So, it’s a beautiful day outside and there is your little one sitting on the couch watching TV or playing on their latest technological gadget. How do you change this habit? How do you incorporate outdoor play into your busy routine? How do you encourage your kid to get outside to when they clearly don’t want to?
Of course parents want what is best for their children. The world is a much different place now to what it was 30 years ago, our world is changing more quickly than ever before. Years ago we would not need to encourage parents to send their children outside to play, it was common practice – “be home before dinner time”. But these days children are spending anywhere from 40 and 60 hours per week attached to electronic equipment, combine this with the balance of their time scheduled between school, sports and other extracurricular activities, it is easy for early childcare experts to see the negative effects of such lifestyles. This includes reduced cognitive development as a result of overly structured activities that do not stimulate problem solving and creativity, to childhood obesity and reduced muscle development and balance.
At Playground Princess we understand everyone has different schedules, budgets and lifestyles, so the following are just a few ideas to incorporate more outdoor play into your routine. Some ideas will work for some families and not so for others, so make notes of what will be most beneficial to your family as we explore ways to get your kids outside – when they don’t want to!
- Create a child friendly backyard – garden, sandpit, cubby house, basketball / netball ring, tunnels, pool, swings, slide, climbing equipment, trampoline, outdoor kitchen
- Design a keepsake area – in this area they can keep their nature finds and treasures (i.e.: seashells or nature art)
- Grab some tools they can explore with – butterfly net, magnifying glass, compass
- Let them be independent – stay within a safe distance, but let them choose their own adventure
- Incorporate more walking / bike riding time – ditch the car and walk to the shops / post office / library
- Visit and learn about local landmarks
- Take advantage of natural resources in your area – go fishing, canoeing or kayaking
- If it rains, don’t stay indoors and hide go dance in the rain and jump in muddy puddles
- Put out bird feeders or nesting boxes for little wildlife – this allows your little one to learn about nature
- Hold ‘survivor’ or ‘olympic’ challenges in the backyard and let the whole family compete for prizes
- Camp under the stars in your backyard
- Have a breakfast or lunch picnic outdoors instead of at the table inside
- Have a vegetable garden – get your children involved in planting and maintaining the plants as they grow. You can even build fun projects such as a ‘bean teepee’ (bean vines grown up long poles tied together) that your kids can use as an outdoor play space.
- If you don’t have a lot of space, create a fairy garden or have a planter box on your patio
- Institute a nature scavenger hunt – will keep your kids occupied and give them a sense of accomplishment when they’ve finished the quest.
- Get crafty – give your child a bucket and send them outside to collect items for an art project. Seeds, pine cones, rocks, flowers, leaves are all great items to collect.
- In summer, create a water park / water play area – turn on the hose and hand out buckets, sponges and toys and hours of outdoor fun will be had
- Only buy toys that have to be used outdoors – skipping ropes, balls, kites
- Team up with others – there is something about being outside in a group that makes children click into nature easier, so invite family, friends over and have fun!
Overall, our best tips for incorporating outdoor play is:
- Practice what you preach – it will be much easier for you to get your kids to stay active outdoors if they see you doing it too.
- Encourage freedom – it’s important that outdoor play time be unstructured, make it safe but let them use their imaginations
- Get them involved in the planning
These are just some of the things that have worked for my family. What little tricks do you have up your sleeve?