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15 Tips to Get Your Kids to Play Outside

October 18, 2021

With the prevalence of electronics such as video game consoles, tablets and smartphones, you often find yourself vying for your child’s attention. It also means getting your kids to play outside can turn into a chore. This situation can sometimes put you in an awkward position, where you compromise with your kids to encourage them to get outdoors.

Playing outside offers a range of benefits — kids who enjoy outdoor activities and play outside regularly are more likely to experience increased motor skills, a lower body mass index (BMI) and higher self-awareness. It also allows children an opportunity to explore their outside environment, socialize with other kids face-to-face and receive relief from over-exposure to electronic devices.

These are just a few of the benefits of playing outside as opposed to inside, but encouraging a child to play outside is easier said than done for most parents. If your child or toddler isn’t wanting to go outside, you can try a few tricks to help establish a routine and encourage them to play outdoors. Keep reading to learn how to get your child to play outside.

How to Encourage a Child to Play Outside

Check out several outdoor ideas and activities to make going outside fun for your family.

1. Organize a Playdate

Try organizing an outdoor playdate for your kids with other kids. Set up playdates with other parents at a nearby park or recreational area. There, the kids can make social connections with each other while having a chance to play outside. It can also be a good chance to meet other parents, who you can talk to while your kids play together.

2. Use Screen Time Limits

It may help to establish a daily time limit for screen time. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends kids ages 1-4 have only one hour of screen time each day. During the rest of the day, children should spend 30 minutes to an hour participating in physical activity.

If you can’t put screen time limits on your kids’ devices, you should put them away after an hour, so they’re out of reach. Additionally, leading by example will ensure your kids look forward to going outside. Rather than browsing your phone as they play outdoors, you could read a book or get in on the action with them.

3. Supply the Right Toys

Image of a child playing in a sandbox

If you want your kids to play outside, it’s important to provide them with the items they need to play outdoors. Provide outdoor toys for your kids, including balls, sidewalk chalk and jump ropes. Introduce games that involve their toys, so they’re more inclined to use them, like wall ball and hopscotch. If you have a play area like a sandbox in your yard, your kids should have enough tools to build different structures.

This strategy will help spark their interests and introduce them to new ways of playing outside.

4. Plant a Garden

Consider planting a garden or flowers with your kids. This idea can be both a learning experience and outdoor activity your kids can enjoy. From picking out the seeds to tending to the garden, your kids will be learning all about nature while also enjoying outdoor time. A garden can even teach them responsibility and independence moving forward and equip them with valuable skills they can use for life.

5. Go On a Hike

Go on a walk or hike with your kids. If you enjoy walking and hiking already, it’s a great activity to share with your kids. If you’re not already an avid walker or hiker, you can start by setting a destination for your daily walk and asking your kids for suggestions. Consider taking them to a nearby park or lake and walking with them there. Make your daily or regular walks fun by setting goals for distance or time and offering rewards for meeting your goals.

6. Build a Fort or Tree House

If you’re skilled in building or constructing things with your hands, here’s a great option to consider for outdoor family adventure play. A fort or tree house can be a unique hangout spot that your kids love to use. Like planting a garden with your kids, building a fort or tree house outside is a valuable learning experience.

If you don’t want to build a permanent structure like a tree house, you may want to create a makeshift fort out of pillows, blankets and other cozy items to lie on outside. This idea is great for warm weather nights when you want to check out the stars. Consider setting up a tent in your backyard to pretend like you’re camping, too.

No matter what space you decide to construct, you can spend valuable time with your family while getting in some physical activity.

7. Have a Picnic at a Park

Here’s a fun way to get some much-needed outside time and introduce your kids to the outdoors in general. One of the best ways to encourage a child to play outside is setting up a picnic. There are endless ways to have a picnic with your children — you just have to choose a day with nice weather to get started!

Pack a simple lunch with drinks. To include some exercise in your picnic, choose a destination that requires walking or hiking to get there. When you arrive, you and your kids can explore the area, eat your food and play games. Feel free to invite family members or friends to make even more memories.

8. Capture and Observe Insects

Image of a butterfly resting on a child's finger

Give your child a jar for catching bugs or butterflies. In the spring and summer, observing insects can be a fun and rewarding experience for little ones interested in science. Simply wash out a clear food jar to create the container. Be sure to poke holes in the lid, so the insects have enough air circulation.

Show them how to gently capture a bug, like a firefly. Then, you can look up fun facts about the bug to create a learning experience. After you’ve spent time observing the critter, you can release it back into nature.

9. Create an Enjoyable Environment

Provide safe spaces to play and explore outside. This effort depends on where you live, but establishing a welcoming space for your children to play is crucial in encouraging outdoor activity. Whether you live in an apartment or on several acres of land, you should be able to find ways to get your kids outdoors.

If you have a backyard, be sure that the area is as open as possible to encourage play. When possible, it always helps to add structures like swings and slides to give your kids options for spending time outside. Alternatively, spend time finding parks and playgrounds near your home. Making time to head to these places once or twice a week will make a difference in your kids’ happiness, development and learning.

10. Explore Different Sports

Get your kids interested in outdoor sports and other activities such as biking, rollerskating and kayaking. Many local youth leagues offer organized team sports, such as soccer, football, baseball and softball. Another way to get your kids interested in outdoor sports is through backyard activities such as volleyball or badminton. These are fun, structured activities your kids will enjoy playing with you or their teammates.

11. Follow Their Interests

The goal of encouraging your child to enjoy the outdoors is to make them feel like it’s a place where they can express themselves. Like any hobby, playing outside can be adapted to more specifically fit your child’s unique personality or preferred play style.

For example, if your child loves arts and crafts time, you may incorporate painting into your outdoor activities. Adapting outdoor time to a child’s personality can help create a positive connection between the outdoors and personal time.

12. Go to Events and Activity Centers

Image of two children at a petting zoo

One way to get your child excited about spending time outdoors is to engage in immersive, exciting activities. For example, you can bring your kids to child-friendly attractions, such as corn mazes, petting zoos or other exciting activities. These activities can be a great way to explore the outdoors and foster new hobbies and skills. Inviting family friends or your child’s friends can also make your time at these events more exciting and engaging.

13. Incorporate Natural Resources

Children have creative and imaginative minds, meaning simple aspects of nature can be a fun way to play or enjoy time outdoors. Children may have fun sitting on the top of large rocks, exploring different tree types and even jumping off a tree stump. Of course, you’ll always want to ensure your child’s safety and only encourage playing with different aspects of nature if they’re sturdy, safe and secure.

14. Explore New Areas

Many kids find it exciting to explore a new place or uncover something they didn’t know existed. While playing in a backyard or local park is a great way to have fun, it may also be a good idea to explore new nature areas with your child. You may try a different park or even plan a short trip to a kid-friendly waterfall or nearby nature area. Learn more about local nature attractions and consider changing your routine to keep your child engaged and excited.

15. Increase Their Outdoor Independence

If your child begins to feel more comfortable and confident playing outdoors, you may want to consider increasing their independence when playing. While parental guidance and checking in with your child is always important, you could provide them with their own space and time to explore their creativity.

Personal time can help a child feel like outdoor play is an activity of their own where they can express themselves and enjoy playing how they feel most comfortable. If your child feels confident playing outdoors in a backyard or park, consider giving them a little more range to explore if it’s appropriate for their age.

These ideas are just a few of the ways you can get your kids to play outside. When your child refuses to go outside, understanding the different options you have for outdoor family activities is often the best way to promote playing and learning outside. Planning certain activities into your daily routine is an easy way to get kids of all ages outdoors.

Make Outdoor Play Part of Your Child’s Routine

Exploring the outdoors through play and activities is an excellent way to help your child establish healthy lifestyle habits. Naturally, people of all ages need the outdoors and physical activity to live healthy lives. Specifically, kids need a chance to explore new environments, make new friends and indulge in new interests. These experiences are increasingly important to a child’s emotional growth and physical health.

Exposing your kids to different outdoor activities also impacts their ability to learn in the classroom, as exercise comes with many mental benefits, such as improved focus. Furthermore, kids who can meet and interact with their peers while playing will experience numerous social advantages. These advantages make incorporating outdoor play into your child’s routine even more crucial to their overall health and well-being.

A healthy routine for children involves getting enough sleep, prioritizing physical activity and promoting constant learning. Consistently engaging your kids in various new outdoor activities helps them live healthier lives by getting better quality rest and exploring and learning new ideas. The habits they establish as children carry over into adulthood and impact them moving forward, so getting them started playing outside is key.

Explore Outdoor Activities at Haymarket Children’s Academy in Gainesville, VA

Haymarket Children’s Academy values and encourages outdoor play and activities. That’s why we’re committed to providing your child with an opportunity to explore new interests and learn new concepts by enjoying outdoor activities. The Academy’s expansive four-acre campus in Prince William County features a wide array of outdoor activities designed to provide your child with an opportunity to play outside in a safe, well-supervised environment.

Camp Blue Ridge offers children an all-inclusive 10-week program filled with outdoor learning experiences your child will love. From archery and baseball to cooking and arts and crafts, Camp Blue Ridge offers something for everyone. Here, your kids are sure to have the time of their lives.

Be sure to check out our before and after-school programs designed to give your children access to plenty of outdoor activities. Haymarket Children’s Academy before and after-school programs offer your child room to grow and explore new opportunities with their friends and fellow students.

Contact us today to learn about Haymarket Children’s Academy!

Image of kids playing outdoors