No Playgrounds? No Problem.

By UBC Camps

With playgrounds closed, and structured team sports suspended, families are enjoying more undirected time outdoors!

And, there is still lots of fun to be had that doesn’t involve playgrounds or structured team sports. In fact, unstructured play improves children’s mood, focus, motor skills and more, despite the many misconceptions that still surround this type of play.

Families can encourage unstructured play and exploration outside by:

Prompting children with an invitation.
  • Phrases such as “Let’s explore over here!”, or “That’s cool! What else can we find like that?”, are great examples of ways to spark children’s curiosity.
Delighting in the outdoors with them!
  • “Wow! It’s amazing how bugs can do that.”, or “I wonder how birds know how to weave nests?”, both encourage rudimentary scientific thought.
Regularly planning for play outside.
  • The more children are given opportunities for unstructured outdoor play, the easier it will become for them to engage themselves, and the more they will look forward to these exploratory moments.
Depending on where you live, and your child’s age and maturity, allowing older children to walk to a nearby green space on their own gives them increased responsibility and independence.
  • As you feel comfortable, leave the cell phones at home to ensure children are fully immersing themselves in the outdoors and not texting their friends. Instead, set a time using a watch for them to return by.
Walking together to a new park in your neighbourhood, or one you don’t usually spend time at.
  • New spaces to play can naturally create excitement!

There are also plenty of benefits to playing with your child(ren), and sometimes a little structure can be a helpful starting point. While common outdoor games such as frisbee, soccer, baseball and hopscotch are all great ideas, here are a couple no-equipment ideas for playing together:

Flower Chains:
  1. Using your fingernail, split a flower’s stem, leaving the bottom 1 cm of the stem intact.
  2. Thread another flower though the split stem. Repeat the process to create a chain of daisies as long or short as you like.
  3. To loop your flower chain, simply thread the first flower’s head through the last split stem.
Woodland Homes:
  1. Build homes for woodland gnomes (trolls, fairies, monsters, etc.), using sticks, leaves, seeds, berries, and other plant life.
Tic Tac Toe & Other “Paper” Games:
  1. Drawing in the dirt (or mud) can be enjoyable – and messy! Try any game you’d typically use a piece of paper and pencil for.

Enjoy this time together, and re-discover all local parks and green spaces have to offer!