If you spent a great deal of your childhood roaming the neighborhood on your bike, building forts, playing on the swings and slides at the park and swimming with friends at the local pool or shore, it’s probably hard to fathom that getting your own kids outside is a challenge.
Thanks to the proliferation and popularity of handheld electronic devices, our kids seem like they are glued to the couch playing video games and texting their friends. Instead of exercising their entire body, only their thumbs are getting a good workout. As Fisher-Price notes, playing outdoors is as beneficial for your kids as it was for you. In addition to allowing them to explore their environment, getting outside will help them gain self-confidence and increase their muscle strength. Kids who get out and play with others improve their social skills and their attention spans.
Fortunately, with some creativity and encouragement, parents can help their kids turn off the tablets, get off their duffs and head outside for some low-tech fun. Check out the following tips:
If you build it, they will come
One of the best ways to encourage kids to play outdoors is to surprise them with a new swing set, slide or other play equipment in your backyard. As a bonus, you don’t have to spend a lot to provide your kiddos with a fun backyard play set. Kmart sells a wide variety of high-quality and fun play sets at different price points. For example, the Sportspower Grove Park 4-Leg Metal Swing Set is $129 and is sure to provide hours of fun for your kids. If you have room in your yard and the budget for something bigger, the Backyard Discovery Prairie Ridge Cedar swing set is $679 and includes swings, monkey bars and a club house.
Encourage nature lovers with tools
If your kids seem to like snails and flowers more than slides and Frisbees, provide tools for your nature lover to explore Mother Nature's offerings. Give your kids a place all their own on the porch or patio for their treasures and discoveries. Guy them a small shovel, bug box and magnifier so they can see the critters in your yard up close. If your kids love watching birds, go shopping together for bird feeders, have them help you fill them with seeds and place them in your yard.
Give them a job
To encourage reluctant kids to go outside more often, entice them with an outdoor job. Most kids can learn to rake leaves, plant and water the garden and — if they are old enough and you feel comfortable with this — use a weed whacker to clean up the yard. Most kids enjoy working outside, especially when they can see the tangible results of their labor. Of course, you can also up the ante a bit by paying them a small wage for their services. In addition to having a nicer looking backyard, your kids will be getting some much-needed exercise and fresh air.