12 Ways to Encourage Kids to Get Outside
Studies show that kids who spend time in nature are more confident, responsible and physically fit, and that introducing them to the outdoors early on can help them forge healthy, lifelong habits. Naturally, we all want to get our kids outside, but it’s one of those things that’s easier said than done, especially when screens are the dominant mode of entertainment. But there are a few things you can do to encourage a little more fresh air play, including these fun ideas.
- Go metal detecting. Anything that involves treasure hunting will be a big hit among kids, no matter if you’re dealing with little ones or teenagers. You can rent or borrow a metal detector and set out hunting for treasures, including coins and jewelry. You never know–you just might find someone’s cherished wedding ring! Side note: This is one of those hobbies that really reinforces the need to wear silicone ringswhen exploring the outdoors!
- Bring their friends. Encouraging your children to spend time outside with their friends is a good way to turn exercise and fresh air into a social activity, providing the added benefits of companionship. Whether a game of wiffleball, riding bikes or a hike in the woods, kids at a certain age are a lot more likely to participate if their friends are involved, too. Outdoor socializing can help build self-esteem and strengthen social skills.
- Go for a scavenger hunt. Metal detecting is just one way to get the kids out hunting. Another fun way is to participate in an outdoor scavenger hunt. Create a list of things that can be easily found in the backyard (or use this handy premade one) and send the kids out to find everything on the list. You can turn it into a learning experience, covering topics like plants, animals, insects and weather. Geocachingis also an exciting option!
- Sign up for a challenge. Sometimes you need a little bit of a push to get yourself into a good routine. Consider signing your family up for a hiking spree or a running challenge to encourage some family exercise.
- Try a new activity. Got a family member who’s just not that into being outside? Maybe you simply haven’t discovered an activity that strikes their fancy. Be sure to introduce a variety of different sports and hobbies to your kids. Try volleyball, Spikeball, lawn bowling, gardening, birdwatching, rockhounding (rock collecting) and stargazing. In the winter, be sure to try sled riding, snow tubing, skiing and snowboarding.
- Implement rewards. All parents know that sometimes a small incentive is all you need to encourage a desired outcome. One way we like to reward outdoor play is with screen time. Tell your kids that for each hour they spend outside or doing something active, they’ll earn a half-hourof screen time. After a while, they’ll discover the joys of fresh air, and you won’t even have to bribe them anymore!
- Go camping. Camping is a classic family bonding activity that brings the whole crew together. Not only does it teach your kids about the basics of wilderness survival and how to be respectful stewards of the planet, but it also provides plenty of opportunity to connect as a family. Board games, hikes, campfire stores, swims in the lake — this is the stuff of lifelong childhood memories!
- Go foraging for edibles. The backyards and woods in your neighborhood could be chock full of yummy wild edibles! In the spring, keep your eyes peeled for morels — the highly sought-after wild mushrooms that can yield as much as $20 per pound — and ramps, also known as wild leeks or wild garlic. In the summer, get out and forage for the ever-elusive wild asparagus and wild berries. Just make sure you keep a field guide handy and emphasize the importance of correct wild plant identification, as many wild mushrooms and plants are poisonous.
- Create a backyard water park. In the midst of a hot summer, nothing will do except a plunge in some cool H2O. If you don’t have a pool or water park nearby, don’t stress. You can make one of your own with a slip and slide, obstacle course and some strategically placed sprinklers.
- Plant a garden. Gardening is an endlessly rewarding hobby that teaches kids many of the core concepts of life, from the importance of taking care of our planet to the basics of biology and Earth science. Added bonus: Teaching your kids where their food comes from is important to helping them develop healthy eating habits throughout their lives.
- Have a backyard movie night. Not every hour spent outdoors has to be dedicated to doing something active or productive. In this hectic, fast-paced world, your kids are surrounded by stressors that can lead to anxiety and depression. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that anxiety and depression have been steadily increasing in childrenover the past two decades. A backyard movie night is a great way to help teach them how to relax outside of their comfort zone. And you don’t have to go big with a projector screen or anything crazy. Your laptop and a blanket fort in the grass will do!
- Sing songs. Nothing like a good sing-along to get everyone in the spirit. This is a good tactic for when you’re already out on a hike or bike ride and start to hear a bit of complaining. Playing their favorite music can also help make the experience a bit more fun and relaxing, even if they aren’t especially into the activity at hand. It’s such a simple but effective tactic.
We know now more than ever that getting kids outside is foundational to building a happy, healthy life. We also recognize that outdoor play can boost cognitive performance and help kids engage more at school. So, it’s worth spending time working with your youngsters to help them feel comfortable and confident in the outdoors. Let us know if you have any of your own tricks for making it a bit easier!