enough to remind me how important it is for them to get adequate time outside, both for their physical and mental health.
So what do they do outside? Lots! When we’re out with friends they are off exploring, climbing trees, playing in creeks, making things from nature, using whatever is around them to create what they need for their games. When we are home they do the same, but we also have some outdoor resources that get a ton of use and have undoubtedly had a huge impact on time spent outside. I wanted to share our favourites with you…
Top 5 Outdoor Resources for Kids
The trampoline had to be number one on the list, no question. We’ve had a trampoline since my eldest daughter was around two, so for 9 years. There is literally not a single day that goes by when it isn’t used. Ever. No matter the weather. And who can blame them? It’s FUN! Some of my best childhood memories are playing on the trampoline with my brothers when I was little.
As well as fun, trampolines are great for improving fitness, flexibility, posture, balance, coordination, motor skills, encouraging more time outside, stimulating the vestibular system, and more.
We recently upgraded the trampoline because our last one was completely worn out. And by that I mean no padding left, gaping holes in the net, and numerous springs missing. It was an injury waiting to happen. But, the kids could NOT part with it. Knowing that it was only a month until Christmas and they would secretly be getting a new one we told them that we would need to take the old one down because it was too dangerous, only to be met with tears. They told us they could NOT do without the trampoline! We ended up leaving it up for a few more weeks for them.
Our new trampoline is an XL Vuly Ultra. You should have heard the squeals on Christmas morning, sorry neighbours! It’s brilliant. Why did we choose this one?
- Size: We have 4 children, who are only getting bigger, and they all want space to jump!
- Safety net: This is a must have for me. I don’t want anyone falling off. Our old trampoline had a zip which was annoying, but this one is so much better! No having to remember to do it up, no zip breaking or tearing, you simply slip through the gap and you’re ready to go!
- External springs. Our old trampoline had the springs inside the net so if the padding moved (or disintegrated as ours did), you could land on or between the springs. With our new one you cannot touch the springs, or poles for that matter. You can only land on the mat or soft net!
- Quality: We replaced our old trampoline’s net and padding multiple times and each one didn’t last long at all. The frame and springs also rusted pretty quick. I did not want that happening again! After researching other brands, and talking to others who had trampolines, we settled on Vuly because it’s made to last in our Australian weather!
If you’re considering a trampoline, I highly recommend it! Hours of fun and they NEVER get sick of it!
2. Swing Set
Next up would have to be the swing set. We have had a few different versions over the years, but this one is next level. The girls love swings and after not having any for a few years now, it was time. We went with a Vuly 360 Pro Mini Swing Set. I love this one because it doesn’t take up much room, you can swap the swings over easily, and there is a huge variety of swings and add-ons available. Plus, it has shade! Very needed where we live. Our swingset holds two swings but we actually have four of them and it’s super simple to swap them over and change things up whenever needed!
Our absolute favourite would have to be the yoga swing. It never gets swapped out. Even I love it! It’s got so much material I can literally lie down in it and my head and feet don’t reach the ends! I could sleep in there if people weren’t nagging me to get out and give them a turn, ha! It is SO good. So comfy and can be used in so many ways. You can lie down and swing in it like a hammock, or sit and swing like a regular swing. Or, you can even share it with a sister and swing and spin together!
If you were considering this swing set I would 100% make the yoga swing one of your choices. We also have the roman rings (very popular here and I’m forever being asked to come out and watch new tricks), the bounce swing, and the seesaw swing.
Swings were my favourite thing at the park when I was a child too, because they are so fun! They’ve also got some great other benefits, including: developing coordination, soothing and calming, increasing spatial awareness, gross and fine motor skill development, balance and core strength, sensory regulation, proprioceptive awareness, raising endorphins which boost mood, increasing focus and attention, and much more! Children learn by moving their bodies. Get swinging!
“…due to the lack of efficient movement opportunities today, many children walk around with an underdeveloped vestibular sense. The results: fidgeting, tears of frustration, more falls, aggression, and trouble with attention.”
“Children develop a strong vestibular sense by having frequent opportunities to move — especially activities that go against gravity. Walking and running offer some vestibular input, but activities that encourage children out of an upright position provide rapid input to the inner ear. In other words, children will benefit immensely by going upside down, spinning, tumbling, and swinging.” -Angela Hanscom
3. Outdoor Mat
I love our recycled mat and we use it daily either at home or out with friends. It’s HUGE and the whole family can fit on it with plenty of space.
It lives in our backyard usually, and we take it with us on days out too. We only have a couple of outdoor chairs, preferring to sit around the mat together. We use it for read aloud time, eating morning tea, doing art outside, poetry teatime, and even eating dinner when the weather is right!
It’s made from recycled plastic and the best thing about it is you just hose it off when dirty!
It seems like such a simple thing, a mat, but it has honestly had a big impact on increasing our time outside. When there’s somewhere to sit and stretch out it’s so much easier. In winter we bring out cushions and blankets onto the mat and warm up in the morning sun together.
4. Mud Kitchen
You can’t go past a bit of mud play! We scored our mud kitchen second hand from a friend and the kids adore it. They busily bake mud cakes, play shops, mix up potions, and generally enter their own imaginary world of mud.
Yes, it can get pretty messy, but the fun, bonding, other benefits really are worth it. Promise! Free play is so important and the mud kitchen provides tons of opportunities for that. Did you know mud is also good for their physical health and building a strong immune system? Add to that imagination, creativity, sensory development, motor skills, more time outside, connection to nature, and the tons of concepts they are exploring and learning through play, and a little bit of mess seems not such a big deal.
5. Wild Tools
We are getting quite the collection of wild-crafting tools here now. Miss 11 packs her backpack full of supplies whenever we go out to play with friends. They are always up to something, whether it’s tying a pulley up in a tree and lifting kids up, whittling swords, building fires, or making their own stone paint. I thought I’d share with you some of their favourite tools.
- Mortar and pestle (we have this big one for home and mini ones to take out)
- Whittling knife
- Hand drill
- Flint and steel
- Spade (fold up one to fit in a backpack)
There is so much to do and see outside! Nature truly is the best toy. Having the things we do in our backyard helps us to get more time outside even on home days, and in my books that is a good thing.
What are your favourite outdoor resources for kids?