How to Encourage Kids to Spend More Time Outdoors

Children’s screen time is a continued source of concern for parents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children ages eight to ten are spending about six hours a day on entertainment media.

For children ages 11 to 14, screen time jumps to about nine hours a day. This amounts to a significant amount of time spent indoors, with studies indicating the average American child spends less time outdoors than the average inmate of an American prison.

Like many parents, you may be looking for ways to get your children outdoors. Whether your kids want to go outside or are balking at the idea, here are a few ideas to get them off the couch and into the sun.

Get Your Backyard in Good Shape for Play

Tech companies and the entertainment industry make interacting with screens enticing for children. You’ll want your backyard to be an appealing place for your kids. Start by buying durable grass seed for your backyard so that the lawn will be lush and inviting.

Get your children involved in the process of cleaning and maintaining the yard. It will help them take ownership of the space. Get their input on what would make the backyard an enjoyable place to be.

Why Your Children Need to Play Outdoors

Before discussing how to get your kids outside, let’s talk about why they should get out there. An article from Harvard Health Publishing outlines the benefits of letting your children enjoy the outdoors. What’s the bottom line? It’s healthy for them. They’ll be able to:

  • Soak in vitamin D, contributing to healthy bone development and boosting their immune system.
  • Keep their mind and body active and fit through exercise.
  • Develop skills related to executive functioning, such as planning and problem-solving.

Consider Their Interests and Ages

Playing outdoors will look different for every child depending on age and interests. Younger children might enjoy small slides while older children may want to play sports with their friends.

Talk to your children about what kinds of toys or equipment they would like available to them. Let them come shopping with you to pick out new activities for the backyard. Create a space accessible to your children where these toys can be stored.

Let Them Engage Their Imagination

Not every moment of your children’s day needs to be structured. One of the enticing elements of many modern video games is the ability to create and influence a world in any way they might dream of. Let your children explore the outdoors and engage their imagination.

It might be frightening to loosen the reins on your children in today’s society. Discuss boundaries with your children: how far they can go, how often they need to check in, and who is safe to hang out with.

Give them freedom within these limits to figure out on their own how they will enjoy their time outdoors. Kids are looking for freedom, and this is one of the ways you can encourage creativity and build up those executive functioning skills.

Take Time to Play With Them

It may not seem like it at times, but your kids want you to enter their world. Take time in the day to model what it means to go outdoors and engage in a healthy lifestyle.

Go on bike rides with them, play a game of catch, and explore new places together. In doing this, you will create memorable experiences with your children and build your relationship with them.

Spending time outdoors is about more than just decreasing screen time. It’s about improving their wellbeing and encouraging creative play. It will help them appreciate the outdoors and engage in an active lifestyle for the rest of their lives. It might be an adjustment for them at first, but it could be something they grow to love.

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