Girl playing outdoors

Help kids unplug and get active

With the arrival of summer, how will most kids spend their newly-found free time?

More often than not, summertime proves to be a prime opportunity for kids to sleep late, soak up air-conditioning, unearth new TV channels and attempt to better their scores on the gaming console.

Contributed by Stacy DeBroff

The lazy days of summer for this generation of kids are in stark contrast to how we moms spent our summers as children. Right after breakfast, our mothers opened up the screen door and said, “Go outside and play!” So we did — riding bikes, running around, exploring the neighborhood and climbing trees.

Recently Mom Central teamed up with Busch Gardens to look at moms’ views on natural play, adventure and fun — and the survey revealed some surprising results. We found that kids spend only two hours during the week engaging in natural, unstructured activities — playing tag or riding scooters, for example — with activity levels increasing only slightly to just over two hours on weekends. And 44 percent of kids say they prefer technology to time outdoors.

We now realize that we’ve raised a generation of kids with “Natural Fun Deficiency” — those who struggle to play outside unless an adult hovers nearby with planned activities, a whistle and a clipboard. We found that 85 percent of moms worry that their kids don’t experience enough natural, unstructured outdoor fun, and 72 percent of us remember that we spent much more time playing outside than our kids do today.

So with summer upon us, how do we get kids unplugged and engaged in outdoor fun?

Help jump-start summer fun

Don’t become yet another camp counselor, but provide kids with tools to support outdoor activities. Pump up those bike tires, suggest they invite friends over to run through the sprinklers or challenge them to make the ultimate mud pie!

Set summer limits for digital natives

Just as we would, our digital natives would struggle with a total summertime tech disconnect. Instead, set some daily limits for electronic usage and suggest alternative outdoor activities.

Find out how to help your kids break the screen habit >>

Make a getaway plan

Since 70 percent of Moms rely on vacations as a time for kids to unplug, planning a summer getaway offers a timely opportunity for families to hike, camp or take family bike rides.

Focus on outdoor activities

This year, zero-in on vacation spots filled with outdoor activities to jump-start family fun. For example, a beach vacation offers opportunities for water sports as well as sand and ocean exploration. A visit to a theme park such as Busch Gardens provides everything from thrill rides to water fun to animal encounters in natural settings. A camping trip can provide opportunities to explore nature, discover the flora and fauna and build new skills.

Try these easy & fun outdoor games for the family >>

Keep it simple

Relax this summer with fun, no-hassle outdoor activities. Take a nightly stroll, pick out ingredients for a picnic lunch at a farmer’s market or serve weekend breakfast on the patio.

Help motivate your kids to get away from the computer and TV screens this summer, and get outdoors for some good old fashioned, natural outdoor fun. Getting active outdoors is great for their physical and mental health, and the perfect way to bond as a family.

About the author:

Stacy DeBroff, parenting expert, best-selling author, and founder and CEO of Mom Central Consulting, the leading social media consulting firm focused on Moms, brings more than a decade of award-winning experience, expertise and insight to the nation’s top brands, agencies and organizations.

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