How to encourage outdoor play
We've all become accustomed to a hurried lifestyle, but every child needs some free time to play -- and outdoor play benefits kids physically, socially and emotionally. Once the children are outside, they'll come up with dozens of ideas for fun things to do. Get them started by encouraging them with ideas to make outdoor play a part of their routine!
Step 1: Create a safe play space
If you live in a house, create a kid-friendly yard where it's easy to explore, play or just hang-out. Clear away debris and any hazards so kids can use the space safely. If you don't have a yard, take the kids to the park or other open area and allow them to explore. Stay nearby for their safety, but let them use their time outdoors with no interference.
Step 2: Get the right tools
Provide tools for discovery! Kids love tools, so have some simple items available they can use on their outdoor adventures -- a bug box, a trowel or a magnifying glass are all good starter items that will lead them to explore.
Step 3: Walk, don't drive
Substitute activity for driving. Take a walk together when you have to run an errand to the post office, library or drugstore. You'll get some quality time together sharing the walk, and you will all benefit from the exercise and fresh air!
Step 4: Do it together
Take advantage of the resources in your area and participate in an outdoor activity with your kids -- go on a hike, go fishing or rent a canoe. Is there a public tennis court nearby? Get geared up at a garage sale or thrift store and spend an hour hitting balls to each other. The rules of the game don't really matter compared to the fun you'll have. In fact, you can make up your own family rules!
Step 5: Make the most of the season
Take advantage of the seasons. During spring, plant flowers together. During fall, rake up a big pile of leaves and let the kids demolish it. Learn to ice skate together in winter, or share the rush of sledding down an icy slope. Teach about nature. Hang a birdfeeder and put the kids in charge of keeping it filled. Get a book about birds so they can identify the feathered friends who drop by.
Step 6: Play games
Make up easy games and challenges for kids to do outside. Who can find the most leaves? Who can run four laps around the yard or complete a perfect cartwheel? Get them moving and learning with fun play.
Step 7: Toy time
Provide outdoor-friendly toys: balls or buckets, colored chalk for drawing on the sidewalk, a hula hoop or a swing set. Children are very imaginative, so they'll make up a variety of games and activities with just a few toys and props.
Step 8: Dress them appropriately
Make sure the kids are dressed appropriately for outdoor play, and check on them occasionally to be sure they stay in the area you've approved as their play space.
For more ways to encourage outdoor play, check out:
How to play family Olympics