Summer’s fast approaching, and with it pleasant weather that calls for getting out and exploring the outdoors. You’re not alone if your kids respond to a plea to get outside with, “but it’s hot!” or, “but the bugs!” before they simply turn on a favorite video game and ignore the sunny day outside. Getting children to turn off their devices and enjoy nature and outdoor activity can seem like an insurmountable challenge sometimes.

So what’s a parent to do? If you’re looking for ways to encourage your children to engage in outdoor play instead of video games this summer, Crème de la Crème put together this list of tips and tricks for successfully encouraging your kids to play outside.

What Are the Benefits of Spending Time Outdoors?

A young boy playing outside by running through the spray of a lawn sprinkler.

Image used with permission via Unsplash by phammi

Outdoor play comes with some very real benefits for kids. Simply being out in the great outdoors (even if that’s your own backyard!) inspires kiddos to be physically active and adventurous.

Nature can soothe stress while improving kids’ moods, not to mention serving up a big dose of vitamin D and fresh air. All that helps ground kids so they can better take on tasks like homework and get better sleep. Outdoor play, even for brief periods with low- to moderate-intensity exercise, can also help prevent kids from gaining weight. Add a friend or sibling into the mix, and outdoor play improves social skills, too.

Still, it’s often all too easy for kids to latch onto easy excuses for non-outdoor activities (think: video games), despite the many benefits playing outdoors promise. 

Remove the Excuses

We don’t only mean the excuses your kids come up with. You may also think you have no way to get to natural areas for kids to explore. Just because you don’t have a huge backyard at home or national park within day-trip driving distance doesn’t mean you can’t find accessible natural areas close to home.

Look for nearby parks, lakes and beaches, or recreation areas, then set a time for a family adventure. You may not be able to get to a nature-filled forest every weekend, but you can find something close to home that gets the kids off their devices.

Invite Some Playmates

Children are often more willing to get outside if they have other kids along with them. Whether you get the group of siblings together or get friends from school or even the neighbors involved, having other kids to join in the fun helps inspire kids to abandon their video games. You might try pairing with another parent to take turns watching each other’s kids in someone’s yard or a neighborhood park to build consistent outdoor time without sacrificing your own busy schedule.

Rely on Your Pets

Nothing gets a kid moving quite like their love for a pet. If you have a family dog, have your child go outside with your pup for a walk or to toss a ball and run around. If you have a fenced-in area or enclosure, you can also take pets like rabbits or guinea pigs outdoors. When your child sees their furry friend enjoying the greenery and fresh air, they’ll get excited, too.

Embrace Watching Wildlife

Even if you don’t have a pet, you can draw on your kiddos’ interest in animals to get them inspired to go outdoors. Wildlife watching and birdwatching trips are a great place to start. If your children are really resistant to putting down their devices, you can even incorporate looking up information about species and taking pictures as a first step. You don’t have to travel far to do this. Just watch out for wildlife at a local park or in your own backyard.

Do Indoor Activities Outdoors

Often, kids see a dividing line between indoor and outdoor time. When you can blur that line, you’ll get them more interested in heading outdoors. Eat a picnic meal in your backyard or in a park, or let kids do homework at a picnic table or on the patio. Taking a break from math or reading might be the inspiration they need to get up and run around for a bit.

Help Create a Kid-Friendly Garden

Getting kids involved with gardening doesn’t just get them out of the house. It’s also a great way to teach kids where food comes from and how to take care of living things. Depending on your preferences and space, you might plant a vegetable garden or flowerbed. Start off with easy things like hardy flowers or tomatoes to get kids feeling empowered and inspired.

Creatively Invest

You’ve already invested in that super-cool video game for your kid. Why not invest in a few tempting toys for the outdoors? Projectiles, toys on wheels, and anything that involves water are surefire favorites. If you want to invest in something bigger, you could also spring for a play structure that inspires imaginative play like one that looks like a pirate ship or a kid-friendly climbing wall.

Plan Outdoor Activities

If your kids tend to get bored by unstructured playtime, you can even organize a fun activity for them to do on their own or for the whole family to enjoy together. Bury some “treasure” in your sandbox, then make a treasure map that the kids can follow. Put together a craft project using flowers kids pick themselves. Nature-based scavenger hunts are also tons of fun. You might even go geocaching if you’re looking for a way to incorporate devices, just in a fun and outdoorsy way.

That wraps up Crème de la Crème’s list of ways to encourage outdoor play this season. We hope you’re feeling inspired to try out some of our tips and get your kids excited to enjoy playing outside. Do you have a tried-and-true activity, game, or other tip that always gets your own kids outdoors? If you do, drop us a line so we can share your recommendation with other families looking for ways to get their kids inspired to play outside.