*A collaborative post
Are your children spending too much time indoors? Not playing outside could be having a detrimental effect on their health. The great outdoors is thought to play a major part in building up our immune system, developing practical skills and even improving social skills. If your children are seemingly housebound, here are a few ways in which you could encourage them to venture out of the house and get some fresh air;
Invest in some garden toys
A garden that’s too plain or adult-oriented may not be appealing to your children. You can make this space more appealing by investing in garden toys such as trampolines, paddling pools and sandpits. Ask them which kind of toys they’d like in the garden so that you’re not buying something that won’t get played with. You can also join in with games in the garden and help fuel their imagination.
Help your children build a den
Building an outdoor den is a great way to encourage your children to go outdoors. A den gives your children a private space to call their own and personalise, giving them a sense of freedom that they may not have in the house. The most traditional form of den is a treehouse, although these kinds of den are now falling out of fashion as legal restriction make it harder to get permission to build these, plus few people nowadays have the time or know-how to build a treehouse. Buying a flat-pack Wendy house could be a simpler option that still gives them a space to play. You could even set up a tent at the end of the garden for your children to use as a den.
Lead by example by taking up active family hobbies
Your children are more likely to venture outdoors if they see you taking part in outdoor activities, whether it be gardening or going for a walk. You can particularly make an impact by trying out outdoor physical activities as a family. This could include going on a local cycle trip, taking a walk in the nearby woods, getting your children to help you with gardening or playing football in the park. By taking the lead and being active with your children, you can show them just how fun going outdoors can be. With someone to inspire them, they’re more likely to make outdoor trips of their own free will.
Book active family holidays
You can also build up happy memories associated with going outdoors by planning active outdoor family holidays. This could include anything from a weekend camping to a ski holiday abroad. You can even find ways to make a beach holiday active by trying out beach games and water activities rather than spending the whole holiday on a sun lounger. Not all holiday spots have activities to offer, so try researching into the best adventure holiday destinations. Look for family-friendly hotels with facilities such as waterslides and activity groups.
Eat family meals al fresco
A simple way of getting your children to go outside could be to start eating meals outdoors in the summer. This could be worthwhile if you currently rely on TV dinners, helping to get your children away from the screen. Creating a comfortable dining environment outdoors could help to make it a place that your children want to go. This could include buying a decent outdoor dining set, shelter from the shade and perhaps even an outdoor heating source for the cooler evenings. You could even start cooking outdoors on a barbecue.
Drive less often, walk more
If you drive your children everywhere, you could also encourage them to go outdoors by walking and cycling more with them. You certainly don’t want to be giving them lifts everywhere if they’re independent enough to make their own journey – by getting them to walk back from town rather than picking them up you could start developing a comfort with walking locally rather than your children constantly feeling that they need to be in a car when getting around. Help them to learn local routes by walking or cycling with them so that they feel more confident walking around on their own.
Set a limit on daily gadget use
Most children want to stay indoors because this is where all the fun gadgets are. Whether it’s playing games on a tablet or watching a movie on the TV, devices with screens on dominate our children’s lives. Restricting use of gadgets can sometimes be seen as a punishment and may make your children resent going outdoors, however it could be necessary if they’re spending every waking hour staring at a screen. You could put restrictions on the wi-fi or simply only allow a couple hours’ screen time a day. Without the option of gadgets to occupy their attention, children may look elsewhere for things to do.
Download app games to encourage kids to go outdoors
Of course, there are ways to blend a children’s love of gadgets with the great outdoors. One way of doing this is to download apps that encourage them to explore and help them develop an appreciation for the great outdoors. There are all kinds of outdoor adventure apps that can help to identify plants and animals as well as incorporating games. You may be able to join in and encourage competition – for example, you could use a step counting app to try and compete with your children by aiming to walk more steps each day.