Wondering how to celebrate the special dads in your child’s life this Father’s Day? This year, give dad the gift of experiences together in nature! Giving grown-ups the chance to play and spend time in nature with kids is a super way to gift all of the health and wellness benefits of time outdoors, spark joy, and create playful family memories together. In this activity we share ideas for how to turn an ordinary jar into an outdoor gift for dad that keeps on giving long after Father's Day ends.
This activity is featured in our June Activity Calendar. If you do not yet have your free copy of the calendar, get it here.
Gather your materials: Grab a jar or other container with a lid and a pen or marker. Cut a piece of paper into small strips.
Make a Father’s Day Jar! Show kids your jar or container and ask, "Do you know what this is?" Take answers, then let them know it is no ordinary jar...it is a Father’s Day Jar. This is a special holder for all of the ways we can spend time outside with dad and help him feel happy. Offer a few art materials (e.g. paper, markers or crayons, tape, objects from nature) and invite kids to decorate the jar for dad. What colors and shapes might dad like?
Brainstorm and fill the jar: Talk with kids to brainstorm outdoor activities you could do with dad to make him happy. Write ideas down on slips of paper and fill your jar with them. Here are some to start with:
Visit a favorite outdoor spot. You can even make a familiar spot special by visiting early in the morning and bringing a breakfast. Or, going on an evening hike there (maybe even with a little treat to enjoy!).
Brainstorm the activities that make dad smile, and generate ideas for how to do more of those things together!
You can also brainstorm with kids what they love and appreciate most about dad. Write your compliments and appreciations down on your slips of paper and add them to the jar. Dad can enjoy reading them whenever he needs a little boost of joy.
Give to Dad: Present dad with your Father’s Day Jar and explain that it is filled with ways that you can spend time together outdoors as a family. When dad is ready to redeem his gifts, he can choose one of the outdoor activities or pull a surprise idea out of the jar.
Why is this activity great for kids?
Thinking about another person and what they would enjoy is a super way to help kids get hooked on kindness and boost empathy.Celebratory moments like Father’s Day are a brilliant and joyful way to teach your children more about what you value. And when you incorporate nature and outdoor play into celebrations you’re letting your family know that the natural world, and connecting with it, is important—so important it is associated with the things and people you cherish most.
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At the end of the day, there is nothing more important than our kids’ health. From our perspective, children cannot enjoy good health without an active lifestyle that incorporates regular, physical activity as well as time spent in nature. And, we can only influence how they use their time for a short part of their lives. If we really want to ensure their wellness for the long haul, we need to get our kids hooked on being active outdoors.
Two bits of good news: little kids naturally want to be physically active, and they love to be outdoors. So, the challenge we face is how to make active time outdoors a priority in our lives and how to teach our kids to do the same. Understandably, this is increasingly challenging in a culture that imposes so many schedules and structures around kids time. And it is all the more important when kids spend the majority of their waking hours indoors, staring at a screen, or living in communities in which the green spaces are fewer and more restricted than ever before.
Why does it matter?
Research in the past 25 years has confirmed a link between physical activity that takes place outdoors and positive health outcomes. Also, it has drawn an association between an indoor, sedentary lifestyle and negative health consequences. For young children, time to play, ramble and explore outdoors leads to the most extensive and lasting benefits—more than adult-led, structured outdoor activities like organized sports.
Perhaps the two most common issues in children’s health to which a lack of outdoor, physical activity contribute are childhood obesity and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD]). Beyond the millions of overweight children, obesity rates have doubled for children (ages 6-11) and tripled for adolescents (ages 12-19) in just two decades. The number of children diagnosed with and medicated for ADHD continues to rise, and ADHD results in significant impairment to children socially and academically.
Studies have shown that lifestyles learned as children are much more likely to stay with a person into adulthood. For example, 70% of teens who are obese grow up to be obese adults. On the flip side, if physical activities and time spent outdoors are a family priority, they will provide children and parents with a strong foundation for a lifetime of health.
What is Empathy?
Simply put, empathy is the ability to think and care about the feelings and needs of others. The good news is, the more we study, it appears that children are empathetic by nature. All we need to do is nurture it in them—that of course is now always easy. Even though young children are simply working on gaining control over their emotions and won’t learn to really think about their emotions and the cause and effect of their behavior on others until their school years, they can start to develop the foundation for empathy much earlier. Taking actions (and watching adults take actions) that benefit other people, caring for animals and their environment and even just wondering how other people or creatures are feeling helps build both positive habits and a strong base for the development of empathy.
Why does it matter?
Empathy is at the root of what psychologists call “pro-social” behavior—behavior that people must develop in order to develop a conscience, build close relationships, maintain friendships, and develop strong communities. Empathy also helps kids avoid bullying, one of the most worrisome social challenges young kids face. Being able to think and feel for others can keep kids from becoming either bully or victim and equip them to stand up for others who are bullied. Imagine if all kids had such tools!