Ways to Get Your Kids Spending More Time Outside
How did you spend your summers as a child? I’m willing to bet you weren’t stuck on your tablet or smartphone! Playing outside, having fun making up games and exploring, came a lot more naturally before the digital age. Now that the lure of screens is so omnipresent for many of our kids, it’s important to help them rediscover the fun of being a kid. Getting physical exercise, using their imaginations, and learning all the skills that come from playing outside with friends (negotiation, self-reliance, teamwork, and problem-solving, for starters) are all benefits to getting your kids outside this summer. These practical tips will help make it happen.
Get Your Kids Outside This Summer: Easy Tips and Tricks
1. Start with tried-and-true classic fun
Brainstorm a list with your kids of fun summer activities to do that (coincidentally) will get them outside. Build a summer family bucket list with them that will give you something to look forward to. I’ve written elsewhere about things one can do in the summer for free or nearly-free, as well as a classic bucket list of summer activities that our family likes to cross off. For your littlest kiddos, even something as simple as creating a scavenger hunt can be a really fun way of getting them outside and being active.
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But what if you live somewhere that is always rainy in the summer, or too hot during most of the daytime to be outside? Alas, we’ve had our share of too-wet summers lately. In that case, this list of screen-free summer indoor fun may be more what you need.
And for those of you in hotter climes and/or northern latitudes where the sun rises early, try to make the most of those early hours when it’s cooler outside. (It’s also better for avoiding sun exposure!) Just remember to protect your kids from pests like mosquitoes and ticks while they’re out there.
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2. Plan to get wet
Unless you live somewhere under drought restrictions, water fun is one of the easiest (and most fun!) ways to cool off in the summer heat. There are so many ways you can go about this, and you don’t even need to own a pool (though if you do, you’re set!):
- Set up a kiddie wading pool for your infants and toddlers to splash in while you cool your feet.
- If you’re in or near a city, investigate where the nearest splash pad is.
- Get a sprinkler to hook up to your front-yard hose, or a water-balloon maker for a classic water-balloon fight.
- If you’re near a lake or the ocean, visit the beach as often as you can.
- Or look into a summer membership at a local pool (and while you’re at it, sign your kids up for some lessons!).
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There are so many ways to get outside for some water fun in the summer, at so many different price points – which is right for your family?
3. Upgrade their gear
Let’s face it, your kids are NOT going to want to ride their bikes around the neighborhood kids if their wheels are several years too small. Our girls are a perfect case in point. The last time they got bike upgrades was several years (and a foot of height per girl) ago.
But this spring, Essie began begging for a bike with hand brakes (like her big sister’s) AND gears. Our neighborhood is hilly as it slopes down to a nearby creek, and it’s all the girls can do to pedal back uphill after visiting our nearby park (which borders the creek). So Essie got a bigger bike, with 6 speeds and hand brakes, for her birthday earlier this spring.
Her bike was now the same size as Kimmie’s, only fancier. Meanwhile, the girls had several trail rides scheduled for this month with their Girl Scout troop. Essie couldn’t wait to go; Kimmie wanted no part of them. Until SHE got a new bike, one size up, with even more gears than Essie’s new bike. Kimmie’s enthusiasm level about the scout trail rides flipped like a switch, and she and Essie led the pack at our first ride last week.
4. Get them into organized summer activities
Though I was never very good at it, I remember going to soccer camp each summer when I was a youngster. It was the perfect time to practice and improve my skills, and it certainly got me out into the fresh air! The same was true for Girl Scout camp, which I loved so much that I eventually spent a summer as a camp counselor.
Why opt for an indoor “summer camp” when you could get your kids outdoors instead? Even if they’re not ready for sleepaway camp, there are still day camps they can attend. Or check with your local town/city/county recreational department, to see if where you live has a summer playground option. We have several near us; for about the cost of one week of day camp, you can sign your child up for an entire summer of supervised playtime at a local playground! In our area, spots fill up fast, so you’ll definitely want to jump on this if you haven’t already.
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And there are also summer sports team options. Whatever your child’s preferred sport, it’s worth poking around to see if there’s a summer team they can join, assuming you’ll be around most of the summer. Even though playing sports is competitive, it also teaches teamwork at the same time. It’s why playing sports is such a good thing for kids. And most important of all, it encourages and allows them to get out there and be active on a regular basis. That’s what matters more than anything else for your children.
Or if you yourself aren’t much of a team sport type, get them involved in your summer sports activities instead. Last summer my husband took the girls along with him for their first charity bike ride. They were both so proud of themselves for biking 7 miles that day (a new personal record for both of them) – but especially Essie, who at the time was only six years old!
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