The following is a guest post by Patty Goffinet. Patty Goffinet is author of Go Outside and Play: Why Kids Don’t and Why They Should. Patty is part of Homeschool.com’s Summer Freebie Extravaganza, and you can download her book tomorrow for free. In July, she will be giving away autographed copies. So stay tuned!
Summer is here! It’s a wonderful time to go outside and play. Parents everywhere are opening the back door and waving their children out towards the yard. But sometimes nothing happens. The kids are comfortably yet firmly settled inside the home. The little ones are shooed out easily, but bigger kids are more of a challenge. Like barnacles on rocks, prying kids off the sofa can be difficult. Pry we must though, or it will be another summer of television re-runs, video games and social media play dates. What is a parent to do?
Young children are easy to get outside because that is where they want to be. Everything is new and exciting to them. Turn on the sprinklers and they will run through them, squealing with joy. As children get older though, they reach an age when sprinklers and swing sets don’t interest them anymore. They are too sophisticated for children’s play, so they huddle around the game console instead. Don’t despair, parents! Get crafty. Here is a list that is guaranteed to get even stubbornly sedentary children out of their seats and out of the house.
Do you want to see a group of older kids run outside? Put a few cans of shaving cream in the back yard. Watch them leave their cell phones inside (can’t get them dirty) and race to the shaving cream. They know what to do with it.
Here is a tip that is more trick than game, but it is sure to give you excellent results. Tell the kids to go outside. They tell you they want to stay inside. “All right,” you compromise, “go outside for 20 minutes and then you can come inside.” They can’t legitimately argue over 20 minutes. Set the timer. It rings. You look outside and see that the kids are very busy. Ignore the timer and call them in when dinner is on the table. Chuckle when they say, “We’re not ready yet.”
Everyone loves a fire. While you shouldn’t toss a four-year-old a box of matches, you can do that with a twelve-year-old or even a mature nine-year-old. Matches? Fire? The red flags are waving. If the fire is in a safe place, like a chiminea or fire pit surrounded by concrete, rocks or dirt, kids can safely build a fire. Wet down the grass around the concrete for extra peace of mind. There should be no low hanging branches over the fire, and don’t let the young fire-builders get their hands on lighter fluid or gasoline. Challenge them to get the fire going with only one match. (Hint: any kid can light a fire like an eagle scout with the help of a greasy pizza box.)
String up twinkling party lights outside at night and kids of all ages will flock to the lights like moths. Add music and you’ve got a party.
Hand out flashlights and search for spiders in the dark. When the beam bounces off them, they will shine like iridescent cat eyes scattered throughout the grass.
No back yard? Don’t despair. There are still plenty of alternatives to media and malls. A dog can be a great way to get your child out, whether you have a backyard or not. This may sound extreme if you’ve never gone beyond hermit crabs. A dog is a big responsibility. But if the kids have been pleading for a dog for years, and if they agree to take the dog on a long walk every single day, it just might work. A dog can get the kids outside and be a great addition to the family too.
Get them out while you still can . A wise parent once said that you can tell kids to do something and they will do it, but only until they turn 13. Then all bets are off. It’s true. You can say, “Honey, wouldn’t you like to go for a walk and get some fresh air?” But if they’re older than 13, all they hear is Blah, blah blah, blah blah blah. So try to develop good, healthy outdoor habits in your kids while they still listen. Help them develop these habits when they’re young, when outside is where they want to be. Too busy to watch your young ones outside? Will you remember what was keeping you inside in ten years? Will it still seem important?
Patty Goffinet–for more information on her book and a link to Amazon where it can be purchased, visit www.PattyGoffinet.com.