Fitness Articles

14 Ways to Encourage Kids to Play Outdoors

Tips for Parents and Mentors

We believe that all parents want what is best for their children. We also know that our world is changing more quickly than ever before, and sometimes we are swept into new lifestyles before we realize it. Who would have imagined 30 years ago that we would need to encourage parents to send their children outside to play? But, with children spending between 40 and 60 hours per week attached to electronic umbilici, and the balance of their time scheduled between school, sports and other extracurricular activities, educators, doctors and early childcare experts are beginning to see a myriad of negative effects ranging from reduced cognitive development as a result of overly structured activities that do not stimulate problem solving and creativity, to childhood obesity, reduced muscle development and balance and other physical ailments.

The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights recognizes play as a right of every child and the American Academy of Pediatrics states that "Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children and youth". The AAP goes on to say that "even those children who are fortunate enough to have abundant available resources and who live in relative peace may not be receiving the full benefits of play. Many of these children are being raised in an increasingly hurried and pressured style that may limit the protective benefits they would gain from child-driven play".

We hope that your family will take a step back from the hurried lifestyle to which we have become accustomed, and recognize the need for all of us, but especially our children, to have free time for play! Here are a few ideas to get your kids started. Once they're outside, we predict that they'll have plenty of their own ideas!
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About The Author

Leave No Child Inside Leave No Child Inside
Through education and community engagement, the Leave No Child Inside Collaborative of Greater Cincinnati promotes children's outdoor play, learning and lifelong connection with nature. Learn more at

Member Comments

  • I grew up in the city. We had one TV in the house, no a/c. In the summer, my brothers and I would wake up, have a bowl of cereal while we watched a cartoon or two then out the door we went till dinner time. That's what everyone did. Parents had to come outdoors to get us to come in and have supper. Everyone looked forward to going outdoors. It was very rare for a kid to spend time indoors. Very RARE. We didn't have much but there was always something to do. We find something to do. We used our imagination to keep occupied. We socialized and made new friends. I think that's what's missing nowadays, children rely on "things" to keep themselves busy and rely too much on their parents to keep from being bored. - 8/26/2014 10:23:59 AM
    What a truly wonderful article. When I was a kid, I was always jumping rope, up in a tree, hopping on a pogo stick or just about anything that was really active. My sister loved her dolls and reading. We were like night + Day. As adults we both are more than fine with adult children and grandchildren. Not everyone is the same for a lot of different reasons. But with all of the time WASTED on electonics just fooling around, I think it's healthier to try to get outside and get into nature. Outdoor activities, get back to roller skating down the sidewalks like kids use to do.Walk in the rain, I did that! MY kids did that and love the memories. Get out there with your kids and let the laughter and memories begin ! - 6/18/2014 8:53:08 PM
  • Excellent article. I have a teenager that recently has decided that he is to busy to go outside after school.
    I know that high school keeps him busy, but I would love for him to get out more.
    Will offer some of these things. - 9/4/2013 10:32:11 AM
  • Great article. I will have my grandchildren for the summer. - 6/7/2013 8:33:24 AM
  • Thanks for sharing - 5/29/2013 7:39:17 AM
  • My Mom's favorite idea was to just turn the AC off! Said she didn't want to have all 6 kids AND all their friends in the house all day. We spent our time outdoors playing kickball, catching garden snakes in the field (don't ask why), racing our bikes, and only came in when Batman was on, then went right back out again! - 5/26/2013 9:25:20 AM
    For those who left comments about how horrible it is to have to give your child things to do outside, please remember that not all kids enjoy going outdoors, even if they don't live in a tech filled house. I grew up on a farm and loved spending time outside doing anything and everything. However, my sister would much rather just stay inside, read, and listen to music, even with all the fun that awaited outside. When I was young I just couldn't understand. Now I do. We are all human which means we are all different. We enjoy different things. My husband and I farm, and our young son loves going outside just like my husband and me. However our daughter is perfectly happy to play quietly in her room by herself. It's a challenge for us to get her outside. Please be respectful of us parents who are trying to encourage our kids to enjoy the outdoors, even though its not their cup of tea. - 2/8/2013 7:30:12 PM
  • Excellent suggestions! Spending quality time with children away from computer games and texting can only be a good thing. - 8/5/2012 11:17:31 AM
  • Thanks for sharing - 8/5/2012 7:58:37 AM
  • Really enjoyed this article.
    When I was young, houses were small and the neighborhood was where we spent out time - we had to come home when the street lights came on. How things have changed! - 8/3/2012 10:51:51 PM
  • if you start your outdoor routine while very young - children know and look forward to it. it is when we as adults start to crinch - the kids pick up on that. also-- turning off all the tech stuff - or not allowing it until they are 12 or more. - 6/8/2012 2:06:30 PM
  • These are good ideas.

    Besides the bird feeder by a window, I have seen some bird houses that have suction cups so they are on the window. The back of the bird house is plexiglas so the children can watch the birds build nest, see the eggs, and then watch the little ones grow.

    When my kids were younger we would sometimes set up an old tent for them to play in. They would take old blankets and pillows out to use in it and would go out there to read. If the weather was going to be nice we would let them spend the night in it... though they would usually be back in the house by 11pm because they could hear the coyotes. lol The coyotes never come into our yard, but are in a field behind us. - 6/8/2012 11:13:43 AM
  • I take my daughter to a local park that has a 1.8 mile loop. We walk that 3 times a week, and I bring a new scavenger hunt list with me every time, if we can find all the items we get to do something of her choice. The rest of the time when the weather is nice we go to a splash pad, or a huge play park nearby, and stay there for at least an hour. I read my book, and she plays with the kids that are there, it's a great break for both of us. But we live in Iowa, so the weather can be yucky during some of the year, so we have a rule when we can't go outside we have to get up and do jumping jacks, march in place, whatever during commercials. Plus we have a WII and I got the game Just Dance 2, it is some good physical activity when you can't get outside. I think if you become fitness and fun minded you can always find a way to be more active. - 5/30/2012 12:36:43 PM
    A lot of good ideas. Thanks for posting this. Chris Kelley - Framingham - 5/25/2012 2:15:52 PM
    My 3 year old begs me to go play outside or go to the mountain we live nearby (: - 3/31/2012 8:20:50 PM

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