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.
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.
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.
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?