As stay-at-home orders persist in many parts of the country, people are getting more than a little antsy cooped up inside their homes. This makes outdoor activities a great way to get a change of scenery.

It’s so hard to keep kids active and get them outdoors enough right now when their friends, recess and organized sports have all been taken away. Yet, the research on the importance of nature and the outdoors is clear – it provides huge benefits for mental, emotional and physical health for kids as well as adults.

But since we’re in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, not all outdoor activities get a blanket green light. There are safe outdoor activities and there are ones that, unfortunately, you can’t really engage in at the moment. It all comes down to social distancing, or keeping the recommended minimum of six feet away from others who live outside your household.

This is an important tenet of COVID-19 prevention, since the risk of the coronavirus transmission seems to be the highest when people are in sustained, close contact with each other, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This makes it easier for respiratory droplets from a person who is sick to make their way into a healthy person’s nose or mouth, which can infect them too. The unfortunate part is that this is not the only way you can contract the virus, which is why you must be super-careful about sanitizing high-touch surfaces as well.

Safe outdoor activities during this pandemic are those that allow for social distancing, and don’t go against any orders in your particular area to do them. For instance, if you live in an area where non-essential travel is advised against, it wouldn’t be a good idea to drive to an outdoor space. Restrictions on movement are also thought out to help prevent the spread of disease from high-case areas. So activities that don’t pass muster right now include most of the outdoor games for kids.

This doesn’t mean that you have to stay indoors though. Depending on your area, there are likely some outdoor activities you can safely participate in, which can help give you and your family much-needed mental reset.

Here are 5 outdoor fun activities for kids to take advantage in these times:

Go geocaching

A gigantic outdoor treasure hunt with millions of prize-filled containers hidden around the world – geocaching is a fantastic way to get the family outside, discover new sites in your town, and teach kids about navigation. Just create a free account on geocaching.com, scan the map for geocaches near you and use your smartphone GPS to search for these hidden treasures, using the coordinates provided. Once you discover the cache, sign and date the logbook, and note your score online. It’s fine to take the prize in the cache as long as you leave behind something of equal or greater value for the next geo-cachers to discover.

Explore parks safely

Stick near your home and see how many parks you can walk to. Visit a favorite one in your neighborhood and explore a new part of it with your family. This is the perfect time to seek out less-travelled side trails. Even though playground equipment is off-limits, kids can climb trees or build forts out of branches.

Play outside

Remember the sheer joy of simply playing outside when you were a kid? Well now you can mimic that with some unstructured time outside. You can run around with your pet, since it may also need to let go off some pent up energy. Going outside is a great way to calm your mind, center yourself and practice gratefulness with the whole family.

Or you could gather another family in the safe zone of your neighborhood and head to your nearest field or park for a friendly game of parent-versus-kids soccer. With children of different ages and abilities and parents of varying levels of fitness and rust, you can expect lots of laughs and likely a few whiffs – more so from the parents than the kids ideally.

Create a family habit

You could start the habit of going for a morning walk along with your family before beginning your day of work or school. Even though you might have to face some grumbling in the beginning, it will get you all out of the house together every day while the streets are still quiet. Soon, it will become a part of all of your daily routines. You could also try a family bike ride after diner as a way to wind up the day.

Stargazing

Sure, you could look at a night-sky app on your phone, but you know that your kids will enjoy it more if you buy a real star chart and learn which constellations are visible in your area in this time of the year. Once you get acquainted with a few, pack up a bunch of blankets after dinner on a weekend along with a thermos of hot chocolate and drive to a spot far away from the city lights in order to give you all a clear view of the sky. Your kids will be so excited about the night time road trip and they’ll love trying to locate each celestial body, not to mention any shooting star you might see, if you’re lucky enough!

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