It’s undoubtedly important for children to spend time outdoors. From fresh air to physical exercise, outdoor play has a multitude of benefits.
Unfortunately research shows that Australian children are spending less and less time outdoors. According to KidsNews.com.au, most children are spending just 5.5 hours outdoors each week on average, but spending 9.5 hours watching screens instead.
These stats are concerning, with outdoor play being extremely important for childhood development. Outdoor activities allow children to participate in hands-on, sensory learning. Participating in sensory activities has been found to improve important skills such as spatial recognition, as well as cognitive functioning, gross motor skills, and more.
Outdoor play also ultimately improves physical development. When children play outdoors, they increase their ability to balance, run, skip, jump, and more.
Are you struggling to encourage your child to spend more time outdoors? You’re not alone, with indoor technology always changing, and new child-targeted devices and consoles constantly being released, this is an issue many parents are facing.
So, we’re here to help. See below for tips on how you can spend more time with your child outdoors, in the comfort of your own backyard…
Create a functional & inviting play space
Firstly, you need to assess what you have. Do you have a big or small backyard? Is your space functional? It’s easy to get wrapped up in the aesthetics of the space, but it’s important to think about whether the space meets the requirements of your child.
It’s also important to think from your child’s perspective. The best way to encourage them to spend more time outdoors is to develop a space that they want to spend time in.
If you have school-aged children, it’s a great idea to develop a space that allows them to move. Think about ways you can maximise your space and encourage active play. If you have a bigger backyard, you may want to consider investing in a mixture of built-in and portable equipment pieces—think pool slides, swings, skipping ropes, and more. The key is to think about pieces that your children will enjoy for years to come.
If you have a smaller space, think about how you can best utilise what you have. You may want to think about laying down a soft surface, such as artificial grass that makes the whole space usable.
You may also want to consider developing a private ‘zone’, which could be a cubby house or a tent. A space to themselves provides children respite from outdoor play and can encourage their imaginations to run wild!
If you have space available, consider permanent sand or mut pits, or even a fibreglass or concrete pool. This encourages sensory play, which is important for childhood development. Sensory play is anything that stimulates the 7 senses—taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing, movement, and balance. If you don’t have the space to implement permanent structures and zones, materials such as play dough are perfectly suitable.
Top tip: Make a list of the top things you want and need for this space, and prioritise what you need to invest in based on that.
Increase time outside as a family
It’s important to establish outdoor activities as family bonding time.
If you have a young baby, it’s important to engage in outdoor play with them to help them learn about their different surroundings. It also encourages them to feel more comfortable with the world around them. If you have artificial grass outside, this is great for tummy time as you don’t have to watch out for the normal prickles and grass seeds that come along with real grass! If you have real lawn, make sure to lay down a picnic blanket before tummy time, to ensure the surface is suitable for your little one.
Younger children love to help. Encourage them to participate in outdoor chores with you. For example: washing the dog, sweeping the deck, and light gardening are all suitable activities.
Chalk is also a beloved favourite. Spend time in your backyard, on your timber deck or cement, drawing and playing games such as noughts and crosses. Since chalk washes away easily with a hose, this is a great option.
A popular and educational way to encourage children to spend more time outdoors is growing seasonal fruits and vegetables with them. This is a great way to teach children where food comes from, and how to care for living things. In Australia, we’re lucky to have an abundance of delicious fruit and veggie options all year round.
Top tip: Tomatoes, zucchini, capsicum, cucumbers, and eggplant—to name a few—are great to plant in September; whilst spinach, peas, cauliflower, and celery are great to plant in August.
You could also spend time birdwatching and wildlife watching. Here’s how to attract wildlife to your backyard.
Host outdoor parties and playdates
Children are more likely to watch to play outside if their friends encourage them to.
If you’re celebrating your child’s birthday, or they’re having a friend over for a playdate, consider a backyard pool party. After all, having a pool is the ultimate in Aussie playgrounds for kids. You could turn pool time into fun or exercise-filled experience. Consider games such as:
- Pool noodle relays
- Musical statues
- Marco Polo
- Mermaid races
- Water tag
During the cooler months, you could still have the kids over under a pergola or patio. This sheltered space will allow you to celebrate and entertain in all weather. You can set up the space with throwing games, hopscotch, or even an air hockey or ping pong table if you have the room.
There you have it – handy tips on how to encourage your children to spend more time outside. Good luck!
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