There is so much for our families to learn from being outside. Unfortunantly, since the early 80’s we have seen a dramatic change in where children spend their time. The “inside movement” (started because parents became deathly afraid of their children being kidnapped) and now, fostered by technology (and laziness), is keeping kids inside, in front of computer screens, televisions, and hand held video games. In fact, the number one activity families do together, is watch TV.
Although there can be good things to learn from the right television shows, families and couples and children who participate in outdoor activities are more satisfied with their relationships, happier, and healthier.
As parents, there are a few things we can remember, that will make it easy to send our kids out to play.
1. Dirt dont hurt.
Remember your childhood? Running around outside, exploring and adventuring. There was some dirt involved, and it didn’t kill us. Dirt is okay. Dirty is okay. I am not suggesting that my kids are going out to roll in the mud today. I still teach them to be respectful of their things, but we can’t get mad at our kids if they come in a little dirty. And we can’t keep them inside so that WE don’t have to do more laundry.
2. Turn off the technology.
TV and video games should not be our go-to activities for our kids or our families. Turn them off. When kids come home from school, once homework and other responsibilities are done, send them outside. In our house we have a rule that there is no TV on weekdays. It has created an atmosphere where our kids are always asking to go out and play, instead of asking to watch TV.
This applies to us also. We need to turn off the computer and phone and get some fresh air. With our kids and spouse is even better.
3. Use the resources you have.
Kids love leaves and flowers and water and grass. Send them out to water the plants. To gather different sizes of sticks, or different shapes of leaves. Being outside is all about creativity and imagination. It doesn’t have to be perfectly structured. Instead look to what you have around the house that can be used outside, and look at what is outside that can be made fun. When we were kids we used to take popsicle sticks and race them down the gutters in the water. So simple, but we would race for hours, running up and down the sidewalks following our sticks. I bet you have craft sticks in your supply right now.
Our girls love to take plastic silverware outside and have pretend picnics. They use long reeds to weave placemats and then make “food” out of flowers and leaves etc… They have so much fun just using the resources in our own backyard.
That said, another way to use the resources you already have, is to do inside things, outside. Why not eat lunch outside, why not have your kids do their homework outside sometimes, why not walk to the neighbors to drop something off instead of drive. Simple, but powerful ways to get us outside and into nature. We have even been known to fold laundry outside.
4. Be a good example.
If we are always inside, afraid of dirt, on the computer, our kids will do the same things. We have to show them the benefits of being outside, by going outside with them. Remember, children will do for the most part, what their parents do. If we spend our free time inside with technology, so will they.
5. Forget the household chores.
There will always be something to do inside. Laundry, cleaning, scrubbing. I find that the thought of all I have to do can keep me inside all day. Don’t let it suck you in. Go out and play.
6. Plan ahead.
Plan a time for your family to be outside every week. Maybe that means Saturday morning you go for a hike together, or walk to the store to get groceries, or explore a new part of your city on foot. It is much more likely to happen if you put it on the calendar and plan ahead.
Something that we have just gotten into as a family, and schedule on our calendar is geocaching. Geocaching uses GPS to find hidden treasures in your area. Go to geocaching.com to find all the treasures you can hunt for. Our family loves it and looks forward to Saturday mornings when we choose another route and treasure to find. This is also great for our son who loves technology. And is a good way to show our kids how we can use technology in healthier ways.
We need to make the outdoors a priority with our families, and for our children. At first, our kids might complain a little, but over time, they will start to love being outside and begin to create their own imaginary adventures. Don’t give in. Continue to keep technology to a minimun and encouraging outside play. It is good for our minds, and our bodies.