Make Outdoor Play a Part of Every Day: Get the Be Out There Parent Guide

be out thereIs it difficult to get your kids to play outdoors instead of being glued to the TV, computer, or video game? You’re not alone.

Today’s kids are being born into a tech-centric world, with easy access to television, videos, digital media, video games, and cell phones, and it’s become such a part of their lives that doing something as simple and natural as playing outside might not be an easy option for them.

But a new guide from the National Wildlife Federation’s Be Out There movement can help.

“A typical day for school-age kids likely includes early-morning texting from the bus stop, video games and social media after school, television viewing in the evening, listening to music on their smart phones and more texting after lights out. In fact, kids today spend on average more than seven hours each day in front of electronic media and only minutes in unstructured outdoor activities like climbing trees, building forts, playing hide and seek or bike riding.”

It’s understandable that kids want to use technology in their daily lives, but it’s important to temper that with some real-life nature time:

“The virtual world is here to stay but should be tempered with real-world experiences that connect kids to the natural world around them.” – Lindsay Legendre, manager of Be Out There

For parents who want their children to go play outside more often, in order to boost their physical and mental health, enhance their imagination, give them time to let off steam, and best of all, to just be a kid, there’s a helpful resource: The Be Out There Parent Guide. It’s a free downloadable guide with tips, info, and activities to help parents overcome five of the top obstacles to outdoor play.

In addition to the guide, the NWF has these suggestions to maximize outdoor time while balancing the amount of “screen time” and “green time” that our kids get:

  • Monkey See/Monkey Do: Set a good example about limiting tech time and your kids will be more likely to follow suit. Talk to your kids and let everyone have a say on the amount of time that screens will be used each week so it’s clear up front what the ground rules are.
  • Pay to Play: Encourage kids to earn screen time by balancing it with equal amounts of reading, chores or playing outside. Len Saunders, author of Keeping Kids Fit and father of two, suggests that for every hour of physical activity, kids earn 30 minutes of tech time.
  • Let ‘Em Pick: Offer kids a set amount of screen time each day and let them decide how to use it, watch TV, play video games or surf the web. If the weather is nice and they want to trade their screen time for playing outdoors, they can bank their screen time for use on a rainy day.

Derek Markham

Things I dig include: simple living, natural fatherhood, attachment parenting, natural building, unassisted childbirth (homebirth), bicycles, permaculture, organic and biodynamic gardening, vegan peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, bouldering, and the blues. Find me elsewhere at @NaturalPapa, @DerekMarkham, Google+, or RebelMouse.

2 thoughts on “Make Outdoor Play a Part of Every Day: Get the Be Out There Parent Guide

  • March 23, 2012 at 6:59 pm
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    Thanks for sharing this Derek. I worry every day about the lack of play and resulting socialization skills our children are missing. So many, even when playing, are limited to totally planned, one-on-one, “play-dates”. The schools have horrific playground problems because parents are not allowing our children, like we all did, to play in groups without total parental supervision. Scary to think that many children get to college and their parents still do everything for them. I hear all the time from parents who are still doing everything for children after they graduate college. Please, please, please… let them play, learn to problem solve, get along, make friends, fight and argue. Most of all get outside and have fun!

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  • March 26, 2012 at 11:18 am
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    Those are some great tips, but it is sad that someone has to write a book on how to get your kids outside to play. Coming from a generation that lived outside as kids and only came inside to eat or sleep, it is quite the change in only a few decades.

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