In today’s age of video games, social media, and streaming services, it can be a challenge to get kids off of their screens. Media-free excitement is becoming hard to come by. So how do we encourage our kids to go outside and play?
In this guide to ditching your tablet for some fresh air, we’ll explore the benefits of limiting screen time, as well as useful strategies to get your kids outside and active.
But before we review how to get kids off screens, let’s cover why you should get them off screens. After all, unlimited screen time has some major drawbacks.
The Benefits of Limiting Screen Time
1. Physical Health
When kids get outside and get active, they improve their physical health. That’s pretty self-explanatory. The earlier your children develop these healthy habits, the better.
Not only does replacing screen time with outside play improve health indicators in kids, it also improves their sleep. Your little ones will be healthier and better rested with reduced screen time and more time for outdoor activities.
2. Mental Health
Spending time outdoors has also been linked to reduced stress and anxiety in children. Screen time overuse is connected to higher likelihood of depression, anxiety, brain fog, and self-isolating behaviors in kids.
Further evidence suggests that after 1 hour of screen time per day for children and adolescents, more screen time is associated with lower psychological well-being.
The reported effects of this extra screen time include less curiosity, more distractibility, more difficulty making friends, and an increased likelihood of being diagnosed with anxiety or depression.
3. Social Development
Outdoor play also helps kids socialize. Socialization is a key part of children’s development: it improves empathy, language skills, cooperation, and confidence in kids.
While some might argue that kids can socialize digitally these days, studies suggest that while virtual socialization is convenient, it cannot replace face-to-face interactions with friends in a meaningful way.
4. Creativity and Imagination
It’s no secret that playing outside benefits kids’ creativity and imagination. Playsets in particular are excellent at encouraging imaginative play, a.k.a. “make-believe.”
Imaginative play has been shown to broaden children’s worldviews and help them learn about other people’s perspectives. It also has been shown to promote curiosity and problem-solving.
5. Environmental Consciousness
An often overlooked benefit to limiting screen time in favor of outdoor play is that it can instill a deeper sense of connection to the natural world in children.
When kids engage with the natural world during outdoor play, they develop more environmental awareness than kids who don’t. Outdoor play in kids also encourages exploration, discovery, inquisitiveness, and environmental stewardship.
How to Encourage Kids to Go Outside and Play
So we’ve covered the benefits of outdoor play and why it’s essential for kids to play outside. But how do we motivate kids to put away their screens in the first place?
Let’s review some tips for how to get kids off screens and outside, so they can reap all of those benefits we just discussed.
- Limit Screen Time: Set a limit on screen time each day. Encourage your kids to play outside when they’ve reached their screen time limit. It’s all about establishing a screen time/outside time balance.
- Make It a Routine: Healthy habits are easier to adhere to when they become part of your routine. Try carving out a set time for family weekend sports, morning yoga, evening bike rides—you name it! Just schedule some outdoor play into your day.
- Model Outdoor Play: Kids are more likely to go outside and play if they see their parents or guardians doing it. Lead by example, and if you’re enjoying yourself outdoors, your kids are more likely to follow.
- Include Friends: Kids are also more likely to engage in outdoor play when it’s with friends. Set up playdates and organize outings for outdoor play to make it more fun.
- Find the Fun: Whatever playing outside looks like for your family, the underlying theme should be: make it fun! Games, make-believe stories, contests, and rewards can make playing outside more enjoyable.
- Reward Outdoor Play: You should praise your kids’ outdoor efforts. Encouragement can go a long way, and celebrating their accomplishments (e.g., finishing a bike ride, defeating the dreaded pirates, or planting a seedling in the garden) is a great way to positively reinforce outdoor activities.
More Media-Free Fun Ideas
1. Backyard Camping
Nothing says hello great outdoors quite like camping. Put the devices away and pitch a tent in the backyard for a night of family fun. Camping is a great way to bond as a family and spend quality time outdoors.
And, depending on your local fire restrictions (always check these!), you could make a fire, cook outdoors, and even discover different plant and animal species while camping. You can even camp out in a playset tower fort—the possibilities are endless.
Or play some classic camping games like charades, cornhole, or scavenger hunts to soak in the outdoors. Just unplug, lay back in your hammock with a s’more, and stargaze. Your yard is your campground.
2. Outdoor Gardening
Gardening can be another fun way to introduce kids to the natural world with some hands-on learning. And you don’t need a lot of space! Even if you don’t have a yard, putting pots on your terrace or steps will do the trick.
Get your kids involved in every step of the plant-growing process. Gardening can be very educational as well as rewarding. It teaches patience, responsibility, and what it means to take care of another living thing.
Not only are your kids getting outside—they’re also learning about biology, ecology, life cycles, and seasons. Let them plant their own seeds, water them, monitor their growth, and harvest the end result.
3. Water Games
Who doesn’t love a Slip ‘N Slide? Water games and activities are a great way to cool off and have some outdoor family fun. If local pools and beaches aren’t your style, water activities could be as easy as running through a sprinkler or preparing for a water balloon battle.
If swimming is more your style, water activities are a great way to teach kids how to swim by demonstrating floating and buoyancy. Outdoor water activities not only keep kids engaged, but they also help develop motor skills, coordination, and balance.
4. Playset Play
Finally, playsets are an excellent way to get kids outdoors. They help foster many of the benefits we discussed earlier in this blog: physical health, socialization, imaginative play, creativity, and more.
When you invest in a backyard playset, you can keep a close eye on your kids while they play. And when you buy a durable playset, you ensure that the fun will last for years.
How to Get Kids Off Screens With the Playset of Their Dreams
Plus, you can add fun accessories to your playset that encourage creative play. That way your kids will have endless ways to stay busy on their new playset.
You can also use the dealer map to find your nearest Swing Kingdom dealer and let your kids test out your new playset before you buy. If you’re looking to buy a vinyl playset, Swing Kingdom has been building and designing durable, maintenance-free, custom playsets with warranties of over 20 years.