It’s not always easy to get kids to turn off the computer or put down the game controller. So how do you get your kids to play outside? Here are a few tried-and-true strategies from experts like Richard Louv, Scott Sampson and Angela Hanscom that will actually help get them off the couch and out the back door.
If your kids are not going outside, nudge them to read, draw, or play with their favorite toy outdoors in the fresh air. This builds on behavior that they already enjoy. Being in an outdoor environment is an entirely different experience and will encourage them to play in a new way.
Often times kids really just want to spend time with their parents and other loved ones. Schedule a specific activity you can all participate in together. Taking walks, having picnics, and making park visits together are all great ways to incorporate Mother Nature into your family routine.
Think about ways you can add some variety to your outdoor time. Colorado is home to a multitude of different outdoor spaces and environments. Spend time in your yard and visiting your local park, but also consider exploring a bit farther–farms, forests, mountains, and lakes. This gives kids different ways to experience and think about the outdoors. The same place can be completely transformed during different parts of the year or even different times of the day.
Spending time outdoors shouldn’t be a solitary art. Making it a social experience makes it that much more fun. Kids inspire other kids. If play dates are part of your lifestyle, think about scheduling a playdate for an activity that can be done outdoors. Adding a friend to the mix might be just the nudge a kid needs to inspire their inner adventurer to come out. This strategy is especially effective with older kids.
Do we worry too much about the safety of our kids? When you look at the cold hard facts, the answer is an unquestionable yes. In fact, it’s never been a safer time to be a kid playing outside in America. For instance, abduction by a stranger has decreased by 51% since 1997. Missing persons cases have gone down by 40%. Motor vehicle deaths have dropped by 43%. The number of youths who were victims of violent crimes have plummeted by 59% since 1994. Things are better and safer for this generation of kids.
Also, consider that playing outdoors makes for a more capable, knowledgeable, and self-sufficient kid. And an independent kid equals a safer kid. Start your kid’s outdoor independence by taking small steps, like playing in the backyard while you observe them. Before you know it, they’ll be running all over the neighborhood, just like you used to do.
When it comes to raising a child, many parents and caregivers face the same challenges and concerns you do. Reach out to neighbors and friends for support. Turn your neighborhood into a community that embraces the importance of outdoor play. If we all spend a little more time outdoors in our neighborhoods, we’ll make more friends, know more about one another, and create communities that parents and kids feel comfortable in. It’s a simple idea that will benefit everyone.
A lot of parents feel that it’s their job to be their Chief Entertainment Officer and provide a never-ending set of activities for their kids. Instead, try embracing boredom. Something as simple as daydreaming unlocks kids’ imaginations and leads them to invent wonderful and complex play ideas. Encourage your child to solve their own dilemma. They will become more independent and creative as a result.
We love our kids and don’t want to miss out on important moments with them. But sometimes the best thing you can do for them is to give them some space. In those moments of freedom and independence, incredible things happen. Consider creating places just for them. Somewhere as simple as a garden space in the backyard or a dirt pile or sandbox could do the trick.
Set a simple goal. Plan for one hour of outdoor playtime each day for your kids. Not only will they look forward to it, you’ll start to see happier and healthier kids in no time. Because kids really do grow better outside.
Technology is a helpful tool for learning and exploring nature, so long as it doesn’t distract from it. Try going on a geocaching adventure to find hidden treasures. Go on a photo hunt and take nature selfies. Download apps like Merlin, Sky Guide, and iNaturalist to make discovering the outdoors even more interesting.
That’s where we come in. Follow Generation Wild on Instagram and Facebook, and we will give you all kinds of ideas and inspiration to get your kid outdoors. You can also connect with more than 250 incredible partners around the state that host amazing outdoor activities and programming for kids to participate in. There’s a lot to discover.