According to experts, kids are supposed to play outside for at least two hours a day.
Stop and take that in for a second. They need to play outside for TWO. HOURS.
Now this may seem crazy when you think about the amount of time your kids are at school, or the amount of time you are at work. But when you think back to when you were a little kid, it might not seem that ridiculous. I remember getting home from school and taking off on my bike with my friends. Or exploring the creek next to our house for hours. Or playing endless pretend in our backyard, or gardening with my mom, or swimming in our (above-ground) pool. There was SO much time outdoors, that it wasn’t even a thing. It was just something that we did. Do I think my mom worried about meeting the required two hours each day? Uh, no. Because that was not a thing back then. You just sent the dang kids to play outside.
And we (I’m talking societally here), just don’t do that anymore.
Even when you talk about going “screen free” or unplugged, it usually means board games and books and hours of playdough play. It’s not considered safe for kids to roam around on their own, and our green spaces are kind of being eaten up. So we have to make up for it somehow, as forced as it may seem at times. Because yes, it is another “requirement” of childhood, but from a scientific perspective, it is crucial (check out this article from the New York Post if you want to read more about this). Kids who play outside more are less likely to be obese and are less likely to be diagnosed with attention-related disorders. Time spent in green spaces is good for anxiety and depression, and reduces stress-and that goes for little kids and grown ups alike. We were biologically just meant to spend time outside, and we have to make sure that’s happening for our little ones, and our bigger kids, too.
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How Do We Make it Happen?
I recently read a book called “15 Minutes Outside” by author Rebecca Cohen, that gives hundreds of concrete, easy examples on how to get your kids to play outside. And most of the ideas aren’t even that big of a deal. Take a basket of books into the backyard on a blanket and read there. Or eat your dinner at the local park. Take a nature walk through your neighborhood, or go on your balcony and make wishes on the first early stars. I tend to think of outdoor play as an adventure, requiring prep and large stretches of time, but this book really helped me to see that those little stretches can add up over time and make a big difference. Not only in the amount of time you spend outside, which, obviously. But also in the amount of quality time spent together as a family.
So let’s all make an effort this week to get up, and get our kids out. Start small, and make a concerted effort to get out for just a little bit longer today than you usually do. The change of scenery may just do everyone some good.
Looking for more ideas on how to get out with your family and get your kids to play outside? Here are six easy ways to get started.
- Take an Art Project Outside, like our friends at Little Mama Jama with this fun Minion footprint art. Read the instructions for this project here, or take any paints/crayons/chalk outside and create under a shady tree.
- Get Some Open Ended Toys. Here’s a list of really cool, open ended outdoor toys from Real Mom Recs. Most of them are fairly low-maintenance, low-prep ways to get your kids out and having fun.
- Put a Twist on Water Play. This little “fishing” game is the perfect way for your kiddos to practice learning to spell their name while they are getting wet outside. It does take a bit of initial prep, but once you have it made, you can bring it out any time you need to change up your water play.
- Go On a Nature Walk. My kids had always been reluctant to amble around the neighborhood, until we put this fun twist on the standard stroll. Go on a nature walk- give your kids bags to collect items in nature (think flowers, leaves, etc.) and look for wildlife. You can even find printable Nature Scavenger Hunt checklists here to add some more fun and structure to your walk.
- Play some old school games. These little games have been around forever- and for good reason! Here is a list of old school games you can play outside with your children (or that they can play with the neighbors while you sit on the porch with a glass of
winelemonade. I’m just saying).
- Looking for even more outside fun? Imperfectly Perfect Mama has come up with a list of 50 fun and simple ways to get your kids outdoors.
What’s your favorite way to get out and play with your kiddos?