When my son’s summer holidays started, I assumed it was the start of my 32/7 workday. I geared myself up for the constant clatter of “Mom, I’m bored” , “Mom , look at my bubble” or “Mom, Please give me a candy”. Top it with “Mom, Why can’t I see TV now, please please puh-lease!” In a nutshell I geared myself up for a constant Mom-call, resulting from the always-inside-boredom. And then suddenly I realized, “I don’t have to keep him inside always!” I also realized that outdoors teaches him more than all my educational CDs put together can!
The problem with most families is that there are no safe outdoors anymore where a child could be left alone. An outdoor time for the kid, invariably translates into outdoor time for one of the parent too. And time, as we learn after growing up, is indeed precious. Not, however, more precious than our little ones. A five year old can reasonably venture out himself for some time in a traffic-less, crime-free area if he has had been given requisite training. If that is not possible, however, you can use the imposed outdoor time for yourself : walk in the park while he plays in the playground, read a magazine while he climbs the tree over your bench, paint your nails while he catches the butterflies. The point is, you can find the time if you believe it is important enough for your child.
Is it important enough? Can catching butterflies be at par with learning numbers? Can climbing trees be as helpful as learning phonics? My answer is NO. It is not equal, but in fact much more important than the academics. What better way to instill the qualities of observation and concentration than watching insects and butterflies? Outdoors provide unlimited opportunities for the alert mind to capture. An alert parent can use these opportunities aplenty. Even if the child is playing alone, the time that seems to us as ‘wasted’ is actually being used by her active little mind in thousands of ways. While indoor teaching is quite uni-dimensional, life outside requires each and every sense to be used. Even with the advent of multimedia in schools and homes, it essentially remains an exercise of eyes, ears and an often dormant mind. A park, in contrast, exercises the sense of touch and smell, sight and sound, mind and soul.
Another favorite outdoor activity for kids his age remains sand play. Do invest in a good set of beach toys. The essentials include a big bucket to hold sand, different size and shapes of moulds, sieve to sift the sand, a spatula and a fork. While any outdoor activity presents innumerable opportunities to teach, let me pick sand play as an example of how an alert and involved parent can use sand play to help his child physically, cognitively and socially.
- Lets a child manipulate sand in multiple ways – to collect, sift , wet, pack, throw, drop and mold.
- Guides a child to make mountains, tunnels, flyovers etc. Encourages creativity.
- Explains the properties of sand. The difference between dry and wet sand, their feel and their weight.
- Allows other kids to share their toys, ensures peaceful group play.
- Explains the child what he is doing using a variety of words, increasing the child's vocabulary and expressiveness.
On days that are excessive rainy or cold, or when you are a bit too busy, an indoor sand box comes handy. Make sure the sand used is hygienic, dry and well-covered when not in use.
Once in a while, you might want to take your child to a special trip. Take her fishing, camping, mountain climbing or river-rafting. Besides education, You will give her an experience that will have much more impact than a hundred trips to mall. I am not even mentioning the effect it would have on the bond that you share with her. I myself have a very poor memory , and hardly remember my early days. However, among the very few images that I do remember, is when my father used to take me and my brother swimming in the river Narmada on his Bajaj scooter. Though I was only 5 years old then, I remember the whole experience as if it happened yesterday. I remember the sight of papa swimming against the river and feeling secure in his arms, I remember the odd treats he got us from the vendors sitting on the ghaats, and I remember the half an hour ride on the scooter. It is my only vivid and clear memory from my early years, and I can’t thank my dad enough for taking the pains to give it to me.
Could a little discomfort and some extra effort stop me from giving my children equally exciting memories?