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Smart Parenting

Practical advice about raising children


10 Fun Outside Activities for Kids and Families


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It's now a distant memory, but before the days of video games, tablets and other electronic devices, there was actually a time when kids loved to play outside. In fact, there was a time when parents thought their kids played outside too much, and they had to find ways to coax them back indoors.

Times, of course, have changed. For a variety of reasons, kids just don't go outside as much as they used to. It doesn't have to be that way, though. Here are 10 ways you can get your kids to go outside and help them learn to love it.

Take Them on a Walk

This is the simplest option, of course, but take your kids for a walk. Make it a part of your evening routine – rain or shine.  This will have the double effect of helping your child get used to going outside regularly, along with exercise for you both. You could also bump it up a notch and take your kids on a hike.

Sleep in the Backyard

For many children, sleeping outside is an adventure. You may eventually want to take them on a real camping trip, but before that you can get a little practice but setting up a tent and camping in the backyard. This will include more than just sleeping, of course. There will be plenty of time to have a meal and play some games, all while spending time outdoors.

Stare at the Sky

Looking at clouds and discussing what they remind you of may be one of the oldest games in the book. But it can be an easy way to spend some time with your child outside and spark up a conversation and get their little wheels turning. Who knows? Maybe they will blossom into a full-fledged cloud appreciator.

Experiment with Sports

The world of ultra-competitive youth sports can be a daunting proposition for many parents, but you don't have to have a child on the top traveling team for them to learn and enjoy all sports. The point is just to get them outside--childhood play is key for developing a wide variety of skills. Try a wide range of sports. Play catch with a football or baseball. Toss a Frisbee. Kick around a soccer ball. Shoot some hoops. Allowing your kids to try their hand at all manners of sports will help them appreciate the pros even more.

Start a Garden

Gardening with your children will not only get them outside on a regular basis, but it will also help them learn the basics of botany and plant life. Not only that, but the whole family will benefit from the fruits, vegetables and herbs you grow together. There's just something about homegrown food that makes it taste that much better.

Get Near the Water

Teaching your kids to swim early in life will help them in the long run, but being around water doesn't always have to be about swimming. Depending on your child’s age, there are countless other water activities available, too! Water skiing, snorkeling, body surfing or fishing are all water activities you and your kinds may choose to partake in. You can also enjoy the water without actually getting in it--take in the beauty and serenity of a local lake, pond, river or stream.

Build a Clubhouse

Putting together a good old fashioned clubhouse has multiple benefits. Not only will it get your kids in the habit of going outside regularly, but it will also give you plenty of bonding time while you build it together. Kids always enjoy feeling like they have access to their own private sanctuary, and having one in the backyard is a good way to do so while keeping your peace of mind intact.

Collect Things

Like many things on this list, starting a nature collection with your children has benefits above and beyond getting them out of the house and into fresh air. For one, it can teach them--and you--about everything from leaves to plants to bugs to birds. Starting a nature collection can also teach them values such as appreciating and respecting nature.

Ride a Bike

It may take a while to teach your child to ride a bike, but once they do there are hours of fun ahead. Riding with your kids will teach them all sorts of things, including the geography of your city your town, how to properly obey traffic laws and how to properly maintain and care for a bicycle. Bike riding, of course, is also an excellent form of exercise.

Just Play

It’s sad that in the last 30 years the time devoted to play in a preschooler’s day has dropped from 40 to 25 percent of the day.  Play is critical to a child’s development and, the truth is, it doesn't really matter what they're doing to play. The key is just getting them outside and playing in the first place.

There are several initiatives that drive home this point, including the NFL's project to encourage kids to play for at least 60 minutes each day. Getting them out of the house for an hour a day will help them appreciate the outdoors while also keeping them healthy.