With the weather improving, it is the perfect time to encourage children to get outside for some exercise and get them away from their electronics for awhile. It may be hard to imagine that it takes a lot of effort to encourage children to play outside, but currently children are spending an average 40-60 hours a week in front of a screen, and that kind of heavy exposure can have negative effects.
Problems Resulting from Decrease in Free Play
Free play is considered so important to the cognitive development of children that it is deemed a “right of every child” by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights. However, the amount of time children spend playing has gone down drastically in recent years. The combination of heavy academic pressures and hectic family lifestyles has resulted in a significant decrease in playtime for children—and even less playtime that doesn’t occur in front of a screen.
Lack of playtime leads to a decrease in creative thinking and expression, which can cause students to be more stressed and anxious. Additionally, decreasing amount of time spent in outdoor play as well as decreased recess time in schools is resulting in higher levels of obesity, more instances of depression, and a lower ability to be successful socially.
Tips for Encouraging Outdoor Play
Encouraging free play, especially free play outdoors, is something that can easily be integrated into your family’s routine. Here are a few ways to do so:
Ask your kids to put away all electronics for a certain amount of time each day, such as after school and before dinner. Or, only allow electronics after certain tasks have been completed, such as a certain amount of free play outdoors.
Participate with Them
Your kids will follow your lead, and encouraging them to participate in outdoor activities with you is the perfect way to keep them active. Suggest a morning or evening walk, a bike ride, playing “Simon Says” or “Follow the Leader” around the yard, play catch, or if possible invest in a swing set or other toys that encourage outdoor play.
Give Them a Space that is Theirs
Kids love having a space that is all their own. Encourage them to build an outdoor fort, or even consider a tree house to give them a secret, fun place that is only theirs.
Encourage Outdoor Crafts
If your kids are interested in arts and crafts, find ways to incorporate them into outdoor activities. Let kids use chalk to draw pictures on the sidewalk, teach them how to make bird feeders, or keep scrapbooks of leaves.
Involve Kids in Outdoor Chores
Whether this includes dog walking, raking leaves, pulling weeds, planting flowers, or mowing the lawn, keeping kids accountable for outdoor chores will keep them active and responsible.
For those upcoming hot summer days, grab the kids some water guns, a sprinkler, water balloons, or other gadgets so they can play in the water without dealing with the hassle of a public pool.
There are many options for outdoor games for kids, and encouraging them to participate in outdoor play is better for everyone. They’ll be happier and healthier physically, mentally, and socially.