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Thread: How to encourage children to play outside more

  1. #1

    Default How to encourage children to play outside more

    My kids really need to play outside more. We have a fenced in yard and they have a climbing dome in the back but I just can't keep them outside as they get bored. Do you have any ideas on how to make they stay outside more? Any games I could teach them? I am open to investing into outdoor games and entertainment but don't even know where to start. My mom didn't let me play outside when I was little (I know it sounds horrible but we lived in the city) so I am at a complete loss as to how to encourage them more. Thanks!

    P.S. We are in FL so it's 80 today so it's not like it's cold!

  2. #2


    How old are they? Some things my kids like to do outside are play ball (throwing/kicking and chasing), tee-ball, driving their big trucks around, bubbles, driving their cozy coupe around, and swinging on swings.

    We have a wooded lot, so they also like to take buckets and collect leaves, acorns, pinecones, etc. It's been so long since we've been out, I forget what else they do!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2013


    Maybe they just don't have enough outside things?

    It's weird to think about how much freedom I had outside as a kid and how scary that would be to me as parent now. I could ride my bike all over a huge neighborhood (I mean huge) and play in the creek that was easily half a mile away. But my parents knew a lot of the other families and the adults knew me, so there was some safety net I guess.

    Other than balls, bikes and sporting equipment we only had one outdoor play structure, like this one--but for the 80s LOL. I would spend time out there reading, listening to my walkman (yep!) and just being outside. I wonder how much of it is because there wasn't as much electronic stuff or how much was just because I like being outside.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2007


    Lock the door

    Of course I am joking but honestly I do tell them they have to stay outside sometimes for a certain amount of time. It's not an issue now because it's still too cold but last year I remember having to basically "force" them out because they just refused.

    I also used to sit them out there with popcicles that they had to eat outside because I didn't want them to drip in the house and once they were out there for a while they eventually started playing things.

    One other thing you can try is to set them up with something and let them continue on their own - like playing house or store or making mud/rock pies.
    Thing 1 (8), Thing 2 (5), Thing 3 (2)

  5. #5


    They are 7 and 5, girls they would play in the back in a fenced in yard. Thanks for all the replies so far!

  6. #6


    What I did when we were in Florida since my daughter is an indoor girl is start the day off eating breakfast in the lanai so we were already getting some sun and fresh air... Then since I would finish first I would leave them to eat and fill up the pool so it could get heated the sun. Then we'd go right out and play. Basically whenever my daughter would get bored I would suggest another outdoor activity to keep her out there. Once a ball game got boring, play in the pool, once that got boring, play chase, once that was enough, water the garden, ect. Also sometimes no matter what we have in the backyard it gets boring, so then we'd take a walk, or go to a playground, we also had a lot of nearby preserve type places to go take walks at... And of course the beach. We'd also read outside, and I would talk with her about how important it is to get lots of fresh air and sunshine.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2009


    Water and sand tend to hold interest here for a long time. You could setup a sprinkler. If mud ensues, that might give them something to do. DD likes to take her chalk out and draw in the driveway. They can do that, if you have something like a patio outdoors. In lieu of a sand pit, they can always work with moon sand, which would be much more amenable to outside play anyway.

    You can also help them setup a raised bed, and their own garden, where they can grow whatever they want. They can help with pounding some wood into the ground, filling with soil/compost, tilling, planting, weeding, and hopefully, eating something they plant, or picking flowers for the house.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2007


    Quote Originally Posted by macksmom View Post
    Lock the door
    This ... lol ... Our kids often ask to go back inside after a short while and we have literally been telling them no. Turns out, they always find something else to do. And I will admit that we have locked the door so they are forced to stay outside with us. They are not allowed to go back in the house until at least one of us adults is ready to go back inside with them.

    I think sometimes you just have to make it non-negotiable until it becomes a habit. I used to struggle with this in FL because it can be so unpleasant outside when it is hot.

  9. #9


    Do your children enjoy art activities? I like to set up messier projects outside to keep the house clean. I know it doesnt get them up and moving, but fresh air is good, too.

    We have a little playhouse, we bring food out and they cook, or sometimes we have a farmer's market.

  10. #10


    If you have a space for them to write on with chalk I would start with that. We have a kiddie pool (which I will obviously be out there with them for that) we are going to break out this summer too its worth it IMO. Wal-Mart has some little $5 plastic golf sets if they are old enough to understand how to play and
    the Dollar Tree has some really cool sand toys alongside Wal-Mart and Target. Bubbles are also a fun thing to do outside and cheap. They have Crayola Color Wonder
    bubbles I haven't personally tried them but, they look cool. If they are enough enough maybe they can have a water balloon fight. Beach balls are also fun.
    *** Lindsay ***

  11. #11
    3andMe's Avatar
    3andMe is offline Every day is a gift. It's just... does it have to be a pair of socks? Hopelessly Devoted
    Join Date
    Mar 2006


    When I was little and played outside a bunch, I used to make all kinds of elaborate roads and little buildings out of sticks and grass and rocks. I was trying to describe it to my kids, but I saw there is a book that shows something similar (although I was just building them for fun, and didn't think of fairies):

    In our yard, we have a big swing, a play parachute that they can drape over stuff to make forts or swing around in the air, a game that is kind of a spin off of bocce ball for kids, lots of toy dump trucks and toy excavators, kid-sized rakes and shovels and brooms because they actually spend more time helping me do yard work than they do playing with their toys. They also just move little rocks around in their dump trucks. I have a bunch of bubbles, sidewalk chalk, a play tent and play tunnel, and not all of these are out at the same time because then they just get overwhelmed. I have a couple of little frisbees and a couple of little balls and a plastic teeball bat/ball set. Most of the small things are stored in a big bin and they have to get out what they want to play with.

    Again, they mostly help pick up leaves or move little rocks around.

    I have two 6 year olds and a 3 year old.

  12. #12


    Set activity centers outside: easel with finger paints; water table; play do and such; set playdates with friends; sprinkles; sand box; take them to a playground; take them to a local open pool; take them to a park to explore; go for a scooter or bike ride; play hopscotch with them; fly a kite; go to a zoo; go to the ocean. These are some of the things we do.

    According to experts, kids need about 2 hours of free play in fresh air but it doesn't have to be in the back yard. If they are bored just playing in the yard, I would plan activities around the neighborhood and if possible, ask friends to join. Setting playdates at parks or picnic is also very useful. I think if you make it a habit to be out and about, they will be looking forward to it. Since my boys are very active, I have gotten them used to the fact they need to be outside and they will play in the yard for a long time.
    KEVIN (6) & MATTHEW (4)

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2007


    Don't they play pretend? We used to build forts under the picnic table and that would be the house or the tent. A lot of the stories were like what we would come up with inside but outside. and instead of a play kitchen fake food set, we would pick grass and make pretend soups. Or turn chalk dust into potions. Fake camping stories, house, being out the woods (no woods in my city back yard). One story had us lost at sea until we found an island and developed a whole thing around that.

    Jennifer, 35, DH 36

  14. #14


    My DD LOVES sidewalk chalk. I used to have to fight to get her inside. We were in the city with basically nothing but a walkway in our front yard and she would stay out there drawing with chalk for hours. Today it was finally nice enough to be outside so we put on rain boots and jumped in puddles of melting snow for about 45 minutes.

    Maybe after they have been out there for a little while bring a snack out to them so they can eat outside and decide what they want to play next out there? I can't wait for our snow to melt and the temps to be warm enough for the kids to be out in our backyard!

    Anne (37) DH (37) Olivia (4) Harrison (1)

  15. #15


    I think everything we do has probably been covered. We have balls, a slide, a teeball set, cones, croquet, jump rope, bean bag toss, scooter. She also has a little tent, a shade awning, a small picnic table with benches. We use bubbles, sidewalk chalk, buckets, a spray bottle, water toys, watering can and big paintbrushes to paint with water. She has a sandbox and a water table, and on hot sunny days, a small wading pool. She has a wooden mallet and a bucket of wooden golf tees that she can hammer into the dirt or grass or into scrap styrofoam. To keep her outside, on nice days we have snacks, lunch, even breakfast and dinner outside either at the patio table or on a blanket on the grass. I bring out crafts, coloring books and crayons, etc. to the blanket on the grass, and painting and other messy projects to her small picnic table or to an oilcloth spread on the patio.

    But more than any of that, she likes to just explore or create imaginary play. We dig in our garden beds, and she has one of her own where she can dig with her own shovels and rakes, plant her own herbs and flowers, play with dinosaurs or toy cars, make roads, stack rocks, etc. We have big river rocks and a bucket of smaller pebbles that she can place wherever she wants. She can pick flowers or leaves or sticks (judiciously, of course) to create little environments. She pulls weeds in the veggie beds, looks for ripe strawberries. She loves to lift paving stones or pieces of wood to find bugs, worms, and salamanders. She looks for ladybugs on the roses.

    She spends more time outside when we're out there. I found that creating a comfy space for dh and I to hang out, plus doing a lot of gardening, grilling, and lying out on the grass ourselves makes her lots more likely to want to be outside playing. But if I am working inside and just want her to stay out, giving her some sort of project like watercolors, or taking out one of her toys that doesn't usually go outside like her play food or plastic animals or a doll or blocks or whatever, keeps her interest.

    I'd like to add a small playhouse to our outside environment this summer, and maybe something to climb on.
    -- mom to DD1 1/98 and DD2 10/09

  16. #16


    Nathan and Katie LOVE to play outside! We don't have a fenced-in yard for them to play in, but we live on a cul-de-sac, so they ride their bikes and scooters and drive their Power Wheels Jeep in the cul-de-sac, but of course one of us is out there watching them when they do that. They're not old enough to be out there by themselves yet, although if we had a fenced-in back yard, they would be able to play out there alone. We have a water table that they play in in the summer when it's warm, a little t-ball set they can play with as well as a little basketball hoop -- and a full-size basketball hoop for when they're older that we had for my kids. When it's nice outside, DH will move all of the cars out of the driveway and they can play in the driveway.
    Lynne, Grandma to three beautiful girls and one handsome little man!

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Aug 2008


    We have a different problem: they LOVE playing outside but no time and since we just have a playground where o have to constantly run after the tot with a belly I just can't do it.
    Do you have a sandbox? How about making forts from cardboard?
    Miss T (10.17.2008) Miss A(06.30.2012) Flipper #3 due 06.2014
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