Inside: Want your kids to be outside this summer? Here are some ways to make awesome memories outside with your toddler this summer.
I am a big fan of the Great Outdoors.
When I was little – as an only child – my mom would shoo me outside to play. Let’s say… that’s when my imagination was birthed and I am never a bored adult.
Initially kids may be resistant to outdoor play (especially if they’re screen dependent), but they will get into the swing of it.
Being outside is good for so many things and there are numerous books coming out in recent years stating the benefits of nature for children.
Read: Last Child In The Woods or Balanced And Barefoot
Outdoor Summer Tips To Live By
Even if you don’t have the luxury of a big private backyard, don’t let that stop you from giving your kids the gift of being outside.
1. Don’t make it optional.
This will be a preference among families, but I don’t consider outside time optional. With the prevalence of screens, TVs, movies, games, etc. it almost seems that our generation is losing the desire to even be outside.
Now we have a big yard, but even when our back “yard” was the size of a 7-seater SUV, we still had the kids play outside each day.
If it becomes a normal part of their daily routine they’ll look forward to it.
Even “indoor kids.”
See: Avoid Summer Screen Time Battles In 4 Steps (Printable Included!)
2. Get the right gear.
We are a very in/out type of house so I always want to make sure that we have outdoor clothes on hand.
- At the back door we have a big rack of shoes. This is for mud boots and flip flops.
- Have certain clothes that are “house clothes” and fine for getting dirty. If you are worried they will stain their clothes then neither you nor your child will enjoy being outside.
- Keep hats and sunglasses available for kids. My kids will be outside longer if their eyes are shielded somewhat.
Read: 45+ Easy Outdoor Games And Activities For Kids Your Family Will Love
3. Consider the time of day.
In hotter places (like here in Florida) it’s best to avoid being outside midday unless you’re swimming.
We go in and out all day long, but for their outdoor play times (when they have to stay outside until I say they can come in) we try to do this first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon. If you do go outside in the heat of the day, make water readily available.
- Start an early morning (or late afternoon) walking tradition.
- Try to keep a similar routine daily so the kids know what to expect and don’t fight it.
- Invite over friends or neighbors.
- Get a comfy chair and a book and relax a bit as they play.
Read: A Summer Schedule That’ll Keep Kids Occupied & Mom Sane
4. Get rid of obstacles.
Go around the yard and get rid of ant beds, weird places that snakes might hide, or old abandoned yard projects like broken or cracked tiles, boards with nails, etc.
How country did I just sound saying all that?
I’m not saying “child proof” the great outdoors itself, but make the yard or play area free so you don’t have to stress. Basically, try to make sure that you can relax while the kids play outside.
Read: How to Get Rid of Ant Beds and Treat Ant Bites Naturally
5. Get outdoor “stuff.”
I personally think kids should use their imaginations and just get on with it. That said, a big blank square of grass might need a little help.
It could be shovels, a pile of dirt (or, you know, an actual sandbox), trucks, swings, trampolines, or whatever your kids like.
We actually bought a few big bouncy balls and some basic sandbox utensils and the kids will play outside for long periods of time happily until one starts pouring dirt over the other one’s head… but that’s neither here nor there.
Read: Indoor & Outdoor Toddler Climbing Toys (To Help Get That Energy Out!)
Balanced And Barefoot suggests getting some supplies and tools children can build with. Logs, 2 x 4s, tarps, rope, cement blocks, etc. If your yard permits, this is a great way to allow your children to get lost in games and imagination for hours.
I like to buy a slew of sunscreen at the beginning of the season and keep it in a special clear bag. This goes with me to the beach, pool, park, or anywhere else I may need to apply sunscreen.
I recommend zinc oxide as its the least toxic and it creates a barrier instead of being soaked in. This is what keeps kids from getting burned.
Another way to get the kids outside is for them to help you garden.
In our last home we had long grapevines (which didn’t require an upkeep except a big trim in the winter), fruit trees, a blueberry bush, and some tomato plants.
We really only needed to water the tomato plants and fruit trees when it hadn’t rained, but the kids enjoyed it.
Whether it’s trimming hedges, watering plants, or even just picking up sticks, limbs, or weeds… getting outside is good for the kids.
8. Kid-friendly bug spray.
I have one child who is a mosquito magnet.
We often roast s’mores over our fire pit, and everyone will come inside afterwards with no bites, and she will come in with 15 bites.
I used to attempt DIY mosquito repellant, but now there are a lot of DEET free brands safe for kids. Keep this in your sunscreen bag and you’ll be set.
Let’s just get outdoors.
The more the kids do it, the more they’ll love it.
Love this post!! And yes, I agree about people giving dirty looks to moms of kids with sunburns or bug bites. GIVE ME A BREAK I’M DOING MY BEST!! lol. We are having problems with bugs at our new house, but we plan on putting some insect killer in the yard (not my favorite option, but I don’t want to use bug spray everyday either).
Rachel Norman says
Ha, I’ve gotten so many looks from moms and I’m like “Do you see how many kids I have here right now? Give me a break!!”
Flo Mueller says
Yes, play time under the sun is so important. Aside from the Vitamin D and all, these are experiences that will make their childhood worthwhile. But parents should not forget to re-apply sunscreen. The effectiveness of these products varies depending on the UV Index of the area and the kid’s skin type. So it might be a good idea to use a sun protection calculator to know for sure.
Christine Johnston says
My son is pretty young still so I’m always looking for ways to keep him busy.
I love the idea of a garden. I have yet to see that on any of the lists for kids activities. It’s such a great idea! I think that would be such a great way to get them excited about healthy food.
I’ve always wanted to attempt having a garden. Getting my son involved makes me that much more determined.
I know outdoor play is so important for my kids, because I remember how important that creative adventure time was for me when I was growing up.
I still struggle to get them outside though, because it’s a lot of extra work for me. We live in the North’s Eastern US, where Lyme infested ticks abound. Every time we ply outside, we have to end with a shower for everybody and a thorough tick check.
They also get dirty, get their clothes dirty, my oldest two fight over every outdoor toy, and my youngest wanders into the street if I’m not on him like a hawk… I basically never get to sit and read a book while they play.
However, posts like this are an important reminder for me: the chaos of bringing them outside is temporary, but the skills developed from creative, exploratory outdoor play time are life-long. Even though it’s a lot of work (certainly more than plopping then down in front of the TV), it’s so worth the extra effort.
Thanks for the reminder – We’re headed outside right now!
Emily Amner says
We have 5 acres and dogs and I was so worried about ticks we ended up putting a $200 roll of fence wire around the house and while it’s not the prettiest I have eliminated 80% of the stress I once had. I’m not joking. The area I know is tick free and the kids can’t escape. The t posts were I think $50.
Love this post, and love to be outdoors with my son! Thanks for the tips on kids friendly sunscreen. I have been using the usual Nivea for kids one, but I am ordering the bio one today.
Stephanie Weislak says
Rachel! You are such a breath of fresh air and such an encouragement and inspiration to me! Thank you for keeping it real and giving me so many great ideas and reminders.
You are a very gifted lady and seem like a wonderful mom. Such a blessing to see someone walking in their giftedness to bless other people. You have an amazing platform and ministry; keep using it for His Glory.
I wish I could be around you! I know i would love getting to be your friend!
Thanks again for encouraging me!
(and making me laugh!!! Goooood medicine!)
What a good guidance !!!!
I love all suggestions.
Balanced and Barefoot is one of my favourite books!!! I find that my kids play outside longer if I’m out there too, which is good for me, but also frustrating for me since there is lots of stuff I want to get done in the house.
Dirt and mud cause issues as my daughter LOVES to take mud baths. Sigh. But I purchased outdoor towels this year for when we get out the kiddie pool. And we hung hooks by the back door for easy access and cleanup.
I really want to get the kids away from the screen time habit. I’m not against screen time, especially when it is frostbite weather outside, but now that it’s getting warmer I’m trying to figure out how to get outside more and away from screens.
Thanks for your post!
DEET really is okay, but it’s far less risky than Zika or West Nile, if people are worried but unsure.. Mosquitoes are really dangerous in the South.