By Jereme Thomas
Kids these days. They spend way too much time indoors playing on their Xboxes, Nintendos, and iPads. How do you get them outside to rediscover the joys of kiddom? You have to make the experience exciting and relevant for the child. Here’s how.
Giving children a place to play is one of the most important things you can do to encourage them to move their activity outside (or get more movement in their day). Companies, like Totally Swing Sets, create an “instant park” in your back yard, eliminating excuses children often have for not going outside (“there’s nothing to do”).
If you live in a cramped area or don’t have much yard space, even a smaller swing set can help. Alternatively, take your child to the park.
Play Yard Games With Them
Bocci ball might seem dated to you, but your children have never experienced it before. Play with them. You could also teach them Croquet. These old-school games are fun, simple to learn and play, and children often love them because they require skill and focus – something kids inherently struggle with, but implicitly love practicing, if given the opportunity.
Yard games also get you outside moving around with your child. Who knows? You might rediscover your own childhood.
Go On Adventures
Go on an adventure. This is what biomechanist Katy Bowman does with her kids. Walking doesn’t have to be a chore, unless you turn it into one. And, this is largely why children develop an aversion to walking.
Keep in mind that, as Bowman says, children have a distorted sense of time. A walk through the park takes “foooooreeeeeeeverrrrr”. But, if you’re going on a treasure hunt, or walking to the mailbox, or to the store, suddenly, there’s a goal.
“Are we there yet?” doesn’t come up, because it’s obvious when you’re “there.” Set goals, and be willing to be spontaneous within that goal framework, and you should be fine – so should your kids.
For example, if you’re going outside with your children to walk, and you’ve set a goal to “go to the store,” don’t be surprised when your children start wandering around aimlessly on the way. You probably already know that they tend to do this in the grocery store with you.
They’ll do this when you’re just out and about walking, even when you have a clear destination.
Shoot A Movie
What’s more fun than watching a movie? Shooting one. If you’ve got a smartphone or a digital recorder, get your child motivated to “star” in a home movie. Kids love this. Help them write a script, plan it out, create the set scenes and props with them, and then go outside “on location” and shoot.
When you’re done, you can edit it (on a rainy day) and watch it.
Play Hide And Seek
Most children instinctively love playing hide and seek. But, a lot of parents these days are afraid to do it outdoors. Don’t be one of those parents. Play with your child outdoors, let them get dirty (that’s what bathtubs are for), and get them the outdoor movement their body needs.
Not every child likes sports but, if yours shows an interest, encourage him or her. Test the waters with a variety of sports too. Some kids don’t immediately show an interest in something new. But, given time, and if they’re not pushed or prodded, they will develop enthusiasm for it.
Baseball is the most common sport that parents get their kids into, but don’t be afraid to go for more unusual ones like ice skating, tennis, polo, or bike racing. Your child may not be ready for some sports just yet, and others may not interest them. That’s OK.
If you’re trying a variety of sports, eventually, he or she might find something that interests them and that’s the goal.
Set Firm Limits On “Screen Time”
Another useful tactic is to set strict limits on screen time, without forcing them into any particular alternative activity. The reason for limiting screen time can be phrased simply, “It’s time to do something else now.”
With any luck, your child will come up with something creative to do on their own that doesn’t involve being indoors. Of course, if it’s raining outside, that’s going to limit options, but otherwise, put “outside clothes” on them and give them the old “heave ho.” Ring the bell for supper and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Jereme Thomas is the owner and founder of an ecommerce store that specializes in backyard swing sets, playsets, and outdoor accessories. With a background in software engineering and marketing, Jereme built the business from the ground up. His expertise allowed him to facilitate all of the designing, programming, marketing, and business relations for the website. Jereme, his wife, and daughter currently reside in Des Moines, Iowa.