What comes to mind when you think of playing outdoors? Do you remember the joy and excitement you felt as you explored the playground at recess? Do you fondly recall the times you spent meeting new friends and bonding with family? Not only does outdoor play promote great memories like these, but playing outside is also essential for proper child development.
We believe the importance of outdoor play and nature in every aspect of child development is too critical to be overlooked. Outdoor play helps young kids stay active, release emotions and pent-up energy, develop balance and fine motor skills, boost cognitive and social skills and so much more. But before young ones can enjoy all these fantastic benefits, you’ll first need to get them excited to go outside.
Tips to Get Young Children Excited About Playing Outdoors
Follow these eight tips on how to encourage a child to play outside, and you’ll soon be on your way to having exciting outdoor adventures with your toddlers and young children.
Keep Yourself Upbeat and Enthusiastic
You don’t have to be a fitness guru or outdoor enthusiast to get young children interested in outdoor play — but you do need to show a bit of spirit. If you seem excited to spend time doing outdoor activities, your enthusiasm will rub off and make little ones more excited to be outside, too.
Lead by example and channel your inner child during playtime, encouraging kids with a sense of wonder and excitement. Point out everything as if it’s the first time you’ve seen it, and don’t be afraid to add some extra pep to your voice as you lead outdoor activities.
Plan Activities That Guarantee Action
Toddlers love to move, so a sedentary activity with little action likely won’t hold their interest for too long. Luckily, plenty of activities like flying kites or playing on a playground give kids the chance to get moving while enjoying the outdoors.
You can even transform a simple yard or sports field into a magical outdoor adventure. Take dress-up clothes outside for a backyard fashion show, or go on a scavenger hunt around the area. The more creative and varied your activities are, the more kids will want to get out and enjoy them.
Encourage Family Time
Today’s families are busier than ever, but family time is far too valuable to miss out on. Experts agree that quality family experiences nurture positive behavior and a healthy lifestyle in kids and can lead to meaningful memories.
Encourage your family to get out together as much as possible on weekends or some other regular schedule, and make a list of activities you can do to make their outings fun and memorable.
Encourage Free Play
While pre-planned activities are a great way to keep kids occupied, kids are kids. Young children have short attention spans and often create their own little adventures along the way. Don’t discourage this unstructured fun — supervised free play is essential in boosting kids’ creativity, communication, cognitive and mobility skills.
The best thing you can do to encourage free play is to leave children uninterrupted — although supervised — as they play on the playground with their friends or when they get sidetracked sneaking up on butterflies while waiting for a fish to bite.
Kids naturally inspire each other, and children will likely want to spend more time outdoors if they have friends their age to enjoy it with. Encourage children to play together through structured outdoor group activities, and promote a healthy balance between alone time and time spent in cooperative play.
While it may take a little extra effort to plan and supervise larger groups of kids, the joy and confidence children gain from exploring the world with other kids their age are worth developing.
Teach, But Don’t Lecture
The outdoors offers so many wonderful teaching moments, but young kids can quickly shut down if you turn these moments into lectures. Practice the art of “show, don’t tell” — kids can learn a lot about behavioral and outdoor skills just by watching you, even if you’re not aware they’re watching.
Encourage young ones to learn without lecturing by asking questions like “What do you think?” and trying to remain at eye level when talking to them. This makes it seem less like you’re giving orders and helps you to include kids in your activities.
Limit Access to Electronics
Children under five years old have an innate tendency to move as long — as they’re not distracted by their devices. TV, online games and other electronics may be okay in moderation — but if kids are used to staring at a screen throughout the day, it may be hard to pry it away from them to go outdoors!
Try to avoid screen time during outdoor play, or make a schedule that gives little ones a certain amount of screen time for every hour spent outdoors. Without the distraction of their devices, kids will be much more likely to get moving.
Take Baby Steps
Kids aren’t going to be outdoor experts in one day, and that’s okay! Take your time and patiently encourage children to want to be outside by starting out small. Start out with a walk in the park or a trip to a local playground, then work your way up to bigger outdoor adventures with toddlers and young children as they explore the outdoors.
Playworld Has All the Early Childhood Playground Equipment Your Community Needs
Playground equipment designed specifically for early childhood is a great way to get young kids up and active, but it’s a need that often goes unmet. Playworld is focused on providing every child with the opportunity to enjoy age-appropriate play with an array of outdoor playground equipment for toddlers and young kids to enjoy.
Since 1971, we’ve served local communities, schools and daycare centers, places of worship and other organizations as a trusted manufacturer of affordable, innovative equipment loved by children and parents alike. If you’re ready to get kids excited to play outdoors, contact a play expert today!