We all want our kids to play outside more. But how can fresh air and sunshine compare to video games and Dora? Sometimes, if you want to get your kids outside on a beautiful day, you have to trick them, or at least come up with a way to make the great outdoors seem like the most exciting place they could ever be.
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Here are ten ways you can get your kids to put down the iPad and head out the door.
1. Set Up Something Enticing
If your kids see something new and unusual outside, they’re bound to want to investigate. This doesn’t have to be something elaborate (although if you’ve been waiting for an excuse to install a swing set or build a treehouse, elaborate works).
Put your kids’ old dinosaur toys in a sandbox with sand tools to encourage a palaeontology expedition, or lay out hula hoops and challenge your kids to jump from one to the next
2. Make A Mess
That new, unusual thing is going to be even more interesting if it’s messy. After all, how often does your kid get to make a huge mess inside? Give them a shovel and a bucket and tell them to dig a hole to China.
If you have a little time and a wading pool, fill it with Jello or “clean mud” (three parts baking soda to one part water, or a cup of warm water poured over a shredded roll of toilet paper and a grated bar of soap) and let them mush around in it.
3. Water Games
You don’t need sprinklers or pools to beat the heat. Fill three or four large bowls with water (possibly in different colors) and set out cups and spoons for pouring. Play limbo with a water hose, making everyone limbo under the spray. Give your kids spray bottles or spray guns and play water tag. The person who’s “it” tags you by spraying you.
4. Bring Some Favorite Toys Outside
A new setting can make old toys seem wonderful and amazing. Set up the toy animals in the yard to make a mini-safari, or put the dolls on the back table with teacups and play food. If your child sees that their toys are having a picnic or safari without them, they’ll want to join in.
5. Build A Fort
Send your kids outside with blankets, sticks, cardboard boxes, and other building materials and see if they can build a blanket fort. You’ll have a pirates’ den or a princess castle in your back yard before you know it.
6. Set Up A Scavenger Hunt . . .
Kids are natural scientists, and scavenger hunts let them put clues together in new ways. If your child is interested in nature, try a nature scavenger hunt, looking for certain plants or animal tracks. Competitive kids might enjoy racing each other to complete the hunt.
If you’re really having trouble getting your kid off the couch, combine it with the “favorite toy” technique. Hide a few toys outside and write a ransom note demanding that your kid find the toys before sunset, or else.
7. . . . Or Try Geocaching
If you can’t tear your kids away from their screens, you can bring the screens outside and still have a great time. “Geocaching” is a sort of worldwide scavenger hunt where people hide things, then post their co-ordinates online. You can search for caches near you online, then take your kid along with a smartphone or other GPS unit to hunt for treasure.
8. Fido Needs To Play!
If you have a dog, you have a guaranteed way to get your kids off the couch. They might never believe that fresh air and exercise are good for them, but they know the dog needs them, and pets are a notorious soft spot for kids. Send them out to walk or play with the dog for twenty minutes and they can both run off some energy.
9. When All Else Fails, Bribe ‘Em
If there’s a place nearby where you can get candy or ice cream, suggest going for a walk to get a treat. The initial bribe will get them out the door, and you can use the other distractions and techniques here to make them want to stay outside once they’ve gone.
10. Get Involved
As long as they haven’t reached the eye-rolling age, your kids are more likely to play outside if they see you having fun playing outside, too. If you’re mushing around in the clean mud, hunting for acorns, or drinking tea with the dolls, your kids will join in.