10 Ways to Encourage Your Kids to Play Outside
By: Kayla Brown
With children spending more and more time in front of TV screens, phones and tablets, it seems difficult to get them excited about the good ol' outdoors. But it's important to put outdoor play on your list of daily priorities. The American Academy of Pediatrics states, "Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children and youth". So just how will you get your kids to spend more time outdoors than indoors? We hope that these 10 tips will help your family take a step back from your busy lifestyles to enjoy nature and have more time to play!
1. Go on a photo safari
This activity proves that there can be a happy balance between nature and electronics. Use your family camera or camera phone (be aware that texting may be a distraction if using a phone) and head to your local park or backyard. Create a list of 10 things you guys must take a picture of, and spend the day birdwatching and plant exploring. For extra incentive, try throwing in a prize at the end if they can get pictures of everything on the list within a certain amount of time.
2. Crafty Collector
What is a child’s favorite activity? Collecting things! Gather items like pinecones, rocks, flowers, etc. for DIY craft projects.
3. Plant a garden
All children can benefit from the responsibility of working in a garden. Whether it’s planting, pulling weeds, or harvesting vegetables, your kids will really feel valued as they watch the fruits, veggies or herbs grow.
4. Blindfold walk
Go on a guided “blindfold walk” with your kids and encourage them to use his or hers sound and touch rather than sight. Have them touch objects and bring them around a variety of sounds – and even smells. Afterwards, discuss some of the less obvious things they noticed in the world around them!
5. Nontraditional exercise
Gather the kids together and try out an activity that is exercise in disguise. Bike riding, hiking, swimming and even simple yoga moves on the lawn can be fun and healthy. Reward your kids with a surprise prize for reaching their goals at the end of the activity – something that motivates them to continue the routine, like a new helmet for their bike or a water bottle with their favorite character.
6. “Internet is out”
This one is a bit sneaky, but if you’re really having trouble getting your kids to break away from the phones and tablets lately, disconnect the cable modem and blame the internet company for the outage. Then, take the family out to the park and enjoy nature together for a couple of hours.
7. Star gaze
Check out your local observatory and planetarium for a more structured tour, or set out to observe from your own backyard in the early morning or evening. Set up a blanket, binoculars or a telescope and enjoy! You don’t have to be an expert to stargaze, and you can learn right along with them.
8. Have a family picnic
Pack a nutritious lunch and let your kids help! Eat in your backyard or neighborhood park and bring a ball, jump rope, or even a board game.
When I was a kid, my dad built a fire pit in our backyard and it became the spot for scary stories, sing-alongs, s’mores and toasted marshmallows. If you practice good safety habits and be sure to supervise all campfire activities, a bonfire is a guaranteed way to create family memories that will last a lifetime.
10. Take Baby Steps
Don’t push yourself or your kids too hard. The key to getting them to want to play outside more is making their outdoor experiences effortlessly fun. Start out small. Begin with walks in the park and trips to the playground. Then, gradually work your way up to longer, more challenging experiences. It’s important to remember that what’s familiar and easy to you, may be intimidating to your kids. Just because you climbed trees and hiked miles as a kid, doesn’t mean those activities will be as attractive to your children today. It’s up to us to be patient, understanding and make new experiences fun!
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