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8 Ways to Get Kids Playing Outdoors More This Summer

Playing with grandparents can be a good way of getting out in the fresh air.Playing with grandparents can be a good way of getting out in the fresh air.

How does your childhood differ from that of your own kids? Chances are freedom, independence and time spent outdoors will spring to mind. Indeed, a recent study by the National Trust showed that more than half of 7-12 year olds play outside for less than an hour a day, whereas their parents and grandparents did so for more than two and three hours daily respectively.  

Interestingly, despite contemporary kids having access to phones, tablets, laptops and TVs, the vast majority would actually relish being given extra time playing outdoors. A survey of more than 1,000 children, carried out for the Eureka Children’s Museum in Yorkshire, found that over 80% preferred to play outside than watch TV and almost 70% favoured ‘free play’ without structure and guidance. 

It seems, then, that it’s a myth that our kids have become such a cynical, screen-bound bunch that running about in a field no longer cuts it. They just need to be given the chance to do it more.

That’s why Forest Holidays has teamed up with parenting journalist and author of ‘New Old-Fashioned Parenting’ Liat Hughes Joshi to share some tips on how to encourage children to enjoy the wide open spaces of the great outdoors this summer:

How to Kids Outside, Running Free:
• If you feel that your own area isn’t suited to leaving your children to explore or play, look for other opportunities for them to do so – occasionally is better than never. What about at the grandparents’, when visiting other relatives or on holiday?

• Try not to fret about bad weather. A set of decent waterproofs and some wellies will keep them dry, but even without these, unless your child’s ill, they aren’t likely to catch a cold from getting somewhat soggy.

• Likewise, drop any worrying about clothes getting ruined. Some mud and muck should be part of what being a kid is about, and chances are there's hot running water for a bath or shower back at ‘base camp’.

• With this in mind, ensure each child always has at least one ‘not for best’ set of clothes that can get trashed without it being the end of the world. You might even need to overtly tell more cautious offspring that they won’t be in trouble if they get a bit grubby out there.

In the Great Outdoors:
• Let your children explore their way and pursue what they’re interested in at least some of the time. They could love jumping between fallen tree trunks, across small streams or in muddy puddles. Or they might want to collect daisies, interesting stones or leaves. Allow space to do this and get away from all the rushing about, helicopter parenting and scheduling that seems to be becoming inherent to modern family life.

• Use the internet in positive ways if it boosts enthusiasm and interest in nature – to check what type of deer you saw in the woods, work out which constellation is which with the Stargazing app or find out whether that cloud formation was cirrus or cumulonimbus.

• Don’t be afraid to take a step back and leave them to it in a fairly safe environment. Note the use of the word ‘fairly’ – nowhere is totally free from dangers. Encountering the odd knock and fall is part of growing up and helps children learn about sensible risk-taking. Let them run on ahead if there are no roads in the area, for example.

• We all want to keep our children out of harm’s way, but watch out for parental over-protectiveness stifling their confidence and exploration. Leave them to climb that tree and learn how far to go with minimal guidance – challenge yourself to let go a little if you tend to err towards overly-close supervision.

Check out what a Forest Holiday looks like through the eyes of a child.  


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