Outdoor time is critical for children. Not only is getting fresh air and exercise physically healthy for your kids, but it’s also emotionally healthy!
Studies have found that children who spent more time in nature had improved learning outcomes. These children were found to be more relaxed and less depressed. They also had improved motor development and a lower chance of obesity.
Spending time outdoors can help kids connect to their local environment and gain an appreciation for the local flora and fauna. This can develop into a passion for conservation later down the line, or at least an increased amount of respect for the natural world as an adult. It also helps children develop independence, maturity, and resilience. The outdoors provides a wealth of opportunities to explore and learn about the world around them– not to mention it’s a place where they can roughhouse, yell, shout, and run around with reckless abandon to burn off all that extra energy.
But how do you encourage your kids to get outside?
Get creative & imaginative with it.
Encouraging kids to go outside and get into nature can be a challenge. But it's worth the effort– the outdoors is an excellent place for kids to learn about nature and develop a sense of wonder, play, and spend time with their families. It can even foster imagination and creativity!
Prompt your child to use their imagination while playing outside. Playing make-believe is one of the most innocent and wholesome things we do as children, it’s nearly magical! Play along with some of your child’s fun games and illusions to let them know it is A-okay to play pretend and have fun. Are they a princess or a knight? Are they a magical fairy or a powerful wizard? Maybe your child is fighting a dramatic battle in the woods or saving the world from an evil villain. These types of scenarios can be so much fun for your child, and fun for you to get involved with, too.
Inspire awe in your children by telling them stories about nature's power and beauty, from your own life experiences (or those of others). You don't need to be a great storyteller--the point is for your child to see how much wonder there is out there! Telling exciting stories can help encourage your children to get outside and create some stories of their own.
Set an example and be a role model.
Show them how much fun being outside can be by setting an example and organizing your life around outdoor activities. If you enjoy being outside yourself, your kids will be more likely to want to join in. Take them on walks together or invite them along when you go hiking or biking. Let them help plan activities that involve outdoor exploration, like birdwatching, hiking, swimming, or rock collecting.
The best part about this approach is that it's not just about taking your child on a walk through the park or playing outside together; it's also about exploring the outdoors together.
Take them to a nearby pond and show them how fun it can be to look at bugs and flowers, go swimming at the beach or lake--whatever works best for you. The point here isn't just to encourage physical activity; it's also about getting kids interested in science and history by exploring new places together.
You could even check out an online outdoor scavenger hunt for kids to help you with ideas! Children love searching for special plants or animals and making your very own scavenger hunt can turn it into a fun game.
When you're trying to get kids outside, it's vital that they don't have screens in the way. If kids are tempted and able to watch television or their iPad all day, they’ll always choose that rather than going outside. The videos, apps, and games are hardwired to get their brains addicted, so it can be hard for them to break loose from that cycle on their own!
Set a limit on the amount of screen time your child is allowed to have. They might get so bored that they decide to head outdoors!
Don’t be discouraged!
In the age of TikTok, we’re all addicted to our phones. Especially when the sun sets early and the weather is freezing, it’s hard to tell your kids to bundle up and get outside. Even if it takes a little extra convincing, it’s worth the effort. The options for entertainment in the natural world are endless, and your kids will soon discover that too! It’s such a source of beauty and wonder, every person should be able to look back at their fond childhood memories of playing outside.
Digital images by Stacey Posnett