10 Ways to Get Your Kids Outdoors

Lately, I've noticed every parenting magazine or website I read stresses children should go outside and play for at least an hour a day. Has it really come to that? What happened to kids who had to be dragged inside at the end of the day? Although computers, television, and video games no doubt keep many kids indoors, some of the problem must also come from lack decent yards to play in. All around my town, I see huge homes built on tiny lots and I think, "Where do the kids play?" Public playgrounds are nice, but most parents can't spend all day watching their kids at the playground. So whether you have a small suburban yard or a large country yard, how can you make it more inviting for outdoor play? 1. Declutter. If your yard has become a storage area, the first thing to do is declutter. Sort through everything and get rid of anything you don't absolutely need or use on a regular basis. Organize what's left on shelves or in storage bins, keeping them as close to the house as possible. (If you have a garage or carport, declutter those areas, too, and you'll probably find extra storage space.) 2. Improve safety. Remove anything from the yard that might be dangerous for your children. If you have a lot of tools or vehicles that have no place else to go, put them in one location and set up a fence around them. Fence the entire yard, too, so you won't have to feel the need to be outside with your kids every moment. (A feeling that will likely reduce the amount of time you allow your kids to play outside.) Fencing doesn't have to be fancy or expensive. Chain link or lattice are usually the cheapest choices.

3. Include some grass. There is a movement toward digging up lawns and turning them into gardens, but this movement entirely forgets about children. If you have kids, they need a place to run, unhindered. In suburban settings, grass is ideal. 4. Include some plants. Plants make the yard more inviting and interesting. If you have very young children, consider planting only non-toxic plants, or at least avoid highly-toxic plants. While you're at it, have your kids help you plant and tend the plants. Plants can also make for some really neat play areas. If, for example, you have a sunny corner, plant a sunflower playhouse. If you mostly have shady areas, use shrubs instead. 5. Offer a few basic toys: A ball, a ride on toy (for young children), bubble blowers, a plastic magnifying glass, and buckets and shovels are excellent choices. 6. Offer a place to dig. Give up one corner as a dirt area for your kids to dig in and make mud puddles. Or create or purchase a small sand box for kids to get creative in. (Just make sure it has a cover, or the neighborhood cats will use it as a liter box.) 7. Offer some shade. If you don't have trees in your yard, considering planting at least one (well away from the house, so it won't harm your foundation). Until it's large enough to offer shade, consider some sort of canopy for shelter from the sun. 8. Add water. You don't have to spend hundreds on one of those large, inflatable pools (which local cat claws will poke holes in, anyway). A water table or inexpensive wading pool - or even just a good old fashioned sprinkler - offer a way to get cool and have hours of fun. 9. Offer a place to sit down. A hammock or some chairs are important, too. And if your children are too young to get their own drinking water while outside, place a glass sun tea maker or a plastic water jug with a spout in a shady location. Even toddlers can get their own drink this way. 10. Eat outdoors. If you can afford a picnic table, investing in one encourages kids to stay outside - and for parents to join them. But you can have a picnic without a table. Just use a blanket to sit on. Sometimes kids like that even better.
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