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Ten Ways to Get Kids Outdoors

By Christine Gross-Loh

kids-play-outside2A few days ago, we talked about important reasons why kids should spend time outdoors every day. Today we’ll learn about how to get them outdoors. Here are some time-tested ways to get kids outside and having fun.

Go on a bug hunt: Discovering and observing bugs is a great way to teach children that they share this earth with other creatures. Look under rocks and near plants for roly-polys or earthworms, look in patches of grass or on sidewalks for ants, hunt for ladybugs. Your own enthusiasm is contagious and will teach your child that bugs are something to get excited about. More ideas about bug hunting can be found here.

Take to the woods:   Playgrounds are good for little climbers, but trees are even better. Children crave a chance to take incremental risks and learn what their bodies can do. The unpredictability of tree branches satisfies that craving in a way no standardized, uniform playground structure ever can.

Get up and close with the grass: Encourage your kids to shed their shoes and socks and run barefoot in the grass. Find a hill and let them roll down it (remember how fun that was when you were a child?)

 Have a picnic in the backyard:  Whether it’s a simple tea party or a lavish picnic, all food seems to taste better when you eat it outdoors. All you need is an outdoor blanket and a tray or a basket to help transport the food and drink. 

Get back to the basics: What could be simpler than dirt and water?  Find a patch of soil or sand somewhere, add water, a shovel and a pail, and presto!

Or get a little fancier:  Show your kids how to make stone soup or mud pies – all you need is a shovel and a container to use as a bowl or a mold. Food containers (yogurt containers, etc.) work well for this. For a little inspiration, read the charming book Mud Pies and Other Recipes. 

Start a collection: Show your children that everything they discover outside is a potential treasure. Provide them with containers to collect special sticks, stones, acorns, leaves, and flowers. Let them embellish their mud pie creations with them or display them in the house in a nature corner.

Don’t be afraid to let your kids get really, really dirty. Here’s a collection of ideas for playing in the mud – anything from splashing in puddles barefoot or digging for worms or making mud sculptures.

Play some games: Have you forgotten some of the spontaneous pick-up games you played as a child, like dodgeball, kick the can, or tag? If so, here’s a great list of pick-up games that will help refresh your memory so you can play them with your children too.

For more ideas, check out Play Outside,  a treasure trove of ideas collected from around the blogosphere, including making a rope bridge, a play garden, or a fairy garden.

How about you? What are some of your favorite ways to get kids outdoors? We’d love to hear!
Christine Gross-Loh is the author of the new book Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us. Visit her at christinegrossloh.com.



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