Years ago, summertime meant the sound of children playing in neighborhood yards. These days, however, yards remain silent as kids are camped out in front of computers, televisions, and video games.
To help the health of our children and get them in touch with nature, we need to get them back outside. Here are some ways to encourage housebound children to enjoy the outdoors.
1. Get outside yourself – If your children see you sitting in front of the TV all evening, they will follow suit and won’t be motivated to get outside. Getting outdoors is healthy for adults, too, so do your whole family a favor and invite them outside for a group game of Frisbee, horseshoes, or a nature walk. The first step to getting your kids outdoors is to lead them there.
2. Build a tree house or playhouse – Remember tree houses and playhouses? These little hide-aways provide wonderful scope for children’s imaginations. They can be forts, pioneer cabins, igloos, stores, and anything your children can imagine.
3. Cut the cable – Have you thought about simply getting rid of cable television? Gasp! It may sound like a huge step, but those who have ditched the cable claim not to miss the TV and to be glad for the extra money each month. Consider scaling back or cutting out cable altogether, or rationing your kids’ television and computer time.
4. Swing! – Whether it’s a tire swing or a full-scale swing set and slide, put some sort of activity center out in your yard if possible. This will encourage your children and their friends to go outside and play. If it’s not possible, go to a park.
5. Build solar toys – Is your child a techie who loves computers and computer games? Try building solar-powered toys (there are good-quality kits available) or other solar-powered gadgets. You have to be outside in the sun to make them work!
6. Start a garden – It can be in containers or prepared beds outdoors, but gardening can get the whole family outside. It’s good exercise, too. Kids enjoy watching the plants or seeds they plant grow, bloom, and bear fruit. This fascination will draw them outside.
7. Collect stuff – Kids love collections. Begin rock, leaf, or feather collections. Get a good field guide and go on hikes and walks to find more items for the collection. Some children enjoy finding bugs and insects, too.
8. Look to the stars – Invest in a small telescope or binoculars and a good constellation map, and look to the skies. It can open up worlds of study and fascination to explore the heavens.
9. Have picnics and cookouts – Cooking and eating outside gets the whole family outdoors. Weekends and evenings are perfect times for these kinds of outdoor activities. A kite, Frisbee, ball, or other outdoor game will get everyone exercising and moving.