It's a hot topic and one I'm passionate about: getting kids outside. During the school year our kids are highly structured, pressured and scheduled beyond belief (mine, too) and somehow when summer hits they have forgotten how to be...kids. Here are some tips for getting your kids outside.
1. Space to play. You don't have to have the perfect yard or a swingset or twenty acres of forested rolling hills for your kids to have fun. But you do need to create spaces to play. Our backyard has several areas: dirt pile, mud kitchen, patio with small pool, trampoline, shady tree and climbing tree with swing. Then you have to let them play there. Don't worry about keeping it perfect- let your kids have fun in their space. And do let them play with the hose. Yes, they'll get muddy.
2. Free time. Seems silly to say it, but don't over structure your kids' time. It's ok to have a few special activities that you do like swimming lessons or a special camp for a week, but more than one or two activities at a time can make kids feel a little stressed, or at least cause them to forget how to have free time and be bored. The point is to decompress during the summer months.
3. Special outdoor activities. Unstructured time is very important, but so is a little structured time. Plan special trips to nearby outdoor spaces like a favorite park, a creek or river, or a hike. Plan to stay for awhile. Give your kid a journal or camera to record some of what they find, take your time and have lunch. Plan some "quiet time" where kids can be alone and reflect on what they observe. Maybe bring a special book to read together or do some birdwatching.
4. Invite friends. When kids start to get bored of the usual thing, invite some friends over. Have your kids help make homemade popsicles for their friends or build a fort in the back yard. Bringing friends on a hike can help everyone have more fun and forget the work of hiking while increasing the fun. Give one of your friends a break from their kids or invite them all along.
5. Lead by example. That's right. You need to get outside, too. Work in the yard while your kids are playing or show them how you climb the tree. Turn off your device (yes, I know this is a blog) and play with your kids. Plan activities that interest you. If the big park isn't fun for you, plan a hike or a day at the river with your friends. Your kids will have fun if you are having fun.