What's the big deal about Young Living

Encouraging Kids to Play Outside

My 5th grader was recently amused as she read aloud a passage from her new science book, regarding nature walks. The book warned that you should always ask permission before going outside your house and you should never go into a wooded area alone.

Since it seems like I am constantly hollering into the woods for my children or calling them back from some creek or gully, I was slightly amused at this, too. (Although, if you want your children to ask your permission before going outside it is fine with me!)

This conversation came on the heels of being asked how I get my children to spend so much time outdoors, so I thought I would list a few of the things I do:

Encouraging Children to Play Outside

  • Have something for them to do out there. I realize not everyone can live in the county, but if you have a sand box, swing set, bicycles, tree house, trampoline, sidewalk chalk, or anything of interest, they will be more likely to play outside.
  • Here's where you'll think I'm mean, and that's okay with me, but sometimes I make them play outside. If it is a nice day, I tell them the fresh air will do them good and shoo them out the door.
  • Send them out with a popsicle or water bottle so they won't perish (or act like they are perishing).
  • Set a time limit. Sometimes I tell them I will call them back in at 4:00 or after half an hour.
  • If you want them to play outside for a really long time, tell them to come back in when they are ready for a nap. They'll stay out there nearly the whole day!
  • Don't freak out if when they get dirty. It's a pretty good bet they will, but the good news is they clean right up when you dunk them in a tub of soapy water.
  • Go outside with them. I often go for walks in the woods with my children, and I love to see the excitement at the leaves and critters we come across. Before long they are pretending to be ancient explorers or little Indian children or spies, and they often stay out long after I decide to go back inside.

My children LOVE to play outside. I encourage it every single day, and according to research, it does them a world of good! Pediatrician and researcher, Pooja Tandon, of Seattle Children’s Research Institute, was quoted in a recent study as saying,

“Physical activity through play is essential for preschoolers’ growth and development,” and "Outdoor play is also beneficial for motor development, vision, cognition, Vitamin D levels and mental health."

See? So go ahead and scrap those lesson plans for teaching your toddler to walk or your preschooler to notice leaves, and just go outside and ... walk and notice leaves!

What about your children? How do you encourage them to play outside?

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  1. Having all boys, I am a firm believer in outside play. They have so much energy to get out and getting outside and using their imagination is a must!

  2. I don’t have a hard time getting my kids to go outside. However, we do live in the country so there is a lot to do. I have even watched my 12 year old daughter swing while holding her favorite chicken and talk on the phone (to her BFF) numerous times! We have a bell by the garage that we will clang if we need the kids and they are in the fields or woods playing. It isn’t far but when they are engrossed in playing they don’t always hear me however they hear the bell!

  3. Aw, you’re so nice, to find ways to encourage them like that. I just shove mine out the door and if they stand at the door and waste their time crying, that’s their problem. Eventually they learn to just go have fun. So far nobody seems to be holding this approach against me. :-)

  4. Oh, yeah. I should I add that I accompany the little ones. I don’t shove 2 year olds out the door. 8 year olds, yes.

  5. We’ve just moved to a house with a fenced yard instead of a condo with a postage stamp beside the alley and I spent all summer shoving my kids outside. :) Most of the time they went nicely and they play outside for hours every day, but I did dub myself the Queen of Popsicles this summer. The three year old got a few exemptions, but not many. lol. Next year we’re planning on putting in some fun outside equipment and I’m going to remember the “come inside when you’re ready for a nap” line. That’s genius. :)

  6. I literally laughed out loud at the “tell them to stay outside until they are ready for a nap”. That’s genius!

  7. Oh, definitely get kids outside every day – for their good, and for mum’s sanity! (And yes, I know it can be difficult for those living in high-rise city apartments :( )
    I’ve never had any difficulty getting our kids outside, but I have found that when they begin to read, or when they hear ‘adventure’ stories being read to them, it really fires their imaginations.

    When I was ‘wee’, I played the Famous Five/Secret Seven type things. Our wee fella has fought every war in history (and in his imagination) in our garden. They have all done ‘Laura Ingalls’ type living outside etc etc.

    So books and stories definitely help fire their imagination…. That’s been my experience anyway.

    Oh, and the Wee Guy is timing his sprints outside every day now – since the Olympics!

  8. My 4 year old and 2 year old (girls) are now much happier to play outside since we got a swingset. But there was one day this summer where they did nothing all day and complained about it, so I MADE them go outside. They stood at the door and cried the whole time and my neighbor even called to make sure they were ok. I’m hoping that as older children they will go outside voluntarily more often

  9. My 2yo (soon to be big brother) LOVES to be outside, the trouble, though, is that I have things inside that need to get done, and he likes to wander. It’s tough to figure out a balance. I mean, you can only let laundry pile up so long before the hubby starts complaining about not having any undies. LOL

  10. I had a good laugh at all of the post today! I’ve been known to shove my kids out the door too. Yesterday my son didn’t want to go outside, so I suggested he drink some water. He doesn’t like to drink water. He decided he’d rather go outside (he did drink a little water, though–he doesn’t get enough).

    I was also amused by the first paragraph… my brother and I spent hours in the woods around our house, building forts out of bracken ferns or making bows out of sticks and twine, or climbing trees (it’s a miracle neither of us ever broke bones!) or riding bikes or playing ball with the neighbor in the (dirt) cul-de-sac, or a million-and-one other things. We had to be within hearing distance of my mom’s rather shrill whistle, and would come running when she called. We even played in the rain–usually damming up the little “creek” that ran along the side of the road and floating sticks down it.

    Right now, I’ve scheduled 2 hours of outdoor time, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. More would be fine, but unless they are doing extra chores for bad attitudes (that happened to one of them yesterday), that’s minimum. Not sure what I’m going to do when it starts raining. We live in the Northwest and get more than our fair share of rain 10 months out of the year. Maybe I’ll need to invest in some good raincoats and waterproof pants…

  11. Love this post! And I’m going to use that line – stay outside until you feel like a nap! That is just GENIOUS, lol!! We’ve have the jungle gym, bikes, scoters, chalk, jumpropes, etc. but they only last 15 minutes and say “I’m bored” Seriously!?! Maybe if I use that line, they’ll become a little more creative!

  12. My mom used to shoo us outside, then lock the door! We played so long, so far away from the house that we built ourselves a toilet in the woods! I have fond memories :)

  13. I have been using your ‘come inside when you’re ready for rest time’ (or to help me with the cleaning) line ever since reading it on your site quite a while back, and it works every time! Thankfully, since our move to a more ‘country’ location, our kids can spend hours and hours playing safely outdoors. In town, with an alley behind our house, I had to be on constant alert.

  14. I use the nap or cleaning on the kids. They stay outside for a very long time then! Also, they are much healther then other kids we know. My brother in law always teases us that our kids are NOT over weight. lol That’s because we don’t feel them junk all the time and they play outside.

  15. Connie, have you read any of Richard Louv’s work? He’s the author of “Last Child in the Woods” and has some really good things to say about this (I think you would like it…his book has been pretty heavily excerpted in magazines like “Orion” and bits and pieces are easy to find online.)

  16. I find they tend to stay longer when I lock the back door. Its so stinking hot here all they have been doing is swimming. One day it was only 88 and they played on the back porch for a goo long while. (they are 13 and 8)
    Can’t wait for fall when I have to make them come in to get school done!

  17. Ohhh.. can I be your friend, and can my kids come over to play? My 12, 10 and 8 year olds are outside 98% of the time they are not doing school, which is most of the day. They just got done building a mud fort and a tree house in the very back of our 1/2 acre subdivision lot….(hillbilly heaven, I call it…) Thanks so much for the amusing post! I loved the one about “you can come in when you’re ready for a nap! ” Perfect!! For my kids it also works to tell them when they come in it will be bath time:) Anyway, thanks! I love it!

  18. You crack me up! Love the post. Agree. PE will be all outdoor play this year for Kindergarten. How about that for school hours! Lotsa lotsa PE :-) I’ll be using the nap line! Thanks!

  19. I love the idea of “come in when you’re ready for a nap.” :o)

  20. Oh my word, I have people ask mer ALL THE TIME how we can stand to live so far out of town. Are you kidding me???? How can people stand to live IN town??
    My kids always have said that if Dad and I move into town, they’re gonna pitch a tent and stay here!!!
    Another benefit of all that outdoor play is that our children are about as far away from obese as they can get without being malnourished. The woods take the place of video games and television and make for much healthier kids all around!!