7 Tips for Making Outdoor Time a Habit

This post is by regular contributor Debi Huang of Go Explore Nature.

Let’s face it: It’s not always easy finding time to get outside with your little ones. That goal becomes especially challenging when kids or parents are sick, the weather isn’t cooperating or other life demands get in the way.

And yet even 15 minutes outside a day can help boost mood, restore energy and provide a nice break to your usual routine. Not to mention you never know what you might discover when you head out your back door!

So how can you make outdoor time a habit you can keep? While I’d love to say I have the answer, how about I just offer up some friendly parent-to-parent tips that have worked for us? Here goes:

1. Put outdoor time on the schedule.
You schedule everything else in your kids’ lives; getting outside shouldn’t be any different. Got a daily or weekly to-do list? Make sure spending time outside is on it.

2. Keep it simple and have fun.
The simpler the activity, the more likely you will be to do it – and do it regularly. Getting outside can be as simple as playing in the dirt, going for a walk or watching a sunset. Seek out adventures that make you laugh and bring you joy.

benefits of outdoor play

3. Consider the weather.
No one enjoys being outside if it means being uncomfortable. Always dress for the weather. That means layers, hats and gloves in cold weather; hats and cooler clothing in the heat.

Weather can also dictate when you head outside and for how long. In extreme heat, avoid the hottest times of the day and stay in the shade when you do venture out. Aim for activities that focus on staying cool, like water-based fun. Or limit your outdoor time to evenings.

In extremely cold temperatures, you’ll want to restrict outdoor activities to short blocks of time. And keep moving!

4. Have some ideas on hand.
Sometimes kids are begging to head outdoors. Other times, not so much. That’s why we create a seasonal list of things we’d like to do outside. We post it on our front door where we can see it several times a day. How’s that for motivation?

5. Spend time outside with friends.
Trade home-based playdates for ones at the park. Or head into nature on a hike, picnic, beach trip or snow play outing.

outdoor play ideas for kids

6. Be ready for messes.
I for one love it when my kids get really dirty playing outside. But I know not everyone is a fan. So make it easy on yourself by preparing for messes when you can.

Dress kids in old clothes for play in the dirt or mud. Use a puddle suit and rain boots for walks in the rain. And wear swimsuits for water play, hose play or the like. Keep towels by the front or back door so you’re ready to clean off messy kids as they head inside.

7. Make outdoor time a family affair.
Our family often heads outdoors during weekends. In just a few hours’ time, we’ve explored new trails, gone apple picking, headed to tide pools and had a picnic at the park.

Now it’s your turn! How do you make time to get outside every day?

P.S. Looking for more inspiration for your family outdoor time? Why not check out Debi’s 31 Days of Backyard Nature Fun. It’s packed with great ideas.

You might also like:

Get them outside! nature-hunt-outdoors-rainplay

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  1. keeping chooks, a vegie patch, worm farm, or even just planter boxes that need watering are all ways to make sure you have to get outside. I also think a rain guage or a sundial are great ways to get kids venturing outside. If at all possible make it difficult to use your dryer (I have to find an extension cord and free up a power point) and take the opportunitiy to hang clothes outside – amazing how when I am hanging washing I notice the changing of the seasons; plums that are ripening, birds nesting, weeds growing ;)

    • Love your ideas, Nell – especially the one about hanging laundry to dry. My friends who’ve done this absolutely swear by it. Might have to give it a go this spring.

  2. Put inside toys outside! My girls don’t usually need much encouraging to go outside but today they wanted to play with their Barbie Campervan which has a splash pool for the Barbies. So we spread a large towel on our deck outside, brought out the Campervan and the Barbies and added a large plastic bottle of water for them to use in the Barbie pool. They played happily in the fresh air for about an hour with Barbies and water:)

    • Yay! Taking indoor toys outside is exciting because turns the ordinary into something extraordinary. Sounds like your girls had great fun!

  3. I echo the spending time outside with friends . . . it was cold this week, more than normal. I wasn’t looking forward to going out. However, once we met up with friends to go sledding, I realized that was exactly what I needed . . . fresh air, a little physical activity, seeing friends, and watching birds at the feeder.
    The weather also makes a huge difference for us. During the winter, if there is a sunny, calm day, we head outside even if it’s on the colder side. When it’s windy or overcast it’s not as pleasant to be out so we capitalize on the sunny days!

    • Getting outside in cold weather is definitely an added challenge. I love how you’ve managed to make it happen – and be as enjoyable as possible for your little ones.

  4. What a lovely Post Deb! Such great tips to keep us going back outside!

  5. I’ll second (or third?) the hanging the laundry to dry. We live in the Middle East and don’t own a dryer, like most of our neighbors. I always invite my kids to come with me when I hang the clothes outside, and my 1.5-year-old thinks that riding in the laundry basket out the front door is the most natural thing ever!

    • Great to hear it, Rachel! I think we might need to start a movement here in the States to get back to hanging clothes out to dry. Or maybe at least here in the city. (BTW, I love that your little one loves riding in the laundry basket!)

  6. Great blog post! Keeping kids outside helps keep them healthy and it is a wonderful opportunity to educate them as well.

    • I’m so glad you liked the post, Josh! Spending time outside offers kids a world of benefits they might not enjoy otherwise. Keep up the great work encouraging kids to get outdoors!


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