How to encourage children to play outside

Aug 2012
How to encourage children to play outside
When you go for walks, allow your child to decide which paths to take.

A 2011 CHILDWISE survey of 2,445 children aged five to 16 found UK children watch an average of more than two-and-a-half-hours of television a day. The same survey also suggests that 65% of children go online most days, with UK children collectively spending around 13 million hours on websites each day.

With this in mind, how can we encourage children to spend more time playing outdoors and therefore reaping the benefits of playing away from the screen?

Here are some tips for encouraging your child to play outdoors.

  1. When you go for walks in the woods or park, allow your child to decide which paths to take. Remain close to ensure their safety but let them choose where to explore, encouraging their independence and interest in exploring nature.

  2. Take a camera with you so that your child can take pictures of things and places they find particularly interesting. You can also encourage them to look up birds or animals that they see, to learn more about them and their habitat. Your local library will have plenty of child-friendly books about nature.

  3. Take drawing equipment with you so your child can draw their favourite sights. This will prime them to look out for something new each time they go out, so even the smallest of outdoor spaces becomes increasingly interesting.

  4. Offer your child basic tools to promote discovery, such as a magnifying glass, a trowel and a jar to keep their findings.

  5. Provide your child with a box or area where they can display things they find on their adventures, such as conkers, colourful stones and interesting leaves. Showing an interest in what they have discovered will encourage them to continue their outdoor play.

  6. If you live in a house, ensure your garden is child friendly. This includes removing poisonous plants and dangerous objects, and adding fun items for them to utilise during play. Providing items that can be found in nature, such as stones and sticks, will encourage their creativity and won't cost you a penny.

  7. When the weather is fine, children can also take their homework out into the garden, so they can continue to benefit from fresh air and sunshine.

  8. Your child is more likely to spend time outside if they see you doing so. Simply walking to the shops instead of driving will help to encourage your child to spend more time outdoors. Pointing out the interesting shape of a tree or the length of your shadow will open your child's mind to the wonders of the natural world, and there is a chance it will develop your interest in nature too!