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How to Get Kids to Play Outdoors

The Solutions:

  • Prioritize play. Don't lose sight of how important it is for kids' development to have the time and freedom to explore nature. That might not happen spontaneously, so make space in your schedule for regular time outside. For inspiration, visit the National Wildlife Federation's Green Hour program at, which lists ideas for outdoor activities, like planning a garden, rock collecting, and creating a moon-watching journal.
  • Get it on the community's calendar. "In our schools, we have Walking Wednesdays, to encourage more kids to walk to school," says Jennifer di Properzio, 38, the mother of kids ages 4, 7, and 8 in Ashland, OR. "It works! Every Wednesday, rain or shine, the kids and I walk one and a half miles to school. And though they sometimes grumble before we leave, we're always glad to have done it." You can also create a "walkpool," so parents can take turns accompanying the kids to school.
  • Get outdoors yourself. Nationwide, all of us are engaging less in nature activities such as camping, fishing, and visiting parks — as much as 25 percent less than in 1987, a 2008 study found. We need to start spending time outside if we want our kids to do likewise. In addition to the plain old fun of playing outdoors, there's a bonus: "Many benefits of getting out into nature — a greater sense of calm, reduced stress — apply to adults as well as kids," Louv says. Healthy, happy children and a calm, relaxed me? Sounds like it's time to put down this laptop, head out for the local park with my boys, and see if we can't pick up a little of that sunshine smell.


Originally published on July 1, 2008


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