Most of what’s come out of living through the coronavirus pandemic, from quarantining to social distancing, has been challenging. But if you look hard enough, there are a few silver linings to all this time spent at home with your children—day after endless day.
One of the biggest positives was the chance to spend more time outside, whether that meant hanging out in the backyard, walking to a nearby playground or trail, or taking a road trip to a national park. You can keep the love affair with nature going—even as “normal” life resumes.
If your family fell into more sedentary patterns during the pandemic, don’t feel bad—you’re in good company, as the stresses common during this time pushed exercise to the back burner for many people.1 Just know it’s never too late to start getting your kids moving and enjoying the outdoors.
Kids (and adults) need regular physical activity. The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends kids get 60 minutes of exercise each day, whether it’s through sports, hiking, biking, or good ol’ fashioned running around outdoors.2
Spending more time outside doesn’t come naturally to every kid, though. If this is true for your family, appreciating the great outdoors can feel like a daunting effort rather than an uplifting experience.
Thankfully, showing your kids the joy of going outside to play doesn’t have to be a battle. There are easy ways to teach them that the outdoors is a great place to be—in fact, if you do this right, the real battle might be getting them to come back inside once in a while.
If you’re an indoor family, you won’t be able to make the leap to Swiss Family Robinson in one day. Putting pressure on your kids to start spending huge amounts of time outside when they’re not accustomed to it will probably just create a power struggle.
Instead of announcing that 2 to 5 p.m. will be “outside time,” start with 30 minutes a day. When kids can do that without complaint, start looking forward to outside time, or start naturally staying outside longer than 30 minutes, increase the time by adding another 15 to 30 minutes.
Give It Structure
It’s easy for us adults to say, “Go outside and play!” But booting your kids out the back door with this directive when they don’t know how can lead to frustration, which leads to whining and complaining, which leads to everyone giving up and going back inside to stare at the TV.
Instead of assuming your kids know how to entertain themselves outdoors, start by providing them with some basic activities. Kids love to be invited to:
- Blow bubbles
- Create obstacle courses or relay races
- Compete in challenges, like jump rope or hopscotch
- Draw with sidewalk chalk
- Help with gardening, like watering plants or measuring garden beds
- Ride bikes or toy vehicles
Sometimes, half the battle of getting your kids to spend more time outside is the assurance that they won’t be bored. When they have a specific activity or task, it gets them out the door with a purpose. With any luck, they’ll be blazing their own trails after a while with little or no direction.