Mom, I don’t want to go outside, it’s boooring! I don’t even know how many times I’ve heard it. And every time my son attacked me with these words, I got angry. I blamed myself for raising him this way, I blamed TV and computers for making him want to stay inside and I blamed my husband for his lack of initiative. I was worrying that my son doesn’t get enough fresh air, vitamin D, or basically anything that’s essential for a little kid to thrive until I looked outside and realized that it really is boring. Yes, I know that a child needs to be able to play outdoors in an unstructured, spontaneous and creative way, but it was the moment when I understood that he needs to learn it, just like he learned to play cards and use a computer. Now I would like to share some of the tips on how to get your kid to play outside - maybe it will be a less painful and frustrating process for you than it was for me.
First of all, look at yourself
Do you go outside? And I’m not talking about jogging or another kind of workout, raking the leaves or doing different chores. Can you actually have some fun outdoors? Even if your kid is mean to you sometimes, he or she still looks up to you. So if you never spend time in your garden or you don’t really go to the park, it’s hard to expect from a child to know that it can be fun - and what to do to make it fun. In my case, I started to organize weekly trips. Instead of walking our dog around the house, I’ve been taking him and my son to the park every Sunday. Sometimes we play frisbee or hide and seek, there’s also a playground where kids can have fun together, or they just run around to get rid of that excess of energy every child (and dog) has.
Organize a playground in your garden
You can go all the way and turn your garden into a real playground. It’s possible to get plastic playground sets and put them wherever you have some space and let your children have their adventures. Even if they’re spending most of their time playing video games now, their imagination will kick in as soon as they’re outside. Our playground has already played the role of a pirate ship, a submarine and a castle. And I got a chance to be a dragon.
Of course, you can always organize a home-made playground - put up a tent, hang a swing or build an obstacle course. It all also depends on what you’re child is into.
Invite a friend
It may be difficult for your kid to play all by himself, especially at the beginning when he’s not used to it. Sometimes even the best playground may not be enough to give him fun - and that’s ok. It may actually be good to not only teach children to play outside but to socialize and cooperate as well. Phone a friend who has a kid in a similar age or organize a playdate with his best friend from school. I also used it an opportunity to learn something more about my son - I’ve got to know his school friends more and seen him in a different environment. There are also community outdoor playgroups where you will both be able to meet some new people.
If you feel up to it, you can pack your whole family and go to the nearest forest or a national park where you will be able to connect with nature and maybe even learn some new skills.
However, we are a true city family, so we didn’t want to rush things - we organized camping in our own backyard. Pitch a tent, get some sleeping bags and, if you can, make a place for a campfire. You will be surprised what an adventure it will turn out to be - also for you! Sleeping outdoors will help your children conquer some of their fears and be more curious about what’s around them. We all know how different the world seems to us at night.
Go treasure hunting
Or more like - organize a treasure hunt for children. Gather some of their favourite toys, actions figures and other things they know, and hide them around your backyard. You can also organize something very similar in the park or on the beach - make a list of things that you can find in a place like this and that children know and are able to recognize - a shell, a stick, a daisy, a conker, etc. Make sure that you have some rewards ready - let them be a little competitive.
I hope something in here will actually come in handy for you and your family. Remember to be supportive, no matter what. Don’t get mad if your child does something wrong - applause him for trying, and then show how it should be handled. Remind him that it is totally normal and alright to get dirty and make some mess - it boosts creative thinking, and being a little bit careless actually make them happy. And we all want our children to be both healthy and happy, right? Apart from quiet. Sometimes.