No, we’re not talking about a far-away summer camp—we’re talking about your back yard!
Recent research shows that less than half of kids get the recommended amount of outdoor playtime each day, with kids in full-time daycare getting the least outside time. But there are fun, accessible ways to change up your family’s schedule and lifestyle to get the kids outdoor more. Here are a few suggestions:
1. The After-Dinner Adventure.
For busy working parents, that extra hour or more of daylight during the summer months is like gold! Try doing something quick for dinner a couple of nights per week, then heading out for a walk, a bike ride, or a round of firefly-catching before the sun sets. Even in the hottest months of summer, the twilight time is cool enough to enjoy the outdoors.
2. Take Advantage of the Weekend.
For kids in school or daycare, the weekend is a great reprieve from the daily grind, which may force them to be indoors the majority of the time. Plan a weekend outdoor activity or family outing to make good use of those flexible Saturdays and Sundays.
3. Let Rover Help Out.
Research shows that dog owners are more likely to hit their goals for steps walked per day than dog-less folk. Why? Because someone needs to walk Rover! A pet can give you a reason to put on those walking shoes and head out around the block. Even if you’re just throwing a tennis ball for Fido in the backyard, you’re outside and moving, which is good. Pet ownership is also a good tool for teaching kids other types of responsibility (feeding, bathing, etc.) So let the kids grab the leash and get moving.
4. Push for Change at School or Daycare.
Find out from your child’s school how much time he’s allowed to be outdoors in a typical day. While the instructional demands of grammar school or middle school may leave less room for compromise, the schedules of most childcare providers is likely more flexible. If the planned outdoor playtime is little, ask the school or care provider to incorporate more opportunities into the day.
5. Plant a Little Garden.
It doesn’t have to be a big garden to have a big impact on your family. A small 4 x 4 foot garden spot gives you a reason to wander outside each day to check on the plants, see if they need water and—eventually—harvest what’s ripe! Even if the kids don’t spend a lot of time working in the garden or celebrating that one beautiful tomato, they’ll likely follow you outside and run around in the grass while you do your thing with the veggies or flowers. Mission accomplished!