Spring time is in full force and summer is right around the corner. The warmer weather is wonderful and school will be ending soon. It’s the time of the year when we go on vacations, visit the beach, and make winter a distant memory. I live in the midwest and it seems as though the winters are becoming more and more brutal. It makes me enjoy the warmer times so much more…and wish that they would never go away.
I remember as a kid playing outside often. Getting cut while sliding on a slip and slide that was laying in my yard on top of random rocks and sticks. Going to a neighbors house to play basketball. Riding my bike to the Village Pantry to spend a couple of dollars on candy. When spring and summer hit, we were outside.
But, they say, kids just don’t play outside like they used to. I’m not sure who “they” is, but I think they’re right. It doesn’t seem as though kids take to the outdoors like they used to. Just the fact that I use the words “like they used to” makes me feel like I’m about 86 years old and dreaming of the “good ole days.” Nonetheless, I think it’s true.
So, as parents of four, we’ve taken the stance that we want our kids to play outside as much as possible. Why? Well I’m glad you asked. Here are 5 reasons I encourage my kids to play outside:
1. It encourages creativity.
Television and video games are done-for-you activities. Going outside with some toys creates an opportunity for the kids to make up some games. It helps them use their imagination. My kids will regularly have races, reenact movie scenes, or come up with an activity that they’ve made up on the spot.
2. It uses their energy.
Sitting on the couch watching an episode of Caillou uses no energy. Running around outside, riding a bike, or helping dad mow the lawn uses their energy. It makes them tired – and that makes bedtime a much easier time of the day. Kids seem to have an endless amount of energy and it’s healthy for them to use it up.
3. It creates times of connection.
When my kids are sitting next to me watching TV or playing a video game, we don’t talk very much. Getting outside and away from the technology that sucks us in and makes us de-relational (I just made up that word, don’t try to steal it) increases the amount of connection that I have with my kids and the level at which they even connect with each other.
4. It reduces fights.
My kids fight and argue. I’m not sure if you’ve experienced this in your family. But, it seems like my kids prefer to fight sometimes. I’ve discovered that when they’re outside, they’re much less apt to fight with each other. They don’t argue about who’s turn it is on my iPad or who gets to pick the next show for them to watch on Netflix. I even see them working together and wanting to play together.
5. It instills life-long values.
Being active and avoiding the temptation to consume yourself with media is a life-long pursuit that must be something our kids learn at an early age. Our kids are interacting with technology at levels that we didn’t at their age. There are things that they’re going to have to deal with that we never had to. But, if we start teaching them early about the value of unplugging and entertaining ourselves, I believe that they will lead more productive lives later on.
One of the biggest objections I hear from parents on this topic is that their kids don’t want to go outside. My kids don’t want to either. In fact, I’m not the biggest fan of the outdoors. But, what I’ve found time and time again is that every time I make our family go outside, we all enjoy it and never regret the time.
The other day it was raining and when I got home from work I told the kids we were going to go outside and play in the rain. My oldest didn’t want to and even cried because he wanted to stay inside. I told him that we were going outside as a family and he needed to join us. By the end of our time in the rain, he was upset because he didn’t want to go back inside!
How do you view outdoor time with your family? Comment below and tell us how you encourage this time with your family…