Let’s Go Outside and Play

It’s time once again for Heather Johnson from Family Volley to share with us some Parenting Tips as part of her

“Parenting Tips” here on The Idea Room. Here’s Heather in her own words with a great article to help kids Get Outside and Play


Since the early 80′s there has been a dramatic change in where children spend their time. The “inside movement” started because parents were afraid of their children being kidnapped is now fueled by technology (and laziness). The “inside movement” is keeping kids inside the house, in front of televisions, computers, and video games. Research shows that the number one activity families do together, is watch TV.

There are good things that can come from watching the right televisions shows and using technology, but even better things come to families (and couples) who participate in outdoor activities. They are happier, healthier, and more satisfied with their relationships. 
As parents we need to encourage our children to get outside and play. Here are a few suggestions.
1. Turn off the technology.
TV and video games should not be our go-to activities for our kids or our families. Turn them off. When kids come home from school, once homework and other responsibilities are done, send them outside. In our house we have a rule that there is no TV on weekdays. It has created an atmosphere where our kids are always asking to go out and play, instead of asking to watch TV.
During the summer, set rules around when and how much TV is watched. Don’t let every morning start with TV.  
This applies to us also. We need to turn off the computer and phone and get some fresh air. Getting fresh air with our kids and spouse is even better. 
2. Dirt don’t hurt.
Remember your childhood? Running around outside, exploring and adventuring. There was some dirt involved, and it didn’t kill us. Dirt is okay. Dirty is okay. I am not suggesting that my kids are going out to roll in the mud today. They better not!I still teach them to be respectful of their things, but we can’t get mad at our kids if they come in a little dirty. And we can’t keep them inside so that WE don’t have to do more laundry.
3. Use the resources you have.
Kids love water and grass, dirt, leaves and plants. Send them out to water the plants. To gather different sizes of sticks, or different shapes of leaves. Being outside is all about creativity and imagination. It doesn’t have to be perfectly structured. Instead look to what you have around the house that can be used outside, and look at what is outside that can be made fun. When we were kids we used to take popsicle sticks and race them down the gutters in the water. We would race those sticks for hours. Chasing them up and down the street. I bet you have craft sticks in your supply right now. Grab them and let your kids have a go at it.
Our girls love to take plastic silverware outside and have pretend picnics. They use long reeds and leaves to weave placemats and then make “food” out of flowers and leaves etc… They have so much fun just using the resources in our own backyard.They also love to be sent on scavenger hunts around the yard, and the neighborhood.
That said, another way to use the resources you already have, is to do inside things, outside. Why not eat breakfast AND lunch outside, even dinner. Why not have your kids do their homework outside sometimes, read outside, walk to the neighbors to drop something off instead of drive. Even build your fort or tent outside instead of inside. Our kids love to play their board games outside instead of in. Simple, but powerful ways to get us outside and into nature. I even take the laundry outside to fold it sometimes.
4. Be a good example. 
If we are always inside, afraid of dirt, on the computer, our kids will do the same things. We have to show them the benefits of being outside, by going outside with them. Remember, children will do for the most part, what their parents do.  If we spend our free time inside with technology, so will they. Solid research shows that parents who are inactive, will have children who are inactive. It also goes the other way. Parents who are active, are more likely to have active children. We need to set a good example.
5. Forget the household chores.
There will always be something to do inside. Laundry, cleaning, scrubbing. I find that the thought of all I have to do can keep me inside all day. Don’t let it suck you in. Go out and play. Those experiences you are having with your children outside will be remembered long after the laundry and dishes.
6. Plan ahead.
Plan a time for your family to be outside every week. Maybe that means Saturday morning you go for a hike together, or walk to the store to get groceries, or explore a new part of your city on foot. It is much more likely to happen if you put it on the calendar and plan ahead.
As a family, we love to take walks after dinner every night. Sometimes our walks take us to the snow cone shack, sometimes they are just a quick walk around the block. Either way, the fresh air and time together helps us reconnect each day.
Something that we have gotten into as a family, and schedule on our calendar is geocaching. Geocaching uses GPS to find hidden treasures in your area. Go to geocaching.com to find all the treasures you can hunt for. Our family loves it and looks forward to Saturday mornings when we choose another route and treasure to find. This is also great for our son who loves technology. And is a good way to show our kids how we can use technology in healthier ways.
Outside encourages imagination and creativity. It causes us to adapt and negotiate and problem solve.
We need to make the outdoors a priority with our families, and for our children. If our kids are used to being inside with technology all day, they might complain a little at first. But over time, they will start to love being outside and begin to create their own imaginary adventures. Be strong and supportive, don’t give in. Continue to keep technology to a minimum and encourage outside play. It is good for our minds, and our bodies.


  1. Suzanne says

    Yay for this post! My family and I love geocaching too. It’s a great way to get outdoors and with a very affordable app or a GPS, it’s a free activity. This reminded me of playing outdoors when I was a little girl with another friend. We cut up string and mixed in packets of Taco Bell taco sauce to make sauce. The “spaghetti” was totally non-edible but absolutely imaginative.

    • says

      Hi Suzanne, So fun to hear about other families that love to geocache too. It is such a fun, free, family activity. It has given us lots of opportunities to teach our children new things also.
      I laughed at your “string spaghetti”. What a great memory. We used to mix up “potions” at our house. Never edible, but always fun.
      Have a great weekend. Thanks for saying hello.

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