In one edition of Diary of a Whimpy Kid, Greg describes his perfect summer of staying inside playing video games with the air conditioning so high he needs blankets to keep warm. Unfortunately, most of us can still feel the claustrophobia of the Pandemic, so I thought I would share some best practices for getting your kids outside this summer. Day camps and vacations at the beach are great, but our kids need to develop a habit of going outside for their physical and mental health.
Limit screens. This strategy is the simplest way to get kids outside, but not always foolproof. Keep screen time at 2 hours per day, and use a good old-fashioned locked cabinet or monitoring software to keep your kids on track. The theory behind this approach is it creates boredom so your kids will seek other ways to entertain themselves. Then, they can move on to these other things after a period of adjustment (where they follow you around and tell you they're bored).
Go outside yourself. Most parents tell me their children follow them around when they're bored, asking for more screen time. So make them follow you outside.
Research Forest Schools. I have done some work with a Forest School-inspired preschool, and I have been amazed at how adults can make the outdoors enticing for children. Converting part of the yard into something more interesting for kids can get them outside with less effort.
Create play places. You might decide to convert part of your yard to a more exciting site for your kids that allows more freedom. I often hear "living by a busy road" is why parents don't like kids to play outside. You might decide that a fence in the yard or a play structure is a good investment, even if it doesn't add to the value of your house.
Build independence. I live near a park, but we're also on a busy street. This summer, I will teach my child to independently get to and from the park safely, so I don't have to take her all the time. We also live near a corner store, and we're going to practice buying snacks at the store so she and her friend can walk there independently. As a child, I can recall my parents expanding the perimeter of roads where I could ride my bike each summer. All of this leads to more time outside.
All parents I talk to agree that less screen/indoor time and more outdoor time is good for kids. However, most also feel there are too many obstacles to getting their kids outside, including the constant monitoring they think their kids need. I recommend trying a couple of the ideas above you haven't yet to move your kids toward more time outside.