How to Encourage Children to Get Out and Enjoy the Outdoors

How much time do your children spend outdoors each week?  In 2016 a well-known report concluded that 75% of children spent less time outside per day than prison inmates.  In 2018 another study found that by the age of 7, the average child will have spent 456 days looking at screens and spent only 182 days playing outside.  Want to get your kids outdoors?  Read on for 9 ways to encourage them outside.


The two reports quoted above are sobering reading.  As I wrote a while ago, years ago summertime meant being outside all day every day, the sound of children playing and laughing in every street and back garden filling the air.  These days, however, streets and gardens remain silent as kids are camped out in front of computers, televisions, and video games.  To help the health of our children and get them in touch with nature, we need to get them back outside.

Here are some ways to encourage your children to get out and enjoy the outdoors.

Get outside yourself

If your children see you sitting in front of the TV all evening, they will follow suit and won't be motivated to get outside.  Getting outdoors is healthy for adults, too, so do your whole family a favour and invite them outside for a group game of Frisbee or rounders, or a nature walk.  The first step to getting your kids outdoors is to lead them there.

Traditional rounder set

Build a tree house or playhouse

Remember tree houses and playhouses? These little hide-aways provide wonderful scope for children's imaginations. In their imagination, their playhouse can become anything they want it to be: a fort, a pioneer cabin, an igloo, a shop, even a jail.

Here are 6 reasons why every child needs a playhouse.

Playhouse with verandah

Cut the cable

Have you thought about simply turning the TV and the Internet off?  It may sound like a big step, but even if it's just for set hours each day, you'll all benefit.

Swing!

Whether it's a tyre swing or a full-scale swing set and slide, put some sort of activity centre out in your garden if possible.   This will encourage your children and their friends to go outside and play.  If it's not possible, take them to a playground or park a few times a week.

Swing and slide set

Build solar toys

Is your child a techie who loves computers and computer games?  Try building solar-powered toys from one of the many good-quality kits available, or other solar-powered gadgets.  You have to be outside in the sun to make them work!

littleBits Space Rover Inventor kit

Start a garden

It can be in containers or prepared beds outdoors, but gardening can get the whole family outside.  It's good exercise, too.  Kids enjoy watching the plants or seeds they plant grow, bloom, and bear fruit.  This fascination will draw them outside.

Here's how to teach children to garden.


Collect stuff

Kids love collections.  Begin rock, leaf, or feather collections.  Get a good field guide and go on hikes and walks to find more items for the collection.  Some children enjoy finding bugs and insects, too. Buy a couple of insect identification guides and get spotting.


Look to the stars

Invest in a small telescope or binoculars and a good constellation map, and look to the skies.  It can open up worlds of study and fascination to explore the heavens.

Northern Constellations guide

Have picnics and cook outdoors

Cooking and eating outside gets the whole family outdoors.  Weekends and evenings are perfect times for these kinds of outdoor activities.  A kite, Frisbee, ball, or other outdoor game will get everyone exercising and moving.


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