Tag Archives: outdoor play

Kick Your Kids Out Of The House This Summer!

Kick Your Kids Out Of The House This Summer!

How much do your kids grumble about having nothing to do now that school’s out, especially when you tell them to shut the screens off? There’s a simple solution to that – make them go play outside.

Think about your own childhood and how much time you probably spent outside playing. Doing much the same will be good for your kids too. Have them dress appropriately and wear sunscreen as necessary, but get them outside. Here are some ideas to help them be happy about it if they aren’t sure what to do.

Water Fight!

What kid doesn’t love a good water fight? Set up rules if the kids can’t agree on their own, but let them try it their own way first – parents don’t have to set up rules all the time. If you have a kid who tends to squirt everyone else right in the face or otherwise do things that might hurt someone or are just plain annoying, that’s one thing, but many kids can handle making their own rules – sometimes that’s part of the fun!

Sidewalk Chalk

If you have a good sidewalk, clear driveway or patio, sidewalk chalk is a lot of fun for kids. Even my oldest enjoys it some days still.

Play Tag/Hide & Go Seek, etc.

A good game of tag gets the kids running and having fun. You may even be able to get some neighborhood kids in on the fun, just make sure all are agreed upon the rules, especially how to handle the street.

Ride Bikes

Send your kids out to ride bikes, with as much range as you think appropriate for their ages. Ride with them if you want, but remember that it’s good for kids to develop independence at appropriate ages.

Play in the Sprinklers

Time to water the lawn? Send the kids out to enjoy it if you water late enough in the day.

Nature Scavenger Hunt

Have the kids look for things you know they’ll find in your area outside. If you include bugs on the list, make sure the kids don’t hurt them, and release them at the end, especially if it’s a beneficial bug. If the kids have digital cameras available, you can consider having photographs be a part of the challenge, so they don’t have to take things with them.

Play Frisbee

Just have the kids play catch with the frisbee, or have them aim at targets or invent a game of their own. It might not even involve throwing the frisbee – they’re not bad for carrying some things.

Build a Fort

Anything from a simple sheet over a picnic table to something built using wood and tools counts. You and the kids decide how to go about it… just try to stand back and let them work when it’s something they know how to do on their own. Just keep enough of an eye on things to know that it’s more or less safe.

Camp Out Overnight

If you have a backyard, an overnight campout is a lot of fun for the kids once they’re old enough. Set up a small tent (have them do it once they’re big enough) and have the kids bring out pillows, blankets, etc. for a night out. Remind them that bugs will go in the tent if they leave the door unzipped, but mostly let them alone. Leave the nearest door unlocked in case anyone needs to come in for some reason at night. We leave our window open so we can hear the kids too. It may only be the backyard, but kids feel really independent sleeping out of the house on their own.

Go Play With Friends Outside

Why do parents have to come up with all the ideas? Let your kids go play with their friends, with as little supervision as their ages and situations allow.

All this assumes that you have a safe place for them to be outside, of course. If you don’t have a good place for your kids to be out, try to find places and times where you can allow it, but don’t be too hard on yourself if things just don’t work out that way.

There’s lots more kids can do to play outside. Here are more sites with ideas:

50 Outdoor Summer Activities For Kids
50 Simple Outdoor Activities For Kids
Outdoor Activities for Children Ages 6-10

5 Books to Encourage Your Kids to Play Outside

Yes, it’s summer, and a hot one in much of the United States. Even so, as parents we need to encourage our kids to play outside more. That’s not easy for everyone, especially if the kids don’t play outside as much as they ought to. Whatever the case, it’s time to haul the kids away from their favorite screen and get them to play outside. These books may help with ideas. Buy them or check for them at your local library.

This is important. Too many kids are spending way too little time outside these days. More children are obese. Kids on average spend too much time in front of one screen or another. All too few spend any time at all playing outside on their during any given week. Just compare that to your own childhood, when more kids spent significant parts of the day outside, playing. That’s what I want for my kids. More time outside, playing, just being kids and having fun.

1. Outdoor Parents Outdoor Kids: A Guide to Getting Your Kids Active in the Great Outdoors

Yes, how much you go outside matters quite a bit. If you go out more, your kids will follow. This book is about finding activities you can enjoy together as a family.

2. Great Big Book of Children’s Games: Over 450 Indoor & Outdoor Games for Kids (Ages 3-12)

Yes, this one is for indoor and outdoor games, but the big thing is to play away from the TV and computer screens. I like being reminded of the indoor games kids can play, as sometimes the weather’s not right for playing outside or you have other reasons for keeping the kids in. Doesn’t mean they have to start watching TV or playing on the computer, though.

3. I Love Dirt!: 52 Activities to Help You and Your Kids Discover the Wonders of Nature

Yes, you get to be involved too. This book is a reminder to look at the outdoors as a child, not an adult. If you want to help your kids learn about things like bugs, dirt, trees and all the other things they can discover outdoors, this should be a good book for you.

4. Fifteen Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids

Need cheap, simple, quick ways to get outside? That’s what this book is all about. I hope you won’t spend only 15 minutes outside for all of these activities, but if that’s all you have, it’s better than nothing at all.

5. The Green Hour: A Daily Dose of Nature for Happier, Healthier, Smarter Kids

On the other hand, who says fifteen minutes is enough? Go for an hour a day. This book has a variety of projects and ideas for getting the kids to play outside.

How Do You Get Your Children to Play Outside More?

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)

How to Entertain Your Kids Without Electronics

Most kids these days love their electronic toys. It starts with the toys they get as babies and keeps going on. It’s a tough habit to break, as many of their friends will be enjoying electronic toys too.

It’s good to teach your kids that they don’t need electronic gadgets and toys to have fun. There’s a lot more out there for them to do.

Why Bother?

As this can be a frustrating thing to do, a big question may be why you should bother limiting your children’s use of electronics. Why not let them just go at it?

Much has to do with how children can become inactive due to their use of electronics, television, computers and video games in particular. Many kids spend several hours a day in front of one or another screen, rather than getting outside, playing and getting exercise and fresh air. It’s not healthy.

Board Games

While getting your kids to play outside is a good goal, there’s nothing wrong with playing a board game as a family, or even a more physically active classic game such as Twister.

Playing a game together as a family is a great way to spend time together. You can talk about whatever comes to mind, or just banter about the game. You can learn a lot about each other.

Send the Kids Outside

It’s best if you can get your kids to play outside every day. There’s a saying about how there’s no such thing as inappropriate weather, just inappropriate clothes. In other words, don’t worry about rain or snow. Dress the kids appropriately and let them have fun.

Do be careful about particularly hot days, of course, and use a safe sunscreen on your kids. Encourage them to wear hats outside as well to protect their skin. Have cold water ready for them to drink when they get thirsty.

You’ll have to be ready to deal with the mess of kids playing outside. Hot weather encourages the use of sprinklers and water toys, which can mean mud tracked in and water on the floor. So can rain and snow. Have towels ready to deal with the mess, and set limits about how much mess you can stand.

You can play games outside too. Teach your kids the classics, such as hide and go seek, Simon Says, Red Rover, tag and whatever else comes to mind. It’s good for you to get outside too.

Spring Means it’s Time to Send The Kids Outside to Play More

Things are heating up around here. We’re getting more sunny days and fewer rainy ones. It’s a great time of year to send the kids outside to play.

I know that it’s sometimes hard to send the kids out to play when you don’t want to follow them. But once they’re old enough, you should be starting to have them play outside without you anyhow. Just think of how much you probably played outside without adult participation as a child. I hope it was a lot.

Both outdoor play and playing without adults setting the rules or watching too carefully is good for kids, so long as conditions are safe. In some neighborhoods, kids can be safe playing on their own at very young ages. In other places, you need to wait for them to have better judgement. It comes down to your judgement as a parent.

Just remember that if you don’t let them learn to figure out what’s safe on their own, your kids will have a very hard time learning to do that on their own. They need to make little mistakes, get hurt in various ways so that they learn to avoid bigger injuries and to be more independent.

Outdoor play is generally healthy for kids. While their everyday play may be in your front or back yard, or at a local playground if you have one close enough, don’t forget to take your kids to see nature in its most natural forms. Take them hiking. Go camping. Go to the beach, a lake, a river, whatever you have available to you.

I know parents have a lot of fears these days about letting their kids play outside without an adult right there, even as they get older. It’s very important for your kids that you learn to keep your concerns realistic. The fears about child snatching and such are greatly overblown in most situations by the media.

If you’re not too comfortable about having your kids play outside without you, try to find some friends for them and have them play in a group. Kids are safer in a group and they’ll have loads of fun together. Set appropriate rules about where they can go and when to be back home, and try to relax.

You don’t have to keep them inside entirely on rainy days either. Soaking wet, possibly muddy kids aren’t too much fun for you to clean up after, but many kids will appreciate the chance to play in the rain. Just so long as it’s not too serious a storm, and have hot chocolate or another treat ready to warm them back up.

They don’t always have to be outside without you. Spring is one of the best times of year for showing kids the wonders of nature. Show them the leaves coming back on the trees, the flowers blooming, animals coming back out, whatever you can find for them in your area. You could even decide to start gardening together.

When the kids come back messy or tired from having fun, just remind yourself that they’re doing things that are good for them on many levels. Playing outside is a way to help kids be healthier, do better in school, be more creative and so much more.

If you’re concerned about letting your kids play outside, there are two books I would recommend reading. One is Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy. The other is Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.

I love both those books. I was given each of them as review copies some time back, and I’ve mentioned them at various times because I really and truly enjoyed them. They’re great references for parents.