Due to the pandemic, kids have spent more time than ever on screens. Between virtual school, virtual playdates and closed playgrounds, kids spend hours every day staring at a computer, tablet or TV screen.
As the pandemic situation improves, there will be more possibilities for getting your kids outside. However, while opportunities exist, it might be challenging to convince your kids to put down their electronics and explore the great outdoors. Instead of just kicking them out the front door, try some of these fun activities to get your kids to choose going outside instead of video games this summer.
Before getting your kids outside, make sure they are outfitted for the outdoors, from their socks to a wide-brimmed hat. Pack them a big bottle of water and make sure they have a high SPF sunscreen to protect their skin.
If your kids are more interested in playing Animal Crossing than riding bikes, they might not jump at the opportunity to play outside. By offering them incentives, you can pique their interest and get them hooked on playing outside.
Every kid is different, so you’ll need to choose your incentive based on your child’s personality. If they love popsicles or homemade lemonade, give them a treat after 30 minutes of roller skating on the bike path. For kids who love fun clothes, let them choose a new pair of cool socks if they play outside every day for a week. After a while, they enjoy spending time outdoors without the need for rewards.
Plan a Scavenger Hunt
If your kids love video games, plan a big outdoor scavenger hunt. If you have time, you can hide toys and give clues or just make a list of things for them to bring home. Scavenger hunts are also fantastic for teaching kids about different types of flowers, trees and plants.
If you don’t want your kids plucking flowers, ask them to take pictures of the different objects on their list. If you have kids with artistic interest, give them some cute journals and ask them to draw the flowers and plants they find instead of taking pictures. You could also include a combination, especially if you want to encourage them to learn to recognize different types of birds or small animals.
Consider including the following on your scavenger hunt list:
- Common rocks in your area
- Flowers in season or local to your area
- Types of grass or plants
- Leaves of trees
- Different types of nuts
- Pictures of squirrels or other small mammals
- Pictures of common birds
As the weather changes, you can alter the scavenger hunt to account for currently blooming flowers. Just make sure your children know not to pluck roses from the neighbor’s gardens.
If your kids are a bit older, you could also consider getting into geocaching with them. This international phenomenon allows you to experience a real-life treasure hunt. Sign up for the app, choose a geocaching adventure near you with a low difficulty level and get hunting. Don’t forget to take along a treasure with you to swap for one you find in the cache.
Get a Junior Ranger Badge
If you live near a national or state park, pack your kids in the car and visit a ranger station. Most national parks and many state parks are part of the Junior Ranger program, specifically designed to get children interested in nature. The program’s motto, “Explore. Learn. Protect.” exemplifies its dedication to introducing children to the National Park System’s ideals.
Each park has activities your child can complete to become an official Junior Ranger. They’ll get a Junior Ranger book with all the necessary actions. Every time they complete one, a Park Ranger gives them a stamp. Once they finish all the activities, they’ll receive a cute Junior Ranger Badge for that park.
Since this program exists in most parks, you can encourage your kids to get as many badges as possible. They’ll learn a lot about nature, get excited about being outdoors and forget about their video games for a while.
One inexpensive and easy solution to getting your kids outside is to buy a bucket of chalk and let them go wild. You could give prizes for the funniest, weirdest or most accurate drawings.
If you want to encourage more physical activity, you can also help your kids draw hopscotch or create a four-square playing area.
The great thing about chalk drawings is they’re easy to wash away, unlike pen drawings on the walls. Have your kids draw in their bathing suits, and at the end of playtime, wash them and the driveway down with a hose.
Go on Family Walks
A great way to instill a love of nature in your kids is by getting outside with them. Every weekend, schedule a long family walk. Make it more interesting by changing your destination and having your kids help you pack a picnic lunch or stop at your favorite restaurant on the way home.
Having dedicated family time outside instead of in front of the TV makes it easier to get your kids chatting. To get them even more involved, ask them to help plan your next outing.
Setting goals like planning a camping and hiking trip for the end of the summer can also help motivate your kids to participate even in bad weather. However, you can also give them an extra 30 minutes of screen time in the evenings after the walk.
Make Them Entrepreneurs
Getting outside can also make your kids money. Encourage them to set up a lemonade stand, offer their services as a neighborhood dog walker or mow older relatives’ lawns. You can also use this as a way to teach the value of money. You can have your children save half the money they earn and match it until they save enough to buy the newest video game or a new bike.
Giving kids an opportunity to earn money outdoors teaches them responsibility while also getting them exercise, making it a win-win situation.
Make a Family Commitment
Your kids will be much more likely to enjoy the outdoors if their parents do as well. Make sure to model a love for the outdoors, planning regular excursions to local parks, running trails and botanical gardens.
Even if your family is more into theater or music, you can take your kids to outdoor plays or concerts, bringing along a picnic and a blanket. Or, if you want to encourage exercise, schedule a pickup game of basketball or soccer with your neighbors every weekend. By staying involved and leading by example, you can instill a life-long love of the outdoors in your kids, despite the ever-increasing attraction of technology.