Today, children are spending more time than ever before indoors. Back in the 70’s and 80’s, children spent a minimum of two hours each day playing outside helping keep them active, social and healthy. Today, experts say most children are lucky to get an hour a day of outdoor play.
Getting kids outside in the fresh air and encouraging active play is essential for your child’s development. It helps their decision-making, creativity, leadership, imagination and offers active engagement. It ignites passions, fosters their ability to share and negotiate, and enhances big picture thinking.
If you’re struggling to encourage your children to switch of the TV and get outdoors, try some of these tips.
- Lead by example
Parents are role models for their children whether positive or otherwise. Kids mimic the behaviour of the adults in their lives so it’s important to practice what you preach. If you spend most of your time indoors in front of a screen, so will your children. If you’re active and get outside, you’ll children will follow.
- Get the camera out
Kids love cameras and taking photos is a great skill they’ll use throughout their lives. Make a list of the things your child needs to take photos of. See how many different plants or birds they can photograph. If you only have a phone and don’t want your kids using it, small digital cameras are relatively inexpensive and they’ll be put to good use indoors and out.
- Go on active holidays
Wherever you choose to travel, there are plenty of active holidays that will delight your kids and encourage them to get outside. You could enjoy a beach holiday on the Californian coast, do a bike tour in Italy or visit water parks in Melbourne. Choose age-appropriate destinations that encourage your children to move outdoors.
- Plant a vegetable garden
Children can be benefit from getting their hands dirty in the garden. Not only does it encourage responsibility, growing produce helps kids understand their food doesn’t come from the supermarket. Who knows, your children may enjoy trying new vegetables too!
- Be creative
Simply asking your child to go outside and play will probably be met with groans and detest. Instead, plan some fun and creative activities that can be a springboard for their play. Set up a scavenger hunt, search for insects, play ‘follow the leader’ or try a yoga session.
- Have a park play date
Instead of meeting your friends at a café or indoor play centre, grab takeaway coffees and head to a local park. It will give your children the opportunity to run around and burn off some energy while the adults chat in peace!
- Invest in a trampoline
If you’re willing to spend some money on outdoor play equipment, we can highly recommend a trampoline. Unlike a swing set, a trampoline will last your child until their teenage years. When they’re no longer interested in jumping, kids will use the trampoline as a place to lay down and watch the clouds or a conversation spot with their friends.
- Enjoy a picnic
On a nice day, take your child’s lunch outdoors. Set up a table or simply throw down a rug and enjoy a leisurely picnic under a tree. When the weather is warm, it’s also nice to eat a family dinner outside. If the backyard doesn’t inspire you, take your food to a local park when your kids can play after dinner.
- Star gaze
Set up your own star gazing activity in the backyard either in the wee hours of the morning or before bedtime at night. All you’ll need is a blanket, some comfy pillows, binoculars or a telescope. Borrow a book from the library or make a star map and see if you can spot any of the constellations.
- Set up a fire pit
Who doesn’t love a bon fire and toasted marshmallows? While it would be nice to have a big bon fire it’s not always practical in suburban backyards. A fire pit is a great solution and will encourage your children to be outside with the family instead of watching TV.
While providing organised activities can be a great incentive to get kids outdoors, you don’t need to feel pressured to offer ample resources and structure. Research suggests child-driven play is far more beneficial for their development. It’s also important for children to learn to entertain themselves and develop their own love for the great outdoors. Use the above tips as a spring board and allow your child’s imagination to run wild!
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