9 Ways to Encourage Indoor Kids to Play Outside

Growing up, I was an indoor kid. Severely lacking in any form of physical coordination (can you say ‘last girl picked for school sporting teams’), I would rather curl up with a good book or direct my younger siblings in a theatrical performance than hit a ball or climb a tree (which I had a propensity to fall out of anyways!) Most kids have a natural inclination for particular types of play and while this is not necessarily a bad thing, I do believe it is important to encourage children to engage with other playful activities, especially when it comes to spending time outdoors.

And if a call of “Just go outside and play” doesn’t work in your house, here are nine ideas for encouraging your indoor kids to play outside.

outside play ideas

1. Take the indoors out: Taking toys that children already enjoy inside outdoors can encourage them to play and explore with them in new ways. Blocks and figurines, dress ups, playdough and other creative materials are all open to a world of new possibilities when taken outdoors.

2. Use outdoor spaces as an extension of your indoor space: A patio, verandah or cubby house can provide shelter for play outdoors during the hotter and colder months, and extend your family’s playful spaces at any time of the year.

3. Spend time together outdoors as a family: Whether it be an evening walk together or involving your children in washing the car, being outdoors yourself is a great way to encourage children to be there too. Here are 25 more ideas for having fun together outdoors and a great collection of ideas for family friendly weekend adventures.

ideas for outside play

4. Take time to explore a range of outdoor environments: Think beyond your own backyard when it comes to kids playing outdoors. Depending upon where you live, a visit to the beach, a river, a botanical garden or nature reserve, or even a farm, will provide your children with more of the great outdoors to explore.

5. Make it social: Inviting a friend over to play may be just the incentive your child needs to play outdoors. Set up a fun outdoor invitation to play (or two) and leave them to it.

potato harvest

6. Involving children in outdoor chores: Whether it be washing or walking the dog, pulling weeds, hanging washing or harvesting the vegetable patch, involving children in chores in and around the home is essential for the development of practical life skills.

7. Just add water: Kids love playing with water! As a sensory activity it aids brain development, and as a cognitive activity it lays a foundation for later scientific and mathematical learning, not that kids care about that at all, they just like to splash, pour, stir and get wet! Here are 10 fun ways with water play to get you started.

8. Don’t stress about the mess: For those mamas with a lower tolerance for messy play, being prepared with a tub of water, soap, facecloth and towels by the back door will help to minimise the likelihood of sand, mud and water being traipsed through the house at the end of playtime.

9. Make it a habit: You might like to try instituting a daily ‘green hour‘ as consistently spending time outdoors everyday is important to encouraging a child’s engagement with natural places as playful spaces.

How do you encourage your children to play outdoors?

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  1. Great ideas here Christie. We’re planning an overhaul of our outdoor area so there’s a shaded area for the kids and hopefully we can weatherproof it for outdoor play in Winter too. Our house is too small for them to be messing up all the time!

  2. Some great tips. Love the idea of a daily ‘green hour’.

  3. Love the post Christie. Especially adding water to play. Any ideas as to what age it aids brain development?

  4. A great post, thank you.

    It’s usually me that needs to be given motivation to get outside, Pebble is always happy to get out. Lucky she loves playing inside too :)

  5. Great ideas Christie. WE spend a lot of time outdoors doing simple things like taking an afternoon walk. Such a great way to de-stress and get family fun time

  6. Love this, Christie. I was much like you as a kid – and still am much that way – so I have to make a concerted effort to get the girls outdoors. My goal is to get an indoor/outdoor style area so we can get outdoors a little more often now!

  7. All excellent ideas. My eldest used to be an indoor kids, but is increasingly becoming an outdoor kid!

  8. Can you please write the opposite post now? :)

  9. Oh I need these! After many years next to a beekeeper, I finally get my backyard back this summer since he has moved! I think the kids have forgotten we even HAVE a backyard. Thanks for these tips.

  10. Great post…I’m an “indoor mom” and need these ideas for MYSELF!

  11. I love the idea of a daily green hour, it would be great for us to get outside and tend the vegetable garden early in the morning, unfortunately, I always seem to be busy with my computer. I really must find the time to do this with the kids, thanks for the nudge!

  12. Love the inspiration! We have a glass backdoor and we open the blinds up 1st thing in the am, to remind everyone how fun it is outside. It is very hot in the south, so we keep the baby pool and water table out at all times, ready to be filled on a moments notice. Swim diapers are within reach as is bug spray…by making it easy for Mama, I never have to stifle my little one’s urge to run around outside.

  13. As always fabulous ideas. My kids (like me) turn into hermits over the colder months so lately I’ve been ‘encouraging’ them outside. I’d add, ‘provide some building equipment’ and we won’t be able to get them back in!

  14. I was an indoors child too, and have remained an indoors adult. Thankfully my daughter doesn’t take after me here. I still don’t like being outdoors but she drags me out. I follow her lead here- which is lovely.

    The ideas here are simple and practical. Thanks.

  15. My children are very much outdoor children but we do make a point of walking to the train station to pick up Daddy after work, and then walk home with him too (sometimes the girls take their bike or scooters)

  16. Great article Christie! I am working on something similar at the moment as we spend a great deal of our time outside and do all our messy play there! If my twins didn’t get out morning and afternoon we would all go nuts i think! Love all your ideas and inspiration here!

  17. Thanks for wonderful ideas

  18. You wouldn’t think Miss Possum is an indoor kind of kids when you see my blog ( all wildlife and generally outdoor related) but she is and it can be hard getting her out. These are wonderful tips and will come in handy when my indoor girl doesn’t want to go outside.

  19. love the idea of a daily green hour. I have to admit that I am one of those people that find it easier to play inside than outside because as you’d know having a new baby, outside is not always the right setting for baby to be able to be down on the ground and crawling around and playing. (And I hate leaving him in the pram for long periods) Plus… the weather in Melb! lol. It’s something I’m trying to do more of though (yay for spring!) and I find we tend to go to more parks that I’ve specifically chosen because it will be safe for baby to be able to crawl around too. I’ve been very happy having M in 3y/o kinder as they do a LOT of outside play so I at least know she’s getting that. A great list of things to consider. Thanks

  20. i love idia

  21. Play Popular Indoor Sports in Brisbane says:

    Thanks for this wonderful idea Christie! It would be a great to spend time outside with the children. I encourage my kids to do activities outside of the home by setting a regular weekend fun either at the beach or up the mountain. If the weather is a bit unfavourable, I let them join an indoor sports activity at the nearby sports gym.

  22. Vegetable patches are a great way to get the children outside as well as teaching them about different foods.

  23. It can be tricky for some as I grew up in an area where it was not safe to play outdoors and no nearby parks, so its certainly a new experience teaching my kids to outdoor play.

  24. The fourth tip you posted is a very clever way to get your children to play outdoors more. Children seem to lose interest in things quickly, so bringing them to new places to explore will make them curious about the new location. Parks with play sets and swings are an especially good way to help your children have fun outside in the summer.


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