These days, getting your kids to put down their electronic devices and spend some time outside can feel like an uphill battle. There are many proven benefits of encouraging your kids to go outside, including increased creativity and social skills. But screen time is often far more appealing to kids than venturing into the great outdoors.
You probably won’t be able to convince your kids to go outside by citing research or explaining the developmental benefits of fresh air and outdoor play. You can, however, compete for their attention with some incentivization. To get your kids excited about going outside, you can buy a bounce house or other outdoor toys, encourage social connections during outdoor play and take steps to create an environment that’s fun and safe for your kids.
Here are some other tips to get your kids playing outside more:
Pencil it in
You might want your kids to go outdoors on their own without any reminders, but turning outdoor time into a habit doesn’t happen overnight. At first, you might find yourself nagging your children about enjoying the backyard.
To make it easier on everyone, you might find it useful to schedule an hour every day that is to be spent outside. If your kids have tablets, phones or e-readers, you can set parental controls that lock the device during certain times of the day. Make sure your kids know that, during your one hour of outdoor time, screens are off limits.
Make it a family thing
Trying to convince your kids that they should go outside while you stay indoors and scroll through your smartphone is a pretty hard sell. Go outside with your kids and spend some time away from electronics for a while. One of the most powerful ways you can encourage your kids to spend time in the backyard is by being a good example to them.
Going outside is beneficial for adults in much the same way as it is for kids. Making outside time part of your routine might help you feel more energetic and less stressed. That’s good for you, regardless of your age.
Dress for the occasion
You may have told your kids time and again to keep their clothes clean when they’re outside, but some messes are simply inevitable. When you start to worry about your kids getting dirty outside, they might be so worried about keeping themselves tidy that they don’t have as much fun. Make sure your kids have a few clothing items that are fair game for climbing trees, playing in the dirt or running through a sprinkler. Giving your kids more freedom makes it a lot more fun for them to play in the backyard.
Socialization is crucial to the healthy development of children, and what better place to play with friends than outside? Encourage them to invite a few friends over. If the weather is favorable, consider hosting a barbecue or al fresco dinner party so that you and some other parents can enjoy conversation and good food while keeping an eye on your kids while they play.
Try a sensory bin
One of the best ways to get your kids outside is to entice them with a sensory activity. Sensory activities are all about engaging kids with textures that promote cognitive development. There are many different ingredients that are used in sensory bins, including sand, rice, jello or even just water. It’s easy to make sensory bins at home with items you have around the house. Look up a few different recipes to try out and let your kids go crazy.
Add outdoor toys and games
Giving your kids something to look forward to when they play outside is a great thing. Outdoor toys, games and play structures are an excellent way to encourage kids to move around and explore. If you’re going to invest in an outdoor toy, consider a bounce house. You can buy a smaller bounce house designed to accommodate just a few kids at a time. It won’t take up a ton of space in your yard.
The Little Tikes Jump ‘N Slide, for example, has a 7-by-7-foot bounce area, so it’s big enough for your kids to spread out. It also fits in small spaces in your backyard.
Wrapping this up
What are you waiting for? Take some steps to make time outside less of a chore for your kids and more of a fun, social experience. By putting some effort in, you can get your kids to spend more of their time outside and less of their time glued to their screens. After a few weeks, you might even find you’re foregoing some time on your phone or computer in favor of an hour or two enjoying the outdoors.