After so much time spent social distancing and being cooped up at home, it’s finally time to start soaking in the sun again. We can finally get out, and warmer weather gives many of us the opportunity to stay outdoors for longer periods of time.
The Covid-19 pandemic caused more than a few families to hunker down with technology. Now that we’re free to move about, you might have trouble convincing your children to put down their devices and embrace time outdoors.
Digital tablets and video games exert a magnetic pull, but of course they aren’t the only things your kids can enjoy. Having alternatives preloaded and planned out is your best way to counter tech’s appeal.
Listed below are five simple ideas to help you get your children off their devices and looking forward to time spent outside.
1. Encourage your kids to spend time outdoors with friends.
As of now, no widely available Covid-19 vaccine has been approved for children under 12. Fortunately, though, that demographic is less likely to spread the virus. Fully vaccinated children over 12 are safe spending time together as well. As long as you ensure that your child is taking all necessary precautions, playdates are back on the table.
Encourage your children to put down their screens and go out with friends. Summer days were made for adventure. After a day outdoors, they’ll more than likely come home ready for bed. Uninterrupted access to video games and social media is likely to stifle activity and summer memories.
Of course, there is one important thing to consider. How will your kids keep in touch with you without a phone? Nowadays, a safe phone for kids — without games or social media access — is a great option. That way, your kids can always be within reach while learning to experience the independence they need to thrive as adults.
2. Introduce your kids to new, age-appropriate activities.
Everyone is different, of course, and the outdoor activities one child enjoys may not be another’s cup of tea. Don’t be afraid to let your kids explore their own interests in new ways. Interests might include playing sports, interacting with nature, or anything that keeps them occupied outside. Pay attention to what your kids are doing when they lose track of time.
Sports and bike riding are popular choices and great, healthy ways to spend quality time together. Tree climbing, searching for insects, and other exploratory activities also provide kids with stimulating engagement with their surroundings.
Helping your children develop their outdoor interests provides the perfect opportunity to further build your relationship with them. Be open to their ideas. Your encouragement means everything to them.
The freer their explorations, the more comfortable they will feel being themselves. You’ll likely find them to be more honest with you and more open to your suggestions. If nothing else, you’ll enjoy spending a day together.
3. Hold biweekly barbecues, complete with marshmallow roasts.
Summer barbecues are a commonly cherished memory — playing with other kids, eating hamburgers, spitting watermelon seeds, and roasting marshmallows. When the whole family is spending their time out in the sun with each other, you can’t help but create great memories.
By holding an extended family barbecue every few weeks, you turn a day without tech into something kids actually look forward to. Anticipation also breeds inspiration. Give your kids some latitude to plan the activities they’ll engage in with other family members. Semi-regular gatherings give them a reason to love the outdoors and spark excitement.
Keep your barbecue fun for everyone by breaking out games and activities suitable for all ages. Bean bag tosses, football, or Wiffle ball are all perennial favorites. Be sure to have plenty of folding chairs on hand, including extras for those who forget to bring theirs.
4. Plan at least a few family trips.
The weekend has arrived. Your daughter’s friends are all busy, and she is at home complaining of boredom. Times like these are when you will want to be well familiar with the activities available in your area.
Your family could decide to take a trip to the park or a nearby beach, assuming you have one. Look for activities in your area that you have yet to take advantage of or have “forgotten” about, like an aquarium or amusement park. For smaller kids, even a trip out to buy groceries can become a scavenger hunt for certain items or ingredients. That’s especially true when it means baking a treat together at home.
Longer trips are also a good option but obviously require more planning. Are there any resorts nearby that enjoy positive word of mouth? Are there mountains, hiking opportunities, or camping options within a reasonable driving distance?
Exploring new places and cultures with your children can help develop their appreciation for the world outside your living room. It also encourages respect for others.
5. Enroll your kids in summer camp.
If your child is still having trouble finding outdoor activities, look for a summer camp that suits their interests. Whether the camp they attend is held for one day or a few weeks, every day is likely to be scheduled and tech-free.
Summer camps can work out nicely for parents who work. Day camps typically allow you to drop off your kids in the morning and pick them up after the workday is over. At a sleepaway camp, kids have an opportunity to increase their sense of independence. This option can be great for parents who work long hours, while also fostering child development.
There are many different types of camps catering to different interests. Your kids can spend their time at a camp dedicated to a certain sport or one devoted to exploring nature. There are cooking camps, technology camps focused on engineering and coding, music camps, and many others. Explore the choices together to find somewhere that they will enjoy.
Lead by Example: Set the Phone Down and Head Outside
Of course, it’s important to acknowledge that we parents rely on technology, too. It’s up to us to demonstrate responsibility by not spending too much time tethered to our devices. Now social-distancing regulations are being relaxed, we have an opportunity to explore with our kids a whole new world outside our screens.