1. Parents play outside with their children. I once had a neighbor Heather who spent time outside with her two young boys every afternoon when they got home from daycare. She bundled them up when it was cold and played with water when it was hot. She had fun outdoor toys for them and brought them over to play with my kids. They’ve since moved to a warmer climate and she reports that she and her children – now school-age -- continue to be active outdoors.
2. Families enjoy outdoor pursuits together. Notice a pattern here? The best way to get kids outside is to get out there with them. I have parent friends who are accomplished hikers, skiers, cyclists, etc. and share their passion with their kids on a regular basis. Whether it’s weeknight bike rides, weekend camping trips or vacations to wild spaces, these families gain skills and experience together.
3. Find outdoor-based childcare. One family we know turned us onto an outdoor summer day camp. When school is out, the kids play in dirt, climb trees, learn archery and swim all day long. My son came home absolutely filthy. It was great! Another tip: Tell sitters and nannies no TV!
4. Create a fun outdoor space at home. My friend Tracy and her husband are masters at supporting their daughter's creative impulses, as well as her love of being outside. They hung a rope ladder in a tree and provided an excellent swing set. Over the years, their daughter has added toys and boxes and other things to turn the swing set into whatever she imagined. She’s now moved into the wooded area behind their home, installing hammocks and a tree-top table. Other children in the neighborhood love playing in their yard.
5. Walk the dog. There is a family in our neighborhood who walk their dog daily – the parents and two kids, all together. Sometimes twice. They are my heroes.
6. Grow a vegetable garden. Family gardens can be a lot of work, but the kids who help out are always so proud. One family we know has involved their children in the jobs of countering pests, cooking and preserving their harvests.
7. When you work at home with kids around, do it outside. This idea comes from my hard-working husband, who frequently works from home. Sometimes Dad sitting on the deck with his laptop is all the kids need to come out, too.