How To Get Your Kids Back Outside This Summer

All parents know that a lot of today’s kids need less screen time and more time outside. Even with good intentions, urban living, busy lives, and fears about outside dangers, it can be hard. It can be hard enough to get yourself outside. Here are some practical solutions to motivate your kids to play outside.

At first, it’s easy. You can put the baby in the pushchair and go outside. Eventually, they get too heavy and too independent for this. Now, your walks have to be at their pace. As your kids reach school-age, you might struggle to keep them motivated or entertained outdoors. By kindergarten, you have probably found lots of strategies, like treats, bribes, over-exaggerated excitement, coercion, and mandatory family time.

These suggestions are best for the under-12s. Keep in mind that all children are different, so tips will work with some kids and some don’t. Keep trying. Getting your children outdoors is important, so you don’t want to give up. 

Follow Their Interests

You might need to think creatively. There is a way to get them outside by using their current interests. You might enjoy walking, bird watching, or cycling, but this doesn’t mean your kids will enjoy these activities. In fact, dragging them outside to do things they don’t enjoy will have a negative effect and makes them resent going outside. You don’t want that to happen. 

Think about what your kids like to do and are interested in, and go from there. 

  • If they like a certain spot, go out and play it with them
  • If they like reading, find outdoor locations similar to their books or read at the park
  • If they like to draw, use nature for inspiration
  • If they’re interested in mechanics, go out into nature and look for machines on walks or bike rides. Go to the forest and build things like dens and forts with them
  • If they like cooking, pick fresh ingredients
  • If they like to sing, take a birdsong course
  • If they love superheroes, take nerf guns outside for a game in the neighborhood

You could encourage your kids to play games outside that they make up based on whatever cartoon they’re into right now. Encourage them to make up their own play and be creative in how they use the outdoors. 

Go Outside With Them

Your children will want to go outside more if you go outside to play with them. Kick a ball around, have a game of cornhole with some cornhole bags, go and splash in the creek or anything you like. Just have fun together and enjoy yourself. Ask them what they would like to do outside instead of telling them what you will be doing. 

A good strategy that works well is the summer bucket list. At the start of the summer holiday, brainstorm some outdoor activity ideas on a big piece of paper, and tape it up somewhere as a reminder. 

Another strategy that can be effective is designating a day, or a few days, of the week, for family adventures. Each family member takes turns deciding on the activity and destination. This way, the kids will know they will get to choose one day and there is more excitement in going outside together as a family. 

Some families have had success with an already compiled outdoor activity calendar. You can find these online and see if they motivate you all to get outside. Most kids won’t turn down your offer to be their outdoor playmates. 

Invite Friends To Play Outside

If your kids don’t want to play outside with you, then perhaps they will feel excited about playing with their friends outside. 

You could try to get involved with some community outdoor playgroups. Look and see if anyone in your area organizes outdoor family activities. Do a google search or check your community Facebook group to see what you can find. 

Get to know the families with children of a similar age to yours in your neighborhood and encourage outdoor meet-ups with the children. The more parents that you know in the neighborhood, the more comfortable you will be in letting your kids out to roam around and play. 

If you don’t feel comfortable letting your kids roam free, you can arrange regular playtimes and invite your kids’ friends to join your family on outdoor adventures. Even better, arrange to go hiking or camping with other families with kids for more outdoor fun. This gives your kids someone to play with and gives you some adult socializing time as well. 

If you have an only child, finding them some playmates is a good idea too, to help them make friends and build confidence. 

Provide Safe Places To Play and Explore Independently

There is likely to be a safety aspect to how much you are comfortable letting your kids go outside, and what they can do while they’re out there. You might be completely comfortable with sending them out the door and not hearing them all afternoon, depending on their age, where you live, and how responsible they are. However, there are lots of parents who don’t allow their children to play in their fenced backyard unsupervised. 

Whichever end of the spectrum you are, your children need to feel safe enough to enjoy their time outside, and they can’t feel safe if you are making them feel that being outside is unsafe for them. 

Maybe you would benefit from spending some time exploring your own fears about the outdoors. Maybe you need to find a place where they can play outside where you will feel that they are safe. Do what you need to do in your backyard to ease your fears. This could be having a wasp nest removed, fencing in the pond, or locking the garden shed. If you can’t, find somewhere else that you feel assured of their safe play. This could be a local fenced-in playground, your family ranch, or their schoolyard.

Kids will have more fun if they feel some freedom from your watchful gaze. They need to learn to challenge their bodies and take risks. Outside is the best place for this to happen. Give them the freedom they need to play and explore the outdoors. 

You might want to consider making sure they know some basic outdoor safety stuff too. For example, teach them how to react to meeting strangers and animals when they’re out playing, how to safely climb a tree, what plants they can touch, eat, and play with, and which to avoid, and what to do if they find themselves lost. 

Get Some Outside Toys and Use Outdoor Toy Rotation Strategies

Have you heard of toy rotation or busy bugs? This is a simple idea. Children are more interested in playing with toys that they can’t always access. For example, you might have three buckets of outdoor toys, which contain things like bubbles, balls, kites, skipping ropes, skateboards, badminton, and water pistols. Only have one of these buckets available to your kids at a time. 

When these buckets are replaced there will be some excitement to get at the new toys and this will encourage your kids to go outside and play. You could rotate these toy buckets every day, once a week, or just when your kids ask for a new bucket to play with. 

Combine these buckets with things like water toys, a paddling pool, and materials to build dens, and you should have good results getting them out. 

Enjoy every minute being a mom and continue to inspire your kids!

Previous articleYou Know, Getting Your Child to Study Doesn’t Have To Be An Ongoing Battle
Next articleHome Is Where the Health Is: 5 Methods for Happy Home Dwellers!
Jodi Carlson is a mother of 2 children, wife, and a full time product owner at a large Insurance company. She is a mom just trying to juggle a full-time job with a family life. She shares countless tips and tricks of things she has experienced first hand with her kids. As she continues to guide and teach them to become caring, sensible and responsible human beings, all while working a full time job, maintaining a home and some how still allowing for some personal time and growth. Are you a Girl Scout Leader? Along with Mom Connecting Moms, she shares her 25+ years of Girl Scout experience over at Leader Connecting Leaders , there she shares ideas and resources to help leaders who are inspiring girl leaders of tomorrow plan their troop meetings. Check out Leader Connecting Leaders .