In the past, being outdoors meant play and fun for most kids. For parents, keeping their children indoors was often difficult to accomplish, as there was little for young kids to do when confined to the house. Today, this has changed significantly because courtesy of electronics such as video games and computers, there are more interesting and exciting things that are specifically indoor activities. As a result, it can be hard for parents to encourage their kids to go outside and play. This change has had a negative impact on children, as kids are less active and increasingly more overweight than in the past. In addition, kids who predominantly stay indoors are not receiving the health benefits that come from the sun and are losing their interest in and appreciation of nature. For this reason, parents need to take steps to get their kids out of the house and out in the sun and in the grass to play.
Set Limits on Video Game, Computer, and TV Time
One of the first things that a parent will need to do is set boundaries and limit their child or children’s access to technology. Technological devices such as video games are one of the biggest examples. Parents should expect that this will be met with some resistance, but when handled correctly, it could result in children playing more frequently outside. One way to limit video game time is to make rules that video games may only be played once or twice weekly for several hours at a time. This will likely be easiest in homes that have only recently purchased a gaming system. Another, easier option is to exchange time. For every hour or half-hour that a child plays a video game or watches television, they must spend an equal amount of time outside.
- How to Get Your Kids Outdoors
- Off the Couch
- How to Motivate Your Child to Get Off the Couch
- Can Spending Too Much Time Playing Video Games Hurt My Child?
- Kids and Video Games: Are You a Concerned Parent?
- Limit Screen Time (PDF)
- Reduce Screen Time and Get Active
Create a Fun and Safe Space for Kids to Play
Parents can create a safe environment where their children can play without restriction. These safe environments can be made in backyards, patios, or balconies and should be appropriately fenced from the street. This can eliminate a certain amount of fear of strangers and other potential threats. Place various toys around designated areas in the yard so that there are a variety of activities for kids to enjoy. The games should be kid-friendly and enticing enough to encourage children to go outside and play. Parents should also remove any plants that could prove harmful to their children or make certain that their kids know what to avoid while playing.
- Create an Outside Exploration Area in Your Yard for Kids
- A Parents Guide to Nature Play (PDF)
- Create an Outdoor Exploration Area in Your Yard
- 20 Backyard Play Space Ideas for Kids
Plan a Nature Scavenger Hunt
Appeal to kids’ curiosity by planning a nature scavenger hunt. Scavenger hunts can be tailored to the age of the children and their abilities. Nature hunts should ideally send kids in search of things that are found only in nature, such as a certain type of leaf or flowers in specific colors.
- Go Out and Play! Activities for You and Your Child (PDF)
- Photography Scavenger Hunt (PDF)
- Explore with a Backyard Scavenger Hunt
- Nature Trail Scavenger Hunt (PDF)
- Get Wild With Your Child on a Nature Scavenger Hunt
- Nature Scavenger Hunt (PDF)
Get Outside as a Family
Get involved as a family and turn outdoor time into family time. Parents can schedule daily evening walks or bicycle rides with their kids. Trips can be around the neighborhood or to an area park. On weekends, families can plan excursions that take them outside of the home. An example of a weekend trip may be a trip to the beach, camping, or hiking.
Go Out at Night
Going outside to play doesn’t only have to happen during the day. Kids will find it both fun and exciting to grab their blankets and pitch a tent right in the comfort and safety of their own backyard. This is an activity that kids can enjoy even during the week and at any time during the year. Activities include telling scary stories, going on a nighttime bug hunt, and viewing the stars in the sky on a clear night. In fact, there are a number of fun and educational activities for kids camping at home.
- Camp Out in the Backyard
- Ten Backyard Camping Activities
- Camping Under the Stars in Your Backyard
- Backyard Camping
- How (Not) to Go Camping With Kids
Kids often enjoy getting dirty, which is something that they shouldn’t do in the house. In addition, many kids also enjoy the idea of helping their parents create a garden that they can care for and watch grow. Let kids decide what type of garden they would like to create, such as a vegetable or flower garden, and set aside an area for that purpose. One of the best things about gardening with children is that they will look forward to going out daily in order to water and otherwise care for their garden. In addition, gardening at an early age can help develop a lifelong interest.