Perhaps you remember playing outside all day – building forts, making up games, and exploring the backyard or neighborhood park with your friends – until you were called in for dinner. During the last 20 years, what used to be a childhood reality has changed. Today’s children spend less than half as much time playing outdoors as they used to. That boils down to less than 10 minutes per day during the week and less than 30 minutes on weekends, according to research from the University of Michigan.
It seems as if outdoor play time may have been overtaken by indoor screen time. The average child spends more than seven hours a day using electronic devices such as TVs, smart phones and computers. It’s time to take the family back outside. Here are five great ways to do it:
Take a Hike
Ease into nature by going for an easy walk along a nature trail. This outdoor activity is fun for all ages, provides exercise, and is a great way for the whole family to spend time together. Select a trail that’s easy enough for the smallest or least physically fit member of your group; loop trails are great places to start. Bring a magnifying glass for close-up looks into ponds and under rocks. Encourage kids to be still and to listen to the sounds along the trail.
Get kids excited about nature by doing a little bird-watching as a family. Grab a pair of binoculars and a bird book and head outside. Your kids will love spotting feathered friends in their natural habitat and it’s also a great learning experience. Older children can look up birds and identify them by size, color and even song.
If your children express interest in camping, but you’re not quite ready to “rough it,” have a backyard camping experience instead. Simply set up a tent, roll out the sleeping bags, and pretend you’re in the wilderness, complete with campfire songs around a lantern and S’mores made on the stove or BBQ.
Play a Game
Got a few free hours? Another great outdoor activity for the whole family is playing Frisbee or soccer at your local park. Your kids will love spending time with you, and all of you will get the added bonus of exercise. Bring snacks for a picnic rest break while you’re out and about.
Getting out into the great outdoors is an inexpensive, fun and healthy way to spend time together as a family. Best of all, it helps children to develop a lasting love for nature and the environment.