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Day 6: The benefits of unstructured, child-directed outdoor play and a nature riddle

Outdoor activity ideas and inspiration

From mid-March to the end of May 2020, Harpswell Heritage Land Trust (HHLT) posted a simple outdoor activity idea and nature riddle for kids every weekday. Some days we also posted other resources, like downloadable chapters of the Junior Ranger Activity Book.

Created to support parents who found themselves homeschooling during the COVID-19 pandemic, these activity ideas are a great jumping off point for any outdoor adventure. Click here for a list with links to all 50 activity ideas.

Nature riddle

Some of the wild birds you see regularly in Maine are capable of mimicking human speech. Can you name one? Click here for an article about one of these birds.

The benefits of unstructured, child-directed outdoor play

Unstructured free play is good for kids’ brains and bodies. These days there is a sometimes overwhelming flood of resources available to parents who find themselves in the position of accidentally homeschooling, which makes this a good time to remind ourselves of the benefits of play.

As Richard Louv writes in a forward to the book, “In Balanced and Barefoot, Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist, makes a passionate case that nature play is necessary for a truly balanced childhood…Manageable risk and independent, imaginative play are essential not only to physical health but to the development of self-directed young minds.”

Sending the kids outdoors to play is good for them. Unstructured, child-directed play helps children develop problem-solving skills, a healthy relationship to risk-taking, imagination and social skills. It helps them build strong muscles, a sense of balance and an awareness of their bodies in the world. It helps them learn how to entertain themselves.

So on this snowy day, or on any day, send the kids outdoors into the backyard by themselves and enjoy some peace and quiet!

Click here to read a 2019 article written for our website about play.