Monday, October 8, 2012

Celebrate Fall's Shorter Days

Autumn brings shorter days, cooler weather, and often more school and sports related time commitments. For many families, it's a perfect storm of variables that leads to less free play outside.  Unless of course we find ways to celebrate the shorter days and crisp weather that fall has to offer.  There are many ways to continue to play outside through the fall season.
  1. Start the afternoon outside: As soon as the kids pile off the bus, we sit around the table and work together on homework and memory verses while also enjoying an afternoon snack.  We haven't put away our patio furtniture for the winter yet, so we will often sit together outside to complete these tasks.  Similarly, we love to eat dinner outside as a family.  Despite other evening committments, we always spend this time together; spending it outside just ensures we don't squander the shining sun while we finish our work.
  2. Take an after dinner walk: We have an energetic puppy that requires at least two walks a day.  Taking these walks together allows the older kids a chance to participate in our nature walks.  Additionally, walking as a group increases our visibility and gives us parents a chance to reinforce the rules for safely enjoying outdoor activities at dusk. 
  3. Play shadow tag: Shadow tag is a simple rendition of backyard tag best enjoyed as the sun begins to set.  The "it" tags other players out by stepping on their shadow.  The last player to be tagged is "it" in the next round.
  4. Play flashlight tag: As it gets darker, a game of flashlight tag can be really fun.  Whoever is "it" has a large enough flashlight to spot other players.  Players hide in a predetermined area, then the "it" tries to find them by shining the flashlight into hiding spots in the yard. 
  5. Draw with glow in the dark chalk: Glow in the dark chalk can be purchased or made with simple ingredients.  Homemade chalk is made from a mixture of water and plaster of paris then colored with tempura paint.  Glow in the dark tempura paint can be used for colorful, glowing chalk.  Sidewalk art can begin at dusk, then be sure to check back as the sun sets to see your art work begin to glow.
  6. Blow glowing bubbles: As much as kids love blowing bubbles, nothing is more exciting than bubbles that glow in the dark.  Empty a few glow sticks into bubble solution for the desired effect.
  7. Play with glow sticks: parents of smaller children may understandably have reservations about opening up glow sticks or using other glow in the dark craft materials.  Glow sticks on their own can be tons of fun as the sun sets.  Hide glow sticks in the garden and have kids find them.  Or just let kids dance around wearing glow necklaces and bracelets, putting on a light show.
  8. Search for noctournal animals: Even suburban backyards are filled with animal life both day and night.  As the sun begins to set, look and listen for noctournal animals that you may not see at other times of the day.  Bats, racoons, and owls can often be spotted if you're looking for them.
  9. Looks for fall's constellations: Probably because of the silly name, I remember looking up every November to find Cassiopeia.  Depending on where you are and when you look, the night sky is ever changing providing an ongoing invitation to enjoy the stary show.
  10. Eat breakfast outside: If an evening packed with organized activities keeps you out of the backyard, start the next day with breakfast outside.  A morning dose of vitamin D will help to wake everyone up and increase alertness for the day ahead.

Remember to always dress appropriately for the weather.  My family and I all have our favorite hooded sweatshirts that do wonders to keep our core, head, and hands warm when tucked inside the front pocket.  It is also essential to kee feet warm and dry in the fall months to maintain warmth.  My little guys love an excuse to wear rain boots to stomp in muddy puddles or piles of wet leaves. 

Also, take a few extra steps to ensure that children have a safe place to play.  As it gets darker, it is harder for cars to see small children, especially if they are dressed in dark colors.  We generally move to the backyard as the sun begins to set.  I installed Solar-Powered LED Path Lights along the back of our house a few months ago providing a little extra light to play.

Warm and safe, we can enjoy outside play all year long.  How do you inspire outside play despite fall's shorter days and cooler weather?

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