Friday, March 21, 2014

12 Ways to Get Kids Outside- and Keep Them There!

Spring is finally here...the calendar says so, and one bold crocus has poked its head up through our snow, so there is no denying it.  Time to kick the kids outside after a long winter of being cooped up.  The goal is to keep them out there for as long as possible so that they can come up with as many ideas, solve as many problems, take as many deep breaths of fresh air and bust through the knees of as many pants as possible.  Here are a few tricks I use to get my kids outside- and keep them there!

12. Make them go out for 10 minutes.  Once they are out, they are likely to want to stay out. Unless it is a polar vortex, it is not child abuse to make a child go outside.  Tears are salty and very unlikely to freeze.  Get them out there!

11. Set it up so that the kids can go out, come in and clean themselves up independently.  Kicking them outside is supposed to make your life easier, not harder!

10. Make it easy to get their outdoor toys and put them away again.  Use bins, buckets, bike "parking" spaces so that things don't get left behind the car or eaten by the mower...whatever it takes so that they can clean up by themselves.

9. Give them real things to play with outside A few pails, shovels, some real pots and pans to "cook" in and real silverware from the thrift store are the best toys you can buy.

8. Pick your battles.  We have a few firm and fast rules- helmets must be worn, boundaries must be respected, basic safety stuff.  Other than that, we try to let them rule themselves outside.  I don't believe you have to prepare kids for every awful scenario of injury, kidnapping and danger that could arise.  A few good rules and a bit of covert supervision out the window is sufficient.

7. Don't mediate arguments.  If kids are playing outside together, it is up to them to get along...or not.  We reminisce about the good old days when kids played outside all day together...pretty sure those moms were not out there negotiating five minute turns on the tire swing.

6. Teach them how to take care of each other.  Stay together.  Make sure the littlest one doesn't get left outside alone.  Make sure nobody goes by the road.  If someone is hurt, help them.  Am I my brother's keeper?!  Yes!

5. Use clever questions like:"are you happy out there, or are you ready to come inside for your nap?"  I call these Mommy's win-win questions.  Somewhat akin to "are you still beating your wife?", they are also effective on customer service reps: "should I expect all your products to break after 2 weeks, or did I just get a defective one?"  Get creative- they're fun!

4. Be incredibly boring.  Remember you are not the playmate right now- fold laundry, pay bills, stare into your coffee, master 2048...just don't chat or be interesting in any way.

3. Be ready with chores.  I try to casually mention several chores that I could use help with at some point during the day before sending them out.  Nothing motivates my kids to avoid me like a list of chores.

2. Read stories about children who explore.  The Boxcar Children, American Girl books, Little House on the Prairie, The Magic Treehouse books...there are many great ones.  Sometimes all it takes is a comment like "wow, our tree reminds me of the honey tree in the Kirsten story" to get their imaginations rolling.

and drumroll please......

1. Leave them alone.  Play is the work of childhood.  Don't interrupt their work!

Happy Spring- here's to lots of great outdoor play.  Hopefully a few of these are useful to you.  If none of these work, try hiding a bag of animal crackers outside and tell the kids they can eat them if they can find them.  Call it a "safari."


  1. I love your attitude! I feel the same way about my kids being outside - it's so important for them and really helps improve their moods. Ah, if only it would warm up a bit - maybe next week?

    Thanks for sharing at Family Fun Friday - I'm featuring your post this week.

  2. This is the time of the year that I have to boot my kids outside. After our long New England winters they've adjusted to be indoors most of the time so I literally tell them to go outside and give them a time limit before they can come back in. Kids NEED the time outside to exercise their bodies and imaginations.

    Thanks for sharing via Family Fun Friday. I was going to feature your post this week but I see Sarah has beat me to it! :D

  3. I have a grandson that you have to force outside. Plan on passing some of these tips to my son! Thanks for sharing!