Spring is here, and that means it’s finally time again to get outside and play. Unfortunately, even young kids today are often reluctant to look up from electronic devices and get outside into nature. This sedentary lifestyle can interfere with their physical development, contribute to obesity later in life, and lead to behavioral problems. Kids need to move around and play to grow in a healthy way, and to manage their stress and energy levels.
It’s far easier for young kids to socialize online today than it is to organize and participate in activities outside. To get kids into the habit of seeing friends in person and socializing outside in an active way, parents need to actively teach and encourage them. Work with other parents to set up playdates for younger kids, and encourage them to participate in planning and scheduling new playtimes with their friends over time.
School age children often arrive home tired from the mental work of being at school all day, and resistant to the idea of going back out of the house to play. Ironically, this lack of physical exercise can leave them even more tired and grumpy in the long run. To help deal with this, encourage your little ones to participate in afterschool sports teams and clubs.
Camp Out in the Backyard
If your kids don’t like going outside at all, it’s likely to be simply because they haven’t spent enough time there to know what to do with themselves. Take a weekend and camp out in the backyard. Organize activities and games, but also make time for unstructured play. This give your kids time to be creative and come up with ways to entertain themselves with whatever is on hand, instead of relying on technology to entertain them passively.
If your child is especially difficult to pry out from behind their phone and out into the sunlight, consider using their fascination with their phone as leverage. Pokemon Go and similar games require a lot of movement outside. Do supervise your kids, even if they’re just playing Pokemon Go in the park. Walking around with your eyes glued to a screen comes with its own hazards, and parents need to be on hand to help little ones who aren’t good at multi-tasking between a smartphone and the environment.
A lot of parents get their kids outside by giving them outdoor chores. This is unlikely to help them build positive associations with the outdoors. Instead, give them a patch of garden to use how they like, and show them how to plant flowers, vegetables, or trees. Alternatively, you can collect flowers, grasses, and leaves and teach them to dry and press them to make art.
The common thread in all these activities is that you can help your child love the outdoors by first helping them to find something to love doing there. All of us here at Swinging Monkey Products encourage healthy, outdoor interaction and play for children of all ages.