go-outside-cartoon“Go play outside.”

It’s so simple you would think that all parents would do it.

But they don’t.

As parents, you have the most influence on your child.

Here are few tips to encourage outdoor play that do not take much time, energy or money.

1. Tell you Your Kids to “Go Play Outside”
Yes, it’s that simple. Today, you may have to turn off the computer or television and make it a mandate. If you’re afraid to let your kids play outside because of bullies or other dangers, then you will need to find ways to help you child get outside. Ask yourself if the fear is real or perceived. Many cities are safer today than ever before, but it doesn’t feel that way because of exaggerated media coverage of crime. I don’t mean to undermine truly dangerous situations, but from what I’ve seen, many parents lock their kids inside for no reason. And yes, you can teach your child how to be safe. Go to Free Range Kids for tips on how other parents faced their fear and let their children go.

2. Show enthusiasm: If you’re driving down the road, encourage your kids to look for hawks and other birds on the electric wires and sign posts. If you spot a large bird or animal, pull over and check it out (if you have time). Show them that you’re excited about the animal and open up a conversation. Don’t worry if you’re not sure what it is. You can always look it up later. If you’ve got a camera handy, take a snap shot and post it on Facebook or take it to school. You’re sure to get others to help you with identification.

3. Be curious: If you show curiosity about the natural world, so will your kids. Ask questions like, “What under that log? Why do you think they live there? How does a bird fly? Can you find a worm? A beetle? Where do animals go in the winter?  Pose questions and encourage your children to search for the answers. Focus on the search and not on getting the correct answer. Make it a game.

4. Encourage imagination: One of my favorite things to do as a kid was to play with ants. I imagined myself as a tiny person running among the ants. I imagined my world getting turned upside down in an instant by the rain or the wind. I marveled at how quickly the ants rebuilt their homes after destruction. Lead by example by showing imagination for the natural world. Imagine that you’re a bird, raccoon or squirrel. What would that be like? Talk with your kids about this. They will love it.

5. Keep a magnifying lens handy: Even the most ordinary of things looks really neat when enlarged. Magnify a seed, a blade of grass, or show your kids how to light a fire from the sun (if appropriate). There are countless things you can do with a magnifying lens. Also keep a few small boxes on hand for placing specimens and objects found outside.

6. Use binoculars:  Want to get a better view of a bird or that squirrel that visits the backyard or playground?  You can get an inexpensive pair of binoculars for your kids that lets them see things closer. This will entice them to learn more.

7. Plant a garden:  Dig up a small patch of ground and let your child plant a few seed. If you rent, ask the landlord of you can do this. It doesn’t need to be a large patch. Just enough to grow a few beans or flowers. Your child can water, weed and enjoy the garden all summer.

8. Use child size tools:  In snow country, get your child a pint-sized shovel so that they can help with snow removal. Kids love to help and this is a great way to spend time with your child. You can also get pint-sized shovels and hand tools or just use old spoons to dig in the ground.

These are just few ideas for getting your kids outside that don’t need a lot of your time. Encourage them to explore on their own and they’ll become independent kids who are not afraid of the world.

What do you do to encourage your kids to get outside? 

Links:

Birding Tips for Families
Operation Deer Watch
Bald Eagle Watching in Wisconsin
Eagle Watching in Prairie du Chien, WI
The Children and Nature Network
Free Range Kids

You can find Diane

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