“Pokemon Go” expeditions and playdates at the neighborhood pool may have helped keep our kids outside all summer; but now fall is upon us and most of our kids are spending more time inside, glued to their tablets and smartphones. What’s a parent to do? And how can we keep our children active? To find the best ideas out there, we partnered with Brita and interviewed a number of experts around the country about their advice for maintaining that summertime spirit of motivation all year round. Here’s what they said to do (and not do!):
1. Give Old Games A Makeover
Change is good! If your kids are bored with the same ole, same ole, why not introduce them to something new –– or new-ish? Updating classic games with new rules and new elements can entice even the most reluctant participants to get up and out. Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist and the founder of TimberNook, recommends playing traditional outdoor games in new ways, like Capture the Flag in water or in the dark with glow sticks. “By just changing the environment, the game can get the children thinking in new ways and encourage more evolved play skills,” said Hanscom.
2. Put A Kid-Twist On It
Classic games aren’t the only activities that can benefit from a little use of your imagination. Help reinvent something your family does often by adding a theme or backstory to it. For example, why go for a walk in the woods when you can search for fairy houses or look for lucky leaves? Sara Fritsch, who founded the blogPortland Sunshine, also recommends putting kid-twists on traditional activities like biking and hiking to “make adult things relevant to kids.” For example, you can turn a hike into a scavenger hunt or bring a bag with you to collect treasures.
3. Make Fun The Priority
There’s more to exercise than basic sprints, sit-ups and pushups. There’s tag, hopscotch and hide-and-go-seek, too. And the goal isn’t for your child to qualify for the next Olympics in four years: it is to move, have fun and feel good doing it. “Encourage your child to not think of exercise as exercise; rather, think of it as simply movement,” said psychologist Eliza Kingsford. “This can include many fun activities like hiking, playing Frisbee or even going for an after-dinner walk.”
4. Dress Kids For Success
Rain doesn’t have to go away in order for your kids to play outside. And in winter? Let it snow! Our experts say that there isn’t any kind of weather that should keep children (or you!) cooped up inside, provided everyone is properly dressed. Fritsch, who has lived with her family in both Oregon and Amsterdam, advises always keeping “the right gear on hand –– like rain boots, wetsuits, layers, warm parkas and rain pants –– and in a kid-accessible location.”
5. Allow Kids To Get Bored
The next time your kids complain of boredom, don’t problem solve for them. If you hear the inevitable, “I’m bored,” you don’t need to fix things. You don’t need to do anything. Psychologist and parenting expert Vanessa Lapointe believes that children need the time and space to get good and bored, which is why she advises limiting screen time and giving kids plenty of downtime. “Boredom is essential to fostering ‘emergent energy’ –– the kind of energy that comes from deep inside and spurs you on to create, move and be,” Lapointe said.
6. Don’t Underestimate Playgrounds
Here’s a challenge for you: Name a public space in almost every city and township that’s designed for kids and encourages movement. Did you answer “playground”? If you did, we’re in agreement. There is no better space where children can play, socialize and hone their gross motor skills while they run, jump and climb with others. John Eden, who blogs at Parenting By The Beard, believes so strongly in the power of playgrounds that he and his 6-year-old daughter are on a quest to “find and play on all the public playgrounds” in their hometown of Savannah, Ga.
7. Do As You Say
If you’re encouraging your child to be active, you should make sure you’re doing the same thing for yourself. And if you’re a chronic phone user, put it down. Ben Gologor of Asphalt Green, a sports and fitness nonprofit, said, “Parents should make time for regular exercise themselves, including time with their kids. Something as easy as jogging together or playing catch is a great way to get active, bond with your kids and have fun.”