Is 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.