I don’t remember much from my early childhood years, but I remember the honeysuckle that I’d squeeze between my lips for a sweet taste while playing with my cousins. It grew along the side of my parent’s home in the spring and summer. I also remember playing princesses under my neighbor’s large backyard tree, getting stung by bees as I ran through the grass barefoot, and camping under the stars in the bed of my dad’s pickup truck. As I think about it, most of my favorite childhood memories involve playing outside in some capacity. These memories motivate me to get my kids playing outside more often.
I’d love for my kids to experience those same kinds of memories. Memories of playing under the hot sun until you are dying for a drink or a popsicle. Of wandering through the trees and jumping off from large boulders or tree trunks. Even falling out of trees. Every kid should experience falling out of a tree at least once in their life. In a world dominated by screens, it can feel impossible to motivate your kids to get outside.
Benefits for kids playing outside
The positive effects of kids playing outside are huge. Playing outside can do the following:
- Promote physically active play. No TV here. Your kids will move more when they are outdoors.
- Help prevent weight gain.
- Encourage better sleep.
- Give your kids their daily dose of Vitamin D.
- Encourage a love of nature.
- Get your child more in touch with the amazing things their body can do. From jumping to climbing and lifting things. Kids learn to move their bodies in amazing ways while playing outdoors.
- Help improve your child’s mood.
- Ease stress.
- Encourage friendships.
It’s easy to see that getting your kids to play outside can benefit them in ways they don’t even realize. But, promoting outdoor play can feel more difficult than it seems. Here are some tips to get your kids happily playing in the great outdoors.
Tips to get you kids playing outside
Need help pushing junior out the door? Try these tips.
Make it unstructured for kids playing outside
You take your kids to soccer practice several times as week. It’s outdoors and your kids are having fun. Unfortunately, it’s not the same as unstructured outdoor play. There is something about just letting your kids play outside without an adult telling them what to do. Yes, soccer practice is good. But find time each week, daily if possible, to let your child go outside and play without a plan of what they’ll do.
Invite a friend
No one likes to play alone. Even as adults, we invite our friends to participate in our fun plans. Have your child invite a friend over to play and then let them play outdoors. It’s a great way to strengthen friendships and they’ll have a lot of fun too.
Set the example
If you are always on your phone or watching TV, guess what your child will want to do? Set the example by going outside. Sit and read under your favorite tree. Go hiking or walking with a friend. The more your kids see you outside, the more they’ll go outside too.
Go outside as a family
Have you ever tried sending your kids outside to play by themselves? I have and it doesn’t really work. I’m much more successful at getting my kids outdoors if I go with them. We love to go on short walks or bike rides together as a family after dinner. Sometimes I’ll even just pull up a chair while my kids play in our sandbox or in the front yard. They love showing off what they are doing to me.
Involve your dog or a family pet
Your family pet might just be the key to getting your kids outside. Dogs need to be walked and your kids will love helping take care of a beloved pet.
Invest in outdoor toys for kids
One big purchase our family saved for was a swing set and sandbox. It wasn’t easy to set aside that money, but it has made all the difference in encouraging my kids to play outdoors. My daughter can spend hours making “cookies” in the sandbox, but all of my kids will go out to swing or go down the slide. If you can’t afford a swing set or outdoor toys, go and find some. Most local parks are full of fun and exciting outdoor toys. A nice bonus is that your kids might even make some friends while at the park.
Explore someplace new
No matter where you live, there are exciting things to do and see. Even if you’ve lived in a place your entire life and you’ve been to all the local attractions, you child probably hasn’t. Get outside to explore someplace new. Take a hike. Find a walking trail. Visit a nearby lake or river. Help your child fall in love with the place they live.
Be okay with dirt
Outdoor play is messy. Tell yourself now that it’s more important for your kids to play outside than it is for them to stay clean. Let them get muddy. Expect them to lose socks in the dirt. Dirt can wash off but the memories will last forever. Tell yourself now that it’s more important for your kids to play outside than it is for them to stay clean.
Set limits on screen time to get kids playing outside
When I let my kids have screen time, no amount of begging will convince them to go outside. It’s just a battle I know I won’t win. But, if I set clear limits on the amount of time my kids can play on a screen, then it naturally opens up time for other activities. Like playing outdoors. Work with your kids to establish some limits on the amount of screen time they have. And take advantage of the extra time to go outdoors as a family to play.
I love the memories I made playing outside as a kid. They are experiences I’d love to recreate with my own children. You can help your kids form similar memories as kids playing outside. How do you get your kids to go outside and play?
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