Getting Active In Nature: How To Stay Healthy And Active At Home

Child Playing In Water With Rain Boots
(Image credit: FamVeld)

With all this social distancing and quarantine life going on, most of us are finding ourselves at home a lot more these days – many are families with children. So how do you stay healthy and active while staying at home, especially when you have children who use up a lot of energy? You connect it to gardening, of course! Keep reading for tips and ideas on how to stay healthy and active at home – with kids.

Getting Active in Nature

Keeping kids active at home shouldn’t be hard. Get creative with fun games or learning activities to promote physical movement and tie into gardening or nature.

Here are some ideas for nature exercises and activities to get you started: 

  • Go on a nature walk. For this activity, you simply go for a walk around your backyard, through your neighborhood, or your garden. Talk about things that you see related to gardening or play nature “I Spy.” Another fun idea to go along with this is making nature bracelets. Simply take some masking tape, make a bracelet to go around your wrist with the sticky side out and, as you go on your walk, collect things to stick onto your bracelet. Young children especially enjoy this activity. It can include sticking things like small twigs, leaves, flowers or even dirt. 
  • Play garden games. Put a fun garden twist on classic games such as “Duck, Duck, Goose.” Instead of saying “duck, duck, goose,” use garden words. Examples include “seed, seed, sprout” or “grow, grow, flower.” Not only are these fun but will promote physical movement.
  • Relay races in the backyard. If you have multiple children or if other members of the family want to get involved, have a relay race. One way you can do this is to use wheelbarrows and have a wheelbarrow race. You can use real garden wheelbarrows or if you have enough family members, one person can hold the legs of the child up while they crawl with their arms This is a good way to burn up some extra energy while having fun.
  • Create a backyard digging station. Have an outdoor area set up as a digging station. Children of all ages, even adults, can enjoy this, as it can be adapted to fit the needs of whatever age using it. In an area filled with sand, soil, or dirt, add some age-appropriate gardening tools for kids, like miniature rakes and shovels (or similar on-hand items). These tools can help mimic skills that would be used in a garden. Of course, young children can just have this area to play while older children and adults can actually use this area for actual planting or planning a garden. 
  • Dance in the garden. Dance like nobody is watching (and if they are, that’s fine too!) A simple idea to help promote physical movement outdoors is to take music outside and just dance in the backyard. You can do freestyle, make up your own garden grooves, or do an actual dance but move to the beat! You can also come up with creative ways of moving with an educational aspect. A couple ideas include bee dancing and cricket jumping. You can talk about the importance of pollination and how bees play a role in this and move and dance using patterns the way bees move. See if you can jump as far as a cricket can, as they can jump up to 30 times their own body length. Measure how far that is, place a stick or rock there, and then jump and see how far you can jump. 
  • Create an obstacle course. Another fun idea is creating an obstacle course. This can be different for each family. You can come up with anything you want. Find everyday garden items or other things around the yard to include in the course. It is only limited by your imagination! An example can be laying a ladder down on the ground and having children step through rungs without touching them, pushing a well wheelbarrow or garden cart from one point to another, jumping or crawling through a hula hoop, crawling underneath a picnic table, balancing on a piece of wood or jumping over a stick, stopping to do a ball or beanbag toss, and so much more! This is also another great way to get out built-up energy. 
  • Yoga in the garden. For a more relaxing way to still be physically active, try garden yoga with kids. This is another activity where you can get creative and come up with your own ideas. Some poses can include things like pretending to be a tall tree, butterfly pose, imitating plant seed growth, or poses to represent different types of weather which help the garden grow. You can go online and buy books, cards, or posters with garden yoga poses specifically for children. You can also get ideas and make your own cards to use.

Connecting Good Health to Gardening

How can you incorporate health into these lessons as well? One way is to discuss healthy food choices and determine which of those can be grown in the garden. You can even choose a few to grow together at home in the family garden. 

Getting outside is a good source of Vitamin D, so get those kids outdoors and soaking up the sun! Of course, take proper precautions like wearing a sun hat, sunscreen, and protection from mosquitoes. Also, remember to always wash your hands after coming indoors, handling dirt or garden creatures, and before meals. 

Gardening is an activity improves mental health too. Emotional well-being is just as important as physical health, so there's no reason not to get outdoors and put those hands into the dirt! It's also been said to boost the immune system and who doesn’t need that right now?