Any parent today will know the struggle of trying to get your little one to do something else with their free time other than playing on the iPad or PlayStation. Kids today spend less time outdoors than any other generation, devoting only four to seven minutes to unstructured outdoor play per day while spending an average of seven and a half hours in front of electronic media.
As parents, we’re all guilty of spending time watching our favorite TV programs, playing on the best bingo sites and generally being a little too dependent on our technical gadgets. So it’s important to recognize our own relationship with screens, as we encourage our kids to get outside more often. Getting out and playing in nature is suggested by many researchers to be highly beneficial for children, for their development as well as their mental and physical health. But sadly, in this day and age of technology, the outdoors is something that our young ones aren’t enjoying enough of.
If you’re eager to get your kids into the habit of getting outdoors more often, here are 5 great ways to encourage them.
1) Place a Daily Limit on Screen Time
Enforcing a limit on daily screen time certainly isn’t always easy, especially if your kids are already in the habit of whiling away the hours on their favorite electronic devices. By enforcing a daily limit on screen time, you will push them to find other hobbies and interests, some of which will hopefully be based outdoors. Try explaining to your children why you are imposing a daily limit and writing down on paper or a whiteboard what times of the day they are allowed screen time, and what times of the day they are meant to enjoy doing something else. That way the rules are laid out clear for everyone.
2) Walk to School
Compared to children who are driven to school, children who walk are found to be more active overall through other physical activity sources such as organized sport and unstructured active play. It is of course also great exercise for both you and your children, and far better for the environment than driving in each and every day. If you are currently in the habit of always driving, but are within a reasonable walking distance, then maybe try to just walk every other day to start off with and gradually build yourself and your family up to walking every day. It is also a lovely opportunity for you and your children to spend more time with one another before the day starts and after the day ends.
3) Buy or Make Some Outdoor Play Equipment
Your children will probably be a lot more interested in playing outdoors if you have some great outdoor toys and outdoor play equipment for them. Swings, slides, balls, frisbees, skipping ropes and sand pits are all popular favorites, but of course these can get pretty expensive. A lot of the time you can find bargains in thrift stores, second-hand shops and online. Or, if you’re good at DIY, why not make your own outdoor play equipment to save on expense. Even just two laundry stands put together, with an old bed sheet thrown over the top, makes a brilliant outdoor play tent.
4) Help Them to Plant Up Their Own Garden
Getting your little ones involved in gardening is a great way to get them outdoors, teach them where their food comes from and how to grow their own. Try growing easy things at first, such as tomatoes, carrots and sunflowers. Perhaps later on, you could try to grow your own pumpkin in time for Halloween one year.
If you don’t have a large garden, there are still plenty of things you can grow in a couple of reasonably sized plant plots, or even just in a window basket. It’s also often possible to rent out local allotment plots cheaply, which would give you and the family plenty of opportunity to spend some quality time with one another outdoors.
5) Host Outdoor Parties and Play Dates
If you have a good-sized garden, then a really fun way to encourage your kids to get outdoors more is through hosting garden parties and play dates. You can give them games to play, such as “hide and seek” or “stuck in the mud”, let them build their own dens, play ball games, and then have a tasty picnic lunch on the lawn. Kids are generally much more likely to enjoy playing outside if they have friends to keep them company, and other parents will surely thank you for it!
There are plenty of ways to encourage your little ones to get outdoors more often. Breaking old habits isn’t always easy, but as there are so many great benefits of spending time outdoors, it will without a doubt be well worth it in the end.