5 Ways to Get Outside With Your Kids Every Day...Because Half of Us Don't

Health & Wellness on 04.05.12
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Photo Credit: Maaike Bernstrom Photography

New research released in the Archives of Pediatric and & Adolescent Medicine finds that half of preschoolers don't get outside once a day to play with their parents. While some kids aren't getting outside because their parents are working full time, other factors appear to include gender (that's an entirely separate story) and how regularly the parents exercise just to name a few. According to Early Childhood News, in addition to getting exercise, some of the benefits of outdoor play for preschoolers include learning physical skills like running and jumping, social and cognitive skills like keeping score and inventing games, and developing the value of aesthetics through nature's beauty. So how do you figure out a way to get outside more often with your preschoolers? Here are a few ideas.

1. Park Dates- Everything is more fun with friends. Just like many of us need a gym buddy to get us motivated to put on our running shoes, make a standing park date with friends throughout the week. Even when it's cold, the park doesn't have to be out of the realm of possibility. Bring sleds if there is snow, create games that keep the kids moving so they stay warm, and bundle everyone up. And if it's raining, put on your puddle jumpers and go stomping! Even if you only get out for 15 or 20 minutes, it's better than nothing.

2. Walk to do Errands- One popular excuse for not getting kids outside is that we run out of time. But what if you can get outside and play and get something done at the same time. Consider walking to do errands whether they be picking up a gallon of milk at the corner store or dropping a letting in the mail box. Along the way, play hop, skip, and jumping games, practice balancing on stone walls, or just explore nature.

3. Have a Picnic- Everyone's got to eat so just move your meal outdoors. The hard part is getting people outside. Once the kids (and adults) are out there, they are sure to find plenty to do. After everyone has finished their meal, play tag, duck-duck-goose, or any other preschool age game. And it will be a nice change from everyone tuning into the television or computer after dinner is over.

4. Plant a Garden- When kids and parents become invested in their outdoor space they are more likely to want to spend time in it so plant a garden. Choose flowers, fruits and vegetables, or a mixture of both, and you'll be drawn outside to check on their growth, make sure they are watered, and enjoy their bounty. Don't worry if you're tight on space, a beautiful garden can be planted entirely in pots if need be.

5. Make it Part of Your Routine- Preschoolers are more likely to get outside to play once a day with a parent when the parent exercises four or more times per week. Those parents make exercise a part of their routine. While you may not be ready pick up running again like when you were a high school track star, it doesn't mean that you can't still schedule time to get outside and make it a part of your routine just like those team practices you used to go to. Perhaps your night time routine includes a walk or bike ride around the block every day before bath and bed time or mix up your outdoor play time, but do it at the same time every day.

Parents of preschoolers typically have busy schedules and not a lot of energy, but just like we make an effort to feed them healthy foods and teach them their alphabet, making sure they get time to play outside (even if it means giving up another "activity") also needs to be a priority for their well-being.

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