A few years ago, my husband and I decided it was time we moved our family of five out of our tiny city apartment. There was a small alley that ran alongside our building where we held foot races, learned to roller skate and covered the walkway with sidewalk chalk art. The nearest park, situated over the subway station a half mile walk away, boasted a huge murky cement fish pond and a small, sandy playground. We loved living in a bustling city but longed for our children to know the joy of exploring in the woods, of jumping in piles of fall leaves, of running barefoot in the dirt. Ready for a pendulum swing in the complete opposite direction, we packed up and headed for a 100 year old farmhouse nestled on six acres of land in South Jersey. But as we settled into our new home and a rural way of life, I found that they didn’t want to go outside. The only thing they really wanted to do was stick their noses in front of a screen to play, watch, or surf. I had to help them.
Today I share some ideas to get kids outside even when they don’t want to (with minimal parent preparation):
Start with a simple “GO PLAY!” Modern kids lack time for unstructured play, but it’s important for many aspects of childhood development. They may be a little whiney at first, but they’ll figure it out and begin exploring whatever outdoor space you have.
Send them on a nature scavenger hunt. Make up your own list or print one from the internet why reinvent the wheel?!). Here’s a great one (http://www.thetaylor-house.com/nature- scavenger-hunt-for-kids/). If you have more than one child, they can work together or compete against one another.
Have them create a treasure box. Give your child a shoe box and let him know it’s his very own treasure box. He can decorate it if he likes and then fill it with whatever treasures he finds outside. Or you can give instructions to fill it with certain types of treasures (smooth, colorful, hard, tiny, etc.). Be amazed at what your child considers a treasure.
Plant something together: flowers, vegetables, anything. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and it can even be in a pot on your porch. They’ll want to go out and check its progress often, so try to choose something that grows quickly.
Do outdoor reading time…in a hammock, if you have one. Is there anything better?!
Eat meals or snacks outdoors. Food is constantly on my kids’ minds, and sitting down for an outdoor picnic is sure to lure them away from screens.
Don’t forget that your example is key. Get outside yourself! You’ll feel (and actually be) healthier and even think better.