Tips for getting your kids to go outdoors
Getting kids out into the fresh air can be a faff, but there are ways to coax your children off the sofa without resorting to bribery. Honest.
1. Try calling it an adventure instead
Unless your children are, in fact, puppies, the word 'walk' probably doesn't instill too much excitement in them. Why not switch up the narrative, and ask your family if they want to come out on an adventure instead?
With the right approach, you can put a positive spin on getting outside, and you'll quickly find that your kids start to get more excited, too.
“Get out there and have an adventure! It is always referred to as an adventure in our house, and never just going for a walk.”
2. Create your very own treasure hunt
Who doesn't love a treasure hunt? If you want to up the ante, why not walk slightly ahead of your child and drop chocolate coins or other treasures which they can forage for? Just make sure to keep an eye on where the wrappers end up…
“When our first-born didn't want to come with us walking the dog, we told her there would be buried treasure and money on route. She would bring along her spade, and we used to bury or chuck some coins on the floor for her to find.”
3. Have everything accessible in case of spontaneous good weather
As we all know, it can be impossible to predict when the weather will be good enough for getting the family outdoors. Mumsnetters recommend having a selection of outdoor paraphernalia tucked away in the car boot in case you're surprised with a sunny afternoon and a spare couple of hours at the same time.
We can dream, right?
A football, picnic blanket, even mini tennis rackets and balls – they don't take up much room at all, but will make it much easier to coax your children out of the car and onto the park when it's a sunny day.
“In the summer I keep some essentials in the boot – picnic blanket, frisbee, ball. That way if the sun ever comes out when we're out and about on the weekend we can head to the nearest beach or park and get some fresh air.”
4. Let them sit down on the job
If you've got a baby or toddler on your hands, encourage their curiosity for the great outdoors by stopping to take a proper look around – yes, whenever they want. It can turn a 30 minute stroll into a two-hour mini-adventure, but Mumsnetters reckon they'll enjoy their time outside so much more.
“Get a fleece-lined, waterproof all-in-one. They last ages and are great when they are learning to walk, as baby is warm and dry so the sitting down on the grass in the park when a particular leaf needs thorough investigation is no problem.”
5. Try a change of scenery
Every park contains a whole host of different potential adventures when you're under 12, so don't be afraid to branch out and try somewhere new if your kids seem reluctant to get outside. You never know, that park you've never bothered to visit before may have the best bridge for Pooh Sticks within a 20-mile radius.
Why not chat to family and friends about where they like to go and why, and even get them to show you around one day. Some parks have hidden treasures which it's impossible to find, except via word of mouth.
And if there aren't any alternative parks close by, simply changing up your usual routine can make a huge difference. Try heading in via a different entrance, or walking around the lake the other way.
“We live in London and get the map out to visit all the different parks. There's so much variety, and different types of play equipment in each one. The kids seem very happy with that and I also find it less boring.”
6. You're never too old to have fun on a scooter
If you can hold your nerve as they disappear (alarmingly) quickly into the distance, a scooter is a great way to encourage your kids to spend time outdoors – and it still counts as exercise, too. And, while you're at it, why not get one for yourself, too?
“My son has just outgrown his scooter, so I have got him a new one, and one for myself. I love that you can get so much further on them.”
7. Put them to work
Got an outdoor job that needs doing? Need to head to the garden centre for some new fence panels or give the car a clean? Your children will love feeling helpful, and you'll
probably get the job done at least a tiny bit quicker.
“We've enlisted our son's help to get the garden of our new home into shape – lots of fresh air and exercise!”
8. Try flying a kite
Fed up of always feeding the ducks? Whenever the weather allows, you should channel your inner Mary Poppins and go fly a kite. Traditional and always funny, it's a great way to get the entire family out of the house and doing something a little bit different.
If it's not windy enough, other different (but fun) activities include: a treasure hunt, quick cricket, and geocaching (trust us, it's fun).
“Pocket kites are brill and cheap, too. They have no stick frame so they fold up small. They are so simple to use – no faffing around at all and almost indestructable. I used to keep one in my handbag.”
9. Make the most of the season
Visiting the local park at different times throughout the year can feel like going to a whole new place, and there's nothing like a change of season to boost your appreciation of nature. Try doing that canal walk you always love in spring in the middle of winter, it could become your new favourite.
“It's lovely to go out for a walk in autumn – doesn't matter if it is stormy or windy. You can collect things you find – conkers, acorns, twigs, different coloured leaves or different shaped leaves. Then you can stick them on some paper or you can do leaf printing or something if you want to be really creative.”
10. And now you might have a different issue entirely
The plan is, of course, to get them to enjoy being outside so much that they don't want to come in. One bonus is that fresh air will tire them out, so they'll sleep very well afterwards.
“No persuasion needed – it is harder to get them to come in!”