So Zoe and I rode our bikes to a movie theater last weekend to see “The Lorax.” When we came out, my bike had been stolen. Aside from being extremely inconvenient, that suddenly made it harder for me to get Zoe to spend time doing physical stuff outside.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, there are a lot of other obstacles that keep kids inside:

  • Overloaded schedules
  • The lure of technology
  • Concerns about child safety
  • Lack of good play places and ideas
  • Misconceptions About Nature and Weather

If you’re looking for info, tips, activities, and other suggestions for how to overcome those obstacles (and stolen bikes), check out the Federation has some great resources. Start by checking out their Be Out There site. And download this helpful doc: “Outdoor Play for Every Day: A Parent’s Guide for Overcoming Common Obstacles to Kids and Outdoor Play.”

In addition, NWF makes these suggestions to maximize outdoor time while balancing “screen time” and “green time.”

  • Monkey See/Monkey Do: Set a good example about limiting tech time and your kids will be more likely to follow suit. Talk to your kids and let everyone have a say on the amount of time that screens will be used each week so it’s clear up front what the ground rules are.
  • Pay to Play: Encourage kids to earn screen time by balancing it with equal amounts of reading, chores or playing outside. Len Saunders, author of Keeping Kids Fit and father of two, suggests that for every hour of physical activity, kids earn 30 minutes of tech time.
  • Let ‘Em Pick: Offer kids a set amount of screen time each day and let them decide how to use it, watch TV, play video games or surf the web. If the weather is nice and they want to trade their screen time for playing outdoors, they can bank their screen time for use on a rainy day.

Not to worry–there are even ways to integrate tech into outdoor play.

  • Go Geocaching: Take your kids on an outdoor adventure that combines popular GPS technology and a treasure hunt. Don’t have a GPS? There are several smart phone apps that can do the trick. Learn more at www.
  • Picture This: Take photos of nature with your child and make an on-line collage of all the neat things you find – or share them on Pinterest
  • Tweeting is for the birds: Scope out local birds or other interesting wildlife in your backyard and log into to share your findings with others.
  • Play Seek and Find: Have your child research your family’s next outdoor adventure by searching online with to learn about local parks, hiking trails and other outdoor recreational spots near where you live.