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Tech Turned Terrain: Getting Your Kids to Put Down the Electronics & Enjoy the Outdoors

As more kids turn to social media, streaming sites and video games as their primary entertainment source, they spend less time outdoors, enjoying the fresh air and natural beauty of their surroundings. 

Research shows spending less time outside can harm your child’s mental and physical wellbeing, so it’s vital parents take the time and make an effort to encourage their kids to switch off the screen and head outside. 

dad and son on tailgate

Why Should You Encourage Your Kids to Get Outdoors?

When you feel tired, and your kids are still full of energy, it can be incredibly tempting to hand them a tablet or smartphone, keeping them quiet and out of your way as you prepare breakfast, lunch or dinner. 

However, there are several critical reasons you should make the extra effort to get your children outdoors, even if it’s just for an hour a day. 

Reduces stress levels and improves mental health 

Studies increasingly show being outside can increase blood flow to your brain and bolster the levels of oxygen in your body. When you’re outside, you release more serotonin, a natural chemical that stabilizes your mood and helps improve your sleeping patterns. Research also shows spending time in green spaces can reduce the stress hormone cortisol in your body. Trees also release phytoncides that strengthen the immune system.

Improves cognitive focus 

Studies show spending time outdoors can also improve your cognitive function. When you and your children walk through the park, you’re more likely to experience decreased posterior alpha activity in your brain. This means you’re less prone to worrying about past events and more focused on the here and now. This type of mindfulness can improve problem-solving skills and attention span. 

Strengthens fitness levels 

Increasing your time spent outdoors can also boost your kids’ fitness levels. Childhood obesity is a serious problem and can have lasting health effects. While obesity in children is often diet-related or genetically inherited, regular exercise can help your child manage their weight and improve their strength and cardiovascular health. 

Spending time outdoors in the yard or nature together is a wonderful alternative to organized sports. Go for a hike as a family, play a pickup sand soccer game on the beach or run around your local playground to encourage your kids to get outdoors and move their body.  

Increases vitamin D levels 

Both you and your kids will benefit from direct sunlight, which causes your body’s cells to produce vitamin D. This vitamin allows the body to retain optimal calcium and phosphate levels, keeping your bones healthy and strong. If your kids don’t get enough vitamin D, they can experience joint pain, fatigue and periods of low mood. 

Ways to Help Your Children Enjoy the Outdoors

kids composting

Despite understanding the benefits of spending time outdoors, many parents struggle to get their kids to put down their devices and enjoy the fresh air. The key to getting your kids excited about nature is to take part in outdoor activities together as a family. Kids learn through role modeling, so the more you enjoy getting outside, the more your kids will love spending time in nature with you. Here are a few activities to excite your kids and help them look forward to heading outside. 

Plant and tend a garden together 

One of the best ways to get your child excited about heading outdoors is to help them plant some vegetables or flowers in your backyard. Kids have a short attention span, so pick vegetables that are quick growing, such as radishes, lettuce or sugar snap peas. 

You could use this project as an effective tool for teaching your kids about looking after the natural environment. Make composting for kids fun by turning the task into a game. Have your kids identify compostable and non-compostable items, prepare a compost bin together and hunt for earthworms to place in the bin with your scraps. You can place a small bin on your kitchen counter for scraps and have your kids empty the bin into the compost pile every day to keep them interested.  

Get them excited about family camping trips

There’s nothing that engages kids quite like an adventurous camping trip. Once they’re in the wilderness, they’ll love climbing trees, roasting s’mores and listening to ghost stories around the campfire. However, you may need to employ a few tactics to get them excited about packing up a tent and heading outdoors. 

You could allow your child to invite several of their friends on the camping trip. That way, they can look forward to creating memories with their peers when they’re pitching tents and starting campfires outdoors. You might also want to bring some board games on the trip, helping to create an inclusive environment where everyone can sit around a table and take part in a social, stimulating activity. 

Kids need a few essential items to get the most out of their camping trip, including clothes for layering, medications and their favorite toy. If your kids end up wet, cold and uncomfortable on their first excursion into the forest, it’s unlikely they will want to go a second time. To ensure your kids enjoy their adventure in the woods, make a camping-with-kids’ checklist before you head out into the wild, so nothing is forgotten. 

kids on fence

Build or buy an outdoor play area 

Another excellent way to encourage your children to put down their games controller or tablet and head outside is to build an age-appropriate play area in your backyard. Try to design this area so it appeals to your kids’ interests and is age-appropriate. 

If you don’t have the resources or expertise to design and construct your own adventure area, consider buying a simple climbing frame or swing set. An outdoor play space can provide an incentive for your child to venture outside and offer kids the opportunity to strengthen muscles and improve their gross motor skills, all while having a blast in their yard. 

Organize a scavenger hunt 

All kids love a scavenger hunt, so why don’t you organize an outdoor treasure trail for your children and their friends? Your little ones will love getting involved in an engaging search for hidden prizes, so you won’t have too much trouble persuading them to spend several hours outside. 

You could use the scavenger hunt as an opportunity to introduce your children to some inspiring natural areas. Considering hosting the search in the woods or on the beach, but even your backyard will work, especially for younger children.    

Help Your Kids Lose the Screens and Head Outside

As technology becomes more pervasive in our everyday lives, there’s a risk children will spend too much time in front of screens and too little time outdoors. Spending less time outdoors can negatively affect your kids’ mental health, sleeping patterns and cognitive functioning. However, there are several effective ways to encourage youngsters to get outside and feel the benefits of fresh air and physical exercise.

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