It used to be that parents only had to coax children away from the TV to get them outside, but since the advent of the touch screen phone and tablet, there are now many more screens in the home that keep children indoors.
Since these new inventions, screen time has soared and childhood memories are now mostly made indoors, says nature writer Robert McFarlane. Because of all this time spent indoors, children have stopped learning words that describe the natural world. So much so, says McFarlane, that the Oxford Junior Dictionary has started replacing words like ‘kingfisher’ and ‘acorn’ with words like ‘broadband’ and ‘blackberry’.
A billion kids are now growing up in urban areas and here it is not only screen time that keeps kids indoors, but outdoor environments that discourage them from spending time outside. It’s a sad fact that cities in the UK are not designed with children in mind – particularly outdoor spaces that encourage safe movement and social interaction.
But the outdoors is not only important for physical movement and social interaction, it’s also full of shapes, processes and textures that stimulate imaginative development. With all this in mind, what better way is there for kids to develop holistically?
Ways of encouraging outdoor play
Toys that encourage outdoor play
The key to getting children to play outside is by introducing them to toys that make tablets seem boring. Naturally then, if you want your kids to play outside, get them great outdoor toys like this mud pie kitchen which encourages creative outdoor play with natural resources like plants, sand, stones and mud.
Let children get comfortable with getting dirty
On that note, most kids who spend the majority of their time indoors, don’t know what to make of the dirt associated with playing outside. A mud pie fight is a great way to get children used to getting dirty and being ok with it.
Explore outdoor spaces away from home
Let children know that spending time outdoors is a common, regular and necessary activity by taking them on outdoor trips regularly and by visiting geographical places with points of interest on longer holidays.
Spend time outside as a family
Some of the fondest childhood memories are made of family activities and what better way to combine quality time with the great outdoors than a family walk or cycle in green spaces like along rivers and canals.
Build a den
This can be anything from a temporary fort, to a treehouse, depending on how ambitious they’re feeling and how involved you want to be. If DIY is not your strong point, preserve the look of your garden and give kids a fun little space that will feel like theirs with this hideaway.
Take advantage of your nearest park
Even if your nearest park is not within walking distance, do your best to visit the one that is nearest to you. Parks are safe open spaces that encourage children to make friends. Bring along toys that let kids make the most of the extra space, like this goalie net that is light, easy to assemble and is easily transported.
Arrange play dates with other children
Outside playtime is way more fun when spent with friends, so make sure you arrange plenty of playdates with other children. If you’re going to the park or the beach, don’t forget to take a picnic.
Get wet on a hot day
Avoid indoor swimming baths by travelling to your nearest outdoor pool or by attaching the garden sprinklers and getting the kids to play hopscotch through it. This is the most they’ll ever have with a garden tool.
Teach kids outdoor games
Do you remember your favourite outdoor games? It’s easy to think that with all the newest toys available that kids won’t be interested in the games their parents played. This couldn’t be further from the truth, especially when it introduces them to a new way of having fun.
Encourage sporting activities
Introducing roller blading, roller skating, skateboarding, cycling and BMXing to kids at any age, are all outdoor sporting activities that can be done in urban areas, captivate children and young adults endlessly and may even turn into lifelong passions.