Ask an expert: What are the best ways to get kids off their tablets and outside?

16th Feb 18 | Family

If you're stuck for ideas to get kids playing outside instead of inside on their gadgets, try these tips from a psychologist.

Girls playing with a soccer ball in a park

I’m struggling to get my two young children to play outdoors as they just want to stay in and stare at screens all day. What can I do to encourage them to get outside more?

Dr Fiona Holland, a senior psychology  lecturer and part of the Nature Connectedness Research Group at the University of Derby, says: “Many parents are stuck for ideas of what to do with their children outside, so looking up resources beforehand and having ideas at the ready can be really worthwhile.

“Finding age appropriate ideas to engage your children helps them have a positive focus for their time outside. For example, create a treasure hunt and tick off when you see a Y-shaped stick, a heart-shaped stone, a bridge, a squirrel, a black and white dog etc.

“Get ideas from books such as 101 Things for Kids to Do Outside by Dawn Isaac. This is a great resource with lots of ideas, such as making a herb garden, planting a bean wigwam, a twig plant pot, pond dipping tips, water balloon piñata, make a butterfly feeder, go star gazing, and make a rain gauge, for example.

“Other ideas of events and activities organised for you can be found on websites of organisations such as the Wildlife Trust, the RSPB, the National Trust and the Wild Network.

“Another top tip is to make playing outdoors a social event. Take your children’s friends along, or alternatively, meet a favourite family somewhere outside so everyone can catch up and play together. This is far more memorable than just sitting around drinking tea together.

“My advice, whatever you choose to do, is keep it simple. Find things that don’t cost a thing. It doesn’t have to be a huge day out with expensive meals in cafes. You can pack snacks or a picnic and stay closer to home. Find local free greenspace; kids like building dams in streams, making mud pies, making dens, splashing in puddles.

 

What a TREE-rific time we had this afternoon making our very own HIDE OUT WIGWAM. We didn't have very tall sticks to make it big enough for two (and only just big enough for one!) but STICK a fork in me I'm done and never LEAFing this spot! 🌿🍃🌿💜 It was ALL Mr Dude's idea after spying 👀 it in our FAB #101thingsforkidstodooutside book!! He wrapped the string and helped cut down the ivy which he wrapped and weaved and wiggled around the string. It served perfectly! . We put the seeds and nuts on the bird table and away he went. Little Miss wanted to try of course too 👉🏻👉🏻🎥 The 'door' became a bit problematic so it was easy to lift it on and off 😜 😍 . . . . . . #raisingkids #kidsplay #letthembelittle #letthemplay #learningthroughplay #holidayfun #gardengames #gardenlife #kidsoutdoors #wildandfree #wildandfreekids #wildandfreechildren #kidsactivities #momlife #homeschool #homeschooling #letsbuild #togethertime #mybeautifulmess #belovedlife #letthekids #letthemplay #unschooling #engineering #birdwatching #familytime #kidsofinstagram #momswithcameras #our_everday_moments

A post shared by Amy —> Faith In Family (@raisinglittledisciples) on Aug 22, 2017 at 8:55am PDT

“Don’t overwhelm your children time-wise. You might just go out for 15 minutes to try to catch falling leaves or build a den rather than making a huge effort to do a long country walk or a day trip to a faraway nature reserve. Start smaller, make it fun and build up the interest of your children in smaller activities.

“You can then explore further afield, and perhaps find a local organisation that hosts nature-based events. These are often free or very low cost and children can join others in bushcraft, wildlife spotting, pond-dipping, building dens and other activities.

“Make sure you have some all-weather gear and keep spirits up with snacks and warm drinks so you don’t have energy crashes.

“If your kids are technology-mad and won’t leave their gadgets at home, use technology to help get them outside via a variety of nature apps such as the Persil Wild Explorers app and Geocaching (treasure hunting). Even games such as Pokemon Go encourage outdoor activity and exercise.

“For older children, taking photographs or videos during time outside might engage them more and can help them focus their attention on their surroundings.”



© Press Association 2018

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