The days of children being sent outside every day to explore the neighborhood and mingle with local children are long gone. The temptations of a glowing screen capturing a child’s attention for an entire afternoon is all too common.
How do you break a cycle that is so deeply ingrained in our society already, despite having been the norm for less than a handful of decades? It’s not always as easy as opening the front door and shooing kids outside. Sometimes, you have to roll up your sleeves and lead by example. Sure, you might be busy. Yes, some of the household’s chores might be neglected. But when it comes to raising a child, plain and simple, kids need to spend more time outdoors than they currently do.
Take Cues from Other Countries
In the United States, there is a woeful lack of taking outside examples of proper parenting into our current routines. Helicopter parenting is a painfully American invention, it seems, judging by just how differently children are raised the world over.
That isn’t to say you should be leaving your child on the sidewalk while you go into a restaurant to eat, but you shouldn’t be afraid to step outside of the familiar when it comes to child rearing. An idea that sounds unnerving to our sensibilities may just be the result of our expectations being subverted in a way that we find uncomfortable. If children in Japan start riding the subway alone before the age of ten, you probably shouldn’t worry about letting your children run around outside more!
Don’t Make it a Solo Experience
Leading by example is a strong way to connect with children, considering how often they’re desperate for leadership. Finding activities you both enjoy while out and about will considerably lessen the stresses that come with putting time aside for family activities.
Though it may seem unusual, family bonding can come from any activity in which the family works as a team. Paintball is a great example, although special care should be taken to train kids and parents on the proper handling of paintball guns to prevent injury. Paintball encourages teamwork and brings families together as a unit, even while taking out frustrations on others with high-velocity projectiles. At worst, you’ll come away from it with a few bruises, but your child will definitely remember the days spent dodging paintballs.
Accept that Your Time Out Won’t Be Perfect
Having a perfect family is, unfortunately, something of a myth. Kids will always squabble and budgets will almost always be shoestring. Strong families share many commonalities that span from how much time they spend together to how their avenues of communication work. It’s important to remember that, while you’re acclimating to a life that is more disconnected from the digital world, it won’t be perfect. There will be bad weather, underwhelming trips, cranky kids and days where you’d just rather stay inside and scroll through social media feeds.
If you remain flexible and keep your children’s needs in mind, you’ll come through it alright. Not every day you spend outside has to be an amazing one, it just has to be interesting enough that your children are inspired to take the initiative to explore on their own, too.
Give Your Children a Reason to Go Outside
This might seem like an obvious point to make in a lot of ways. Without a reason to go outside, why would kids bother? They likely won’t, making it important that activities and ideas at hand are naturally designed to entice children away from their electronics.
Something as simple as child-proofing the backyard and adding child-friendly activities to explore while there can make a big difference in a young one’s life. Wandering in circles in the grass is one thing, but having a sandbox or jungle gym to burn energy in might even help them sleep a little more soundly, too. Restlessness is a sure sign that kids need to spend more time outdoors. If you don’t have the money to spend on expensive gym equipment, sometimes something as cheap as a garden plot for a child to tend to or a pile of leaves for them to kick about can be the difference between an outdoor romp and another afternoon in front of the television.
It’s important to remember that joining in on the outside adventures and creating fun incentives to go outdoors are the key to sparking a child’s interest. If you approach it with the right attitude and encourage the creative, outgoing mindset that bolsters a child’s willingness to step outside, you may find how kids need to spend more time outdoors when its effects trickle into other aspects of your family’s life.
Amanda Wilks is a passionate writer, motivational lifestyle blogger, and sports activist. She has a strong interest in everything related to health, self-improvement, and sports. For more of Amanda’s work, follow her on Twitter.