How do I get my child to play outside? 12 ideas to try

We all know how important it is for our kids to get plenty of fresh air, outdoor play and exercise.  But if you’re one of the many parents struggling along and saying to yourself ‘just how do I get my child to play outside when they don’t want to?’ here are a few ideas for you to try.

Remember not to beat yourself up over this, especially if your child isn’t used to being outdoors to play much, small amounts of time out in the garden and it being a fun experience is way better than expecting hours of play and your child getting annoyed, anxious and upset about it.  You can work your way up to longer periods of time!


12 ideas to get your child to play outside

Many of these ideas just get your children used to being outdoors more, exploring and being happy out there.  It doesn’t have to be scripted, regimented or involve expensive items.  Let them decide how to enjoy the outdoors in a way that is meaningful to them!



Get some dedicated toys to encourage outdoor play

My first tip is to get some toys together that are dedicated to being outdoor toys.  If your child is easily bored with them then you can rotate what’s available so that they can feel that excitement of the ‘new’ set of toys rather than you having to always buy things.  Perhaps you can have some specific outdoor ride on toys, cars to play with, dolls and pushchairs or even large garden games.

The bigger outdoor toys like trampolines, swings and bikes are of course great too and can help let off some steam especially after a day of school and being sat around.



Create a scavenger hunt

Young kids often want direction and making that into a game in the form of a scavenger hunt can be fun.  My favourite is nature scavenger hunts and you can tailor them to all sorts of age groups.  Perhaps get your child to hunt for something in nature that matches all the colours of the rainbow?  Or something for all the letters in the alphabet (some of those letters will be tricky!) or just write down some things and send your child off to find them.

If they like bugs and minibeasts then here are some ideas to include those in your activities.



Enjoy some water play

Water play is the best way to get kids outside when they are unsure – most kids love to splash, bring their toys for a wash and pour water for endless amounts of time.  It doesn’t need to be with dedicated toys, although water pistols and play tables can also be good fun – just get a basin full of water and see if your child wants to spend some time washing their toys.  Provide some cups, jugs and maybe a sieve and leave them to it!


Invite friends around for a play

If your child doesn’t like to play on their own then it’s a perfect opportunity to get some local friends over or arrange a play date.  You can use some of the other ideas in this post to encourage them to play together outside rather than scrambling to the nearest screen together!



Create a garden with them

Most kids love flowers and love having their own spot in the garden for them to grow them.  If you like gardening yourself can you create their own space just for them?  Spend time planting seeds, watering them and enjoying seeing the first shoots as they come up.

A little vegetable patch is also a great idea, especially if you want to encourage more variety in your child’s diet and make them aware of where food comes from.

Kids are great at looking out for bugs that might be hindering the plants – they love picking up snails and caterpillars so you can definitely emply them to relocate them!


Blow some bubbles

This is another activity that most kids will love to do.  Having some bubble mixture on hand to give out to your kids (and a spare on hand for that inevitable moment when it gets dropped!) when they just need to get outside is a must.

You can get some more fancy bubbly blowing toys on the market these days, but often a small bottle of mixture and a bubble wand will keep most kids happy.  It helps in so many ways too – dexterity, manual control of their breath, patience and of course the science of it all!



Ask them to help you with some chores

Ok, this one isn’t play orientated, but often just getting your child outside is the aim and this might encourage them to take note of the nature around them while doing it all and you might find they get distracted and play in their own way while helping out.

Some ideas might be to get them to help you with hanging clothes out, sweeping the garden, watering the plants or raking up some leaves.



Do some science experiments

We love doing experiments and since they can often be messy they are a good candidate for doing outdoors.  Some ideas might be mixing bicarbonate of soda and vinegar to see a reaction, making some slime or cornflour goop!



Do art outside

Like science experiments, painting can be messy – why not make it a dedicated outdoors activity?  You don’t have to restrict it to the messy things though, bring out a whole load of paper, colouring pencils and pens and just spend some time in the outdoors while doing the creative things they love!



Encourage nature journalling

If your kids love to watch bugs, birds or flowers and they also like to draw or paint then a nature journal is a great activity.

You can simply encourage your child to draw on some paper about what they see or you could do it a bit more formally with a dedicated art book for them to jot down what they see.  My kids loved having a special place for all their drawings and we often took them with us on days out too.


Have a picnic

Bring your food into the garden or eat at your outside tables whenever you get an opportunity.  Not only does this encourage your kids to slow down and enjoy the outdoors, but it can also help us parents too!  Everyone loves a picnic and most kids will jump at the chance to take their food into the garden.



Read a book in the garden

Finally, we can slow down and just appreciate the world of the outdoors while reading a book.  Encourage your kids to find a secret spot they can take a book and enjoy it, or just get a picnic blanket out a heap of picture books and spend an hour or so reading what they choose.


I hope you’ve found these ideas helpful – what tips do you have when trying to encourage outdoor play?


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