How to Get Kids to Play Outdoors
Several studies have shown that regular, unstructured playtime in nature
makes kids smarter, calmer, more self-disciplined, more cooperative, and
happier. As a child, I loved going outdoors for its own sake, but looking back,
I value the gifts it gave me: a strong, healthy body; an up-close-and-personal
relationship with the birds and bugs and plants of northern Michigan; a
resilience borne of the many scraped shins and bike crashes I never let slow me
down; and the joy of knowing that every day held adventure and excitement right
outside my front door.
So what's keeping our kids indoors? Read on for a rundown of the attitudes,
both ours and theirs, most likely to prevent them from heading for the backyard
— and parent-tested ways to overcome them.
Barrier: "It's not safe!"
Parents have been so inundated with dire media warnings about child
abductions and pedestrian accidents that many think going outside is too
dangerous for their preteens. "There are things outside that can be risky,
but keeping kids under house arrest has risks, too," Louv says. For
example, the CDC reports that about one in three American children are now
overweight or at risk for becoming so, increasing their chances of developing
type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. While we should
undoubtedly be aware of the potential — but usually rare — hazards of letting
kids play outside, we also need to pay attention to the much more prevalent
dangers of not letting them play outside.