Most of my favorite moments in life have happened outdoors. When I was a boy I’d go to my grandparents on the weekend and play for hours in the woods behind their house. Outdoor activities are a priority for me. Just recently, I was in Scotland climbing to the top of a famous ancient volcano named Arthur’s Seat. My soul soared at the summit as my wife and I looked out over Edinburgh and the North Sea. I cannot begin to fathom how that wouldn’t stir the heart of even the most ardent indoor dweller. But my daughters declined to go, opting instead to order room service and try to find wi-fi. This isn’t to say that my daughters aren’t wonderful because they are, but they have an outdoor phobia that truly bothers me.
Part of the issue is I’ve always been overprotective. We live in a place where poisonous snakes aren’t a rare thing. Alligators are as abundant as squirrels. It’s not like I can unleash them like my parents did me as a boy. So I may have gone overboard on the worry. They grew up largely indoors. I’m trying to correct my mistake, and in the process, maybe provide a cautionary tale to other dads. We have to let go for them to grow.
Here are ways we can get our kids playing outside and leave their gadgets behind.
Cultivate Outdoor Appreciation
In regards to free range parenting, I’m not onboard. It’s a dangerous world and I believe children need close supervision. However, if you want your kids to play outside you have to be willing to let them. This means both parent and child need to learn and practice having a soulful appreciation for the outdoors. We can accomplish this in many ways, such as regular family walks or nature-themed activities such as hiking, biking, or scavenger hunts and treasure hunts. Tailor a family vacation around camping or just do so in the backyard together. Take them to the park for play often. Have a cookout. Get the family outside. Cultivate the habit.
Encourage Creativity and Imagination
One reason many kids don’t choose to play outside is because they have no idea what to do once there. That was never a problem for me. My childhood days of playing make believe were pretending I was a cowboy in the wild west. The only time I came indoors was to get my grandmother’s sweet tea. Today’s kids develop their creative skills online. If we give them fun options outside it may turn on the light. If it doesn’t, show them how to spark their imagination by playing with them. Things like sidewalk chalk are great for sparking imaginations. Use the chalk to show them how to play hopscotch for instance, instead of yet another game on their device.You could even start a flower or vegetable garden together which requires regular nurturing and care, teaching both discipline and creative skill. Use nature as the backdrop to joyful imagination and learning.
Games and Props
Not long ago my daughters were asked outside by a male friend. He had a new game he wanted to play that involved 3 nets and a ball. Somehow he convinced them to play. I haven’t heard that type of laughter and competitiveness (the good kind) in a long time. Kids will make the best of what they have. Provide the materials (balls, nets, gloves, etc.) and chances are they will create something out of it. Teach them how to play kick the can or capture the flag. Invite other neighborhood kids over for a friendly Olympics made up of games they enjoy.
Be consistent in your attempts to draw them outside. Some kids will wait for us to give up because they know we will. Don’t. Stay persistent!
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you want our next adventure to be?”