How to Get Your Kid Away from Screens and Playing Outside (Willingly!)

Screens have their uses, but we all know that for our kids, imaginative play is supposed to be their main job. Getting them to play outdoors is especially important so that they get the fresh air, Vitamin D, and exercise that their young bodies need. But when they’ve got a TV and iPad inside, it’s hard to get our kids excited about going outside. So, what do you do if you want to get your kids away from screens and outdoors without making it a battle? This guide will tell you everything you need.

Limit Screen Time

The first step to getting your kids outside and away from screens is to set a limit on screen time. While this may sound like a battle waiting to happen - and it may be a battle when you first implement it - limited screen time is an important boundary for kids.

It’s important when you set boundaries on screen time that you don’t make it about going outside. Doing so can set the two up as enemies in your kids’ minds: They want more screen time, and if they prove they won’t go outside no matter what you do, maybe you’ll cave in. Instead, make the boundaries on screen time their own rule in your household, regardless of what your kids choose to do to fill up the rest of their time. Once you’ve established limiting screen time, nudging them towards filling their remaining time playing outdoors becomes easier.

Make Outside Fun

While you do want to encourage imaginative play, the truth of the matter is that if your kids feel like they have nothing to do outside, they won’t want to go outside. Offering them a variety of activities can motivate them to play outdoors. Sidewalk chalk, balls, and jump ropes can make summer fun, but make sure you also include winter toys like sleds, starter snowboards, and snowshoes if you live in a climate that gets cold.

Having one or two bigger toys can also make the outdoors extra exciting. For example, purchasing one of the best trampolines can make your backyard the cool place on the block. Not only will this encourage your kids to go outside, but when their friends come over, the novelty of the trampoline will have them wanting to play, which will encourage your kids all over again.

Make Outside Comfortable

What are your complaints about being outdoors as an adult?

The truth is, the summer can often be hot and buggy. The winter can be cold and wet. We feel these things as adults, but we forget that kids feel them, too. If you want your kids to enjoy being outdoors, you have to help them be comfortable there.

Provide shade in your backyard for your kids to duck under in the summer, perhaps with a sandbox or swing so that it’s still inviting to be there. For the winter, make sure you give them gear to bundle up with.

Reward Good Choices

While you don’t want to make going outdoors into a battle, you can encourage your kids to continue doing it by rewarding them when they do. For example, if your kid goes outside and spends a few hours playing in the snow, offer them some hot cocoa and cookies when they come in. Play it up by saying things like, “Hot cocoa is so yummy after you’ve been out in the snow!” or “You did a lot of running around today, so your body is probably ready for a sweet snack” so that they learn to associate the special treat with playing outside.

Go Outside with Them

Like so much of parenting, we can’t expect something out of our children that we’re not willing to model ourselves. If you want your kids to spend time outside - and enjoy it - then you need to show that you’re able to have a good time outside, too. This is especially important if you have a kid who’s reluctant to get outdoors.

Take family bike rides together, or play a game of tag in the back yard. You can even take your kids outdoors excursions to trampoline parks or water parks, which encourage them to get outside without making the outdoors the selling feature.

​Having kids who enjoy playing outside doesn’t have to be a pipe dream, even in today’s world. By making a few adjustments to how you talk about the outdoors and by consciously making the outdoors more interesting than the indoors, you’ll have your kids dying to play outside in no time at all.

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