Ok, here is part 2 of some of the topics I was going to address in my ‘No Kid Left Inside’ talk. Once again, the power point is linked at the bottom but if you are unable to access it please let me know and I will email it to you.
So we’ve looked at some of the reasons that kids aren’t outside but that doesn’t solve the problem. I did address a few solutions in Why Kids Aren’t Outside, but I will attempt to provide you with even more solutions in the paragraphs that follow!
One of the biggest solutions to getting your child to go outside and play is to go outside with them. If you are setting a good example they are more likely to follow. They want to model your behaviors. They want to play with you. I know this isn’t easy with the busy lives we all lead but some things you can do is opt for an hour walk with your kids instead of going to the gym and getting on the treadmill. Or, you can go on family bike outings on the weekends or after work/school instead of riding the stationary bike. Create an activity that you can do together like planting a small garden, even if its a window sill garden. This can be used to explain nature and get them even more interested in science.
If scheduling really does become a problem look into hiring a caregiver with the express purpose of taking the kids outside. Maybe its an older kid in the neighborhood or a babysitter. Whoever it is the kids will learn that when this person is around they go outside. Maybe take turns with some of the families in your neighborhood for watching the kids in the yard, or at the park (if a yard isn’t an option). Even if its once a week to start and you switch off weeks. Kids have more fun if there are other kids playing too. You could start with inviting the neighbor kids over to play and build on it from there. Another great idea is to create a weekly park day where you get together with other families that you are friends with at the park. The kids know that this is the day they go to the park, its supervised and you get to have quality adult time as well!
If you don’t know other kids/families in your area because you go to a different school, get involved with the local library or YMCA or the bookstore and meet some families. All it takes is one connection and you can start meeting more. If your child doesn’t want to go outside when given the choice, make the choice simpler. Only give them two and both of them are outside. For instance, do you want to go on a bike ride or go play on the play structure? I utilize this in all areas. This way they have some control, and even think its their idea.
If you are worried about getting in extra educational time make it a nature exploring trip. Take things like magnifying glasses or a bag to collect leaves and then you can look them up when you get home. If you are making a garden, you can follow up with how plants grow. If its raining take a look at what role water plays in the environment. Go on a scavenger hunt in the back yard, or the local park or the neighborhood. Get the kids involved by having them each add a few items to the list and then everyone has to go find them. You can talk about the items afterwards.
Make the outside an inviting place to be. Maybe invest in some outside only toys such as a wading pool or sand box or sports equipment. Even sidewalk chalk and bubbles are simple and fun. If its a public place and needs some help getting it cleaned up get others involved and organize a clean up day with your neighbors and the kids. It will teach them about trash, recycling, responsibility and they will feel some pride/ownership of the area they have cleaned up.
Be willing to get dirty. How much fun do you think your kids will find you if you are willing to jump in the puddles with them the next time it rains, or build a mud pie, or run through the sprinkler? Maybe find an area where it will be okay to dig and go searching for treasure. We used to think we could dig through to the other side of the world when we were outside digging!
Getting kids outside doesn’t have to be a big process. You can start small with 15 minute increments. Maybe instead of finger painting inside, you take it outside. Or instead of drawing on the paper you practice with the sidewalk chalk. Learning to ride a bike, tricycle or scooter is a simple and easy way to get outside.
I would love to hear other ideas that parents and caregivers have for getting kids outside! I will follow up with more ideas for outside activities as well as why getting outside is so beneficial.