One of the healthiest habits you can build for your child is to encourage more outdoor play. It encourages physical fitness and an appreciation of nature. Sadly, many parents don’t push this issue very much at all. They let their children play inside too much of the day, and give them too much time to watch television and play on the computer.
This isn’t just about children old enough to go play outside on their own. This is also about getting outside with children so young they need supervision every minute. It’s about getting out into nature even when you have an infant so young that you have to carry him or her the entire time.
One of the best books I’ve read on this topic is Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. Read it, and you’ll know much more about why you want your children to play outside every day.
The younger you start, the more appealing outdoor play will be. Hot, cold, remember that there are appropriate clothes for just about any weather. If your kids say the weather is wrong and you want them to play outside, take a look and what they’re wearing and make any necessary changes before shooing them out.
Outdoors should be appealing. A swing set can get kids begging to go outside for as long as they fit on it. But even something as simple as a 2×4 board used as a balance beam will get many kids out and playing. Don’t forget basics such as a bicycle and roller skates for outdoor fun.
Kids shouldn’t always have to play outside alone. It’s good for you to join them, and increase their exposure to nature in more places than the local park or your backyard. It’s also good to get yourself out and active. Go camping or hiking as a family. You don’t have to make it a huge expedition. An hour’s hike, or a single night out camping is a good experience for the entire family. Take longer trips as everyone in the family learns to appreciate it more.
For simpler times, kick or throw a ball around in the back yard together. Go for rides or walks around your neighborhood. Make these outdoor family times a part of your family routine, not just something for special days.
Don’t forget the value of friends for getting the kids to play outside! Any neighborhood friends your kids have are a great incentive to getting them outside and playing. Get to know the parents and make outdoor play something they enjoy as a group.
You may have battles about being sent out to play. There will be times to give in and times to fight it out. Do your best to have your kids value their outdoor playtime so it will be looked forward to rather than complained about.
More Great Books About Getting Kids Outside
Sharing Nature with Children
I Love Dirt!: 52 Activities to Help You and Your Kids Discover the Wonders of Nature
Earthways: Simple Environmental Activities for Young Children
Fun With Nature (Take-Along Guide)