How to Get Kids to Play Outside with a Giveaway from The Bug Bite Thing
Countless studies have shown that kids play less outside than ever. Whenever my siblings and I got too rowdy, my mom would yell, “Go outside and play!” and we WOULD. For hours. We’d knock on the doors of neighbors and ask if their kids could come out and play, too.
But it now actually seems like an effort to get kids to play outside. I could blame devices, video games, organized sports, homework… But no matter the reason, our kids are playing outside less than we did.
Over the past half century, in the United States and other developed nations, children’s free play with other children has declined sharply. Over the same period, anxiety, depression, suicide, feelings of helplessness, and narcissism have increased sharply in children, adolescents, and young adults. This article documents these historical changes and contends that the decline in play has contributed to the rise in the psychopathology of young people. Play functions as the major means by which children (1) develop intrinsic interests and competencies; (2) learn how to make decisions, solve problems, exert self-control, and follow rules; (3) learn to regulate their emotions; (4) make friends and learn to get along with others as equals; and (5) experience joy. Through all of these effects, play promotes mental health.Psychology Today
Other than yelling, “You’re driving me nuts! Go outside!” here are a few ways to increase your child’s outdoor time.
Lose the Guilt.
You are a parent. Not an entertainer. It is not your job to keep your kids entertained and enriched every second of the day. In fact, you are doing them a disservice by doing so. Free play is one of the most enriching activities a child can participate in. Being bored is actually a GOOD thing.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Weather
After living in the most urban of urban environments for my entire adult life, we moved to the country a few years ago. And by country, I mean, in the middle of nowhere surrounded by cows and cornfields. I am NOT a nature girl. Think shopping malls over hiking.
My son started school in this rural environment. As part of his school supply checklist, there were items I didn’t recognize–like rain pants and balaclavas. Because at his school, they play outside every day, no matter the weather. Seriously. They play when it’s snowing, below freezing, or pouring rain. It’s all about being dressed correctly for the weather. Apparently, there are items of clothing made for these very conditions. Though you can’t usually find these items at the typical shopping mall!
Outdoor play CAN happen no matter the weather. And it’s GOOD for them!
Be Nearby, But Not Part of the Action
My son is now in second grade and his little sister is in pre-school at this same school. They come home with their “rain suit” or snowsuit covered in mud most days. It’s a small price to pay for the independence and connection with nature they both have. They know more about plants and trees than I do, for sure. They can climb trees higher than I feel comfy with. It’s amazing.
For young kids who aren’t ready to play unsupervised, plan their playtime around an activity of yours that you transfer outdoors. In nice weather, I often work at my laptop on the deck while the kids play. Sometimes I take work calls while walking around the yard, or garden or exercise while my kids run around outdoors.
Be Prepared for Bug Bites and Splinters
Nothing is more of a buzz kill than a bug bite. (See what I did there?) People actually nicknamed our town, “Mosquito Swamp” because of how many wetlands we have and the huge amounts of mosquitoes. There have been nights my family has actually lost sleep with all the itching!
And, then there, of course, are also the bee and wasp stings that happen a couple of times a summer. Add to that the splinters from climbing all over wooden play structures and our ancient deck. We are quite familiar with all of the typical remedies for these outdoor hazards. (Have you tried putting salt on a mosquito bite or making a “X” to take the sting out or using tape to pull out a splinter?) These techniques work a little to relieve the symptoms but we recently found something that actually eliminates the irritant and not just its symptoms. It’s kid-friendly, chemical-free, and reusable. Check out The Bug Bite Thing and enter below to win one of your own!
Join in on the Outdoor Fun and Games
You’ll make memories if YOU join in on the games. Maybe it’s a favorite grown-up game like horseshoes, corn hole, or badminton. Or be silly and play along with their childhood games. There are a ton of fun ideas for games to play outdoors.