This post is sponsored by Nuffnang.
As a primary school kid growing up in the country, I spent the majority of my time outside when I was at home. We lived in a court and were surrounded by other kids, so as well as my three sisters, I had plenty of kids to play with. During school holidays I can remember being outside for hours on end and literally being called home by my mum. We needed to stay within hearing distance of her calling our names from the front step of our house.
I find this so funny to think about now. I can’t imagine standing on our front step and hollering out my kids’ names! But that was what everyone did in our street. I lived in a slightly warmer climate than Melbourne and obviously in a time before there were so many devices to be attached to. In fact we only had two television channels, ABC and a hybrid channel of the other networks. I remember the test pattern being on the ABC as it was also before 24 hour television was around.
Our kids have a very different childhood. They play outside much less than what myself and my husband did and their access to technology is wide and varied. I shared a post last year on how we manage the technology use of the kids and how much screen time the kids have is something I am quite conscious about. So to it seems are most Australian parents. A recent study, The Australian State of Play Report found that:
Parents recognise their kids’ overconsumption of technology with more than half (59%) saying children have too much ‘plugged’ playtime.
What was very encouraging from the study though was:
The majority (66%) of children say that outdoor play is their favourite activity – not technology. But many parents believed kids prefer ‘plugged playtime’ to other playtime activities. In actual fact, more than half (55%) of children stated they would like to spend more time playing with their parents.
I think my kids would probably have similar responses to this. Even though their technology time is limited they can still need some prompting to get outdoors, but once they are out there they absolutely love it. Here are some things we do to get the kids outside to play:
1. The dog
We added a dog to our family this year. She was very longed for and part of our agreement with the kids about getting the dog, was that they would need to spend time outside with her and training her.
2. Draw cards
Having a draw card in the back yard that the kids will want to go out and play on helps tremendously. Since the new Springfree Trampoline arrived, I have not had to ask the kids to go outside once!
3. Let them create
Some of my favourite childhood memories are of making mud pies, potions and setting up shops in our cubby house. To encourage the kids to make creations, I will often give them some items to play with out side and just let them go with it. As you can see in the photo above, during a recent school holidays they spent many hours making their own mini playground. Once it was created, they would return to it each day, tweak it, add to it and play on it.
4. Play with them
While my ideal is for the kids to entertain themselves outside, it is still nice to take the time to play with them outside, doing something they are interested in or have created. It can also be a strategy to just get them started on an activity outside and once they are occupied, I can return to cooking dinner or whatever I was doing!
5. Tell them to go outside
If the weather is fine and I feel the kids have been indoors too much, I simply just make them all go outside for a set period of time. There maybe some initial grumblings, but once out there, they eventually work out a way to entertain themselves. Rarely do they come back at the time I specified as they have become engrossed in some game they have started or may have started a new bug collection!
6. Set them to work
You will be surprised how well kids respond to doing useful work. We recently had part of our tree fall down in a storm. We have a large green waste bin which is collected every fortnight by the local council. The day before bin night, I went out with the kids, showed the older ones how to safely use a saw to chop up some of the bigger branches and showed the younger ones ways they could help. They all worked solidly and without complaint for an hour. There are many other jobs in the backyard the kids can do, weeding, watering, spreading mulch or removing snails. For some kids who struggle to find something to do outside, giving them a specific tasks can really help.
7. Eat outside
During the school holidays, the kids have to take turns to make morning and afternoon tea. When the weather is fine, I tell them to set up it outside. It is easy for the kids to get comfortable inside, reading a book or playing a game, taking the morning tea outside moves them out of the comfort zone and once they are outside, they easily find things to do once they have finished eating.
8. Housework outside
When the kids are younger I have found that they want to be outside, but they also want to be near me. I don’t necessarily have the time to spend the morning outside as the housework is calling my name. What I can do though is take some of the housework outside. If I have washing on the line for example, instead of taking it off the line and bringing it inside to fold, I will fold it outside. While outside I can be simultaneously amazed at how high the kids can no jump on the trampoline and get the washing folded!
9. Inside toys outside
We have two broad types of toys in our house – inside toys and outside toys. The preschooler adores Duplo and will sit happily and play for hours. By mixing it up occasionally and letting him play with the Duplo outside, it changes completely the way he plays with it and what he creates. It is a great way to get him to use his imagination and creativity outside.
10. Give them space
This is mainly for the older kids. I can see out into our backyard from the kitchen, which is great so I can check in on what the kids are doing. While I still have a focus on safety, I have learnt that I need to give the kids some space when playing outside if I want to encourage them to do it more often. If I see them working on some creation and I can see instantly why it isn’t working, I have learnt not to go and show them how to fix it. I need to let them work this out for themselves. Working it out through trial and error, through observation and sometimes through frustration! The satisfaction they receive through working out the problem themselves is so much better than me stepping in and doing it for them. Now we have the Springfree Trampoline, I have a much greater level of comfort with the kids playing on the trampoline without me there as well. Our old trampoline (you can see the old one and new safer Springfree Trampoline in this post) was a significant safety risk!
Do your kids play outside as much as you used to? What do you do to get the kids outdoors to play?