If you’re looking for inspiration and ideas to get your kids playing outdoors more in 2022, even on cold and rainy days, we’ve got plenty of ideas and motivation for you!
With many of our usual family activities still running with limited capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions, I’m trying to rely on Mother Nature to get the kids outside to play!
We’ve always been an outdoorsy family, and letting the kids play outdoors was an absolute lifesaver for all of us. But if you want to stay warm and cozy indoors, it can be hard to know where to start and how to encourage your outdoors!
A lot of the advice I read online suggests that you need to buy fancy toys or expensive clothes or go somewhere really special. But in my experience, all you really need is warm clothing, patience, and a sense of adventure!
Here are some tips and ideas to get your kids playing outdoors more in 2021
#1. NEVER call it a walk, call it an adventure
If you want your kids to play outside more, here are my top tips. Never call it a walk.
My favorite outdoor activity with my kids is long walks in the woods. You will have to climb trees, splash in streams, build burrows, find insects and collect pine cones. How can you not like that!?
Well, apparently everything!
When I tell my kids we’re going for a walk, they whine that walking is boring.
So we say something like:
- I’m going to look for Gruffalo
- I’m going to build a burrow in the forest
- I’m going to look for a bird’s nest with baby birds
- I’m going to look for crabs
- Make a fishing rod and catch fish
- I’m going to collect fallen leaves for an art project
- find the perfect stick figure
- I’m going to play with poop sticks
- we are collecting stones for the garden
- We collect wild flowers to decorate our home
- We’re going to check on the cows (we check on the cows often!)
- we are going to meet friends in the forest
- I’ll check to see if the river water level is too high
- I’m going to pick blackberries or apples
- we are going to build a boat to go down the river
- we have to throw the ball for the dog
- we are practicing shooting nerf guns in the woods
- I’m going to use a Kelly kettle
- I’m going to feed the ducks
- we are going to climb the tree
#2. Keep it short on cold days
Don’t stay outside for too long on cold days.
I find that my kids go from happy to sick quickly on cold days. I always make sure everyone gets home before they get cold and tired so everyone remembers it as a good experience.
#3. Snowsuits are a saviour
I’m a big fan of snowsuits for kids. Because it’s a piece of clothing that you just have to put on and take off. Stay warm and dry without the hassle of layering layers. On warm days it takes you enough time to get out of the house, but on cold days you don’t have to worry about it. It’s much easier to find winter clothing, as it can sometimes take 30 minutes to find extra jackets, scarves, hats, and waterproof clothing.
I always buy Mountain Warehouse snowsuits because of their superior quality and affordable prices. Usually available at discounted prices in the summer. I always buy the red one so it’s unisex. This also makes it easier to transfer or sell in the future.
#4. Set yourself a challenge
This is perfect for older kids who embrace the challenge.
What’s great is the 1,000-hour outdoor challenge. This is based on the statistic that most children have 1,200 hours of screen time per year. That’s a lot of time, so you can easily shift some of that time to letting the kids play outside!
You can download a tracker sheet to keep track of your time spent outdoors. This is a fun way to help motivate your child and get them involved in the task.
#5. Practice what you preach
If we don’t do the same, we can’t expect our children to play and have fun outdoors. Children learn through our imitation and imitation. If they see us sitting on the couch watching TV, that’s exactly what they want to do. If they see us enjoying the outdoors, they’re much more likely to do the same!
#6. Bring a book
I don’t usually bring games, toys, or set activities to encourage the kids to play outdoors. Children have great imaginations, so we don’t always need to provide games for them to have fun.
However, small children usually want you to be close, and they can get a little bored if you just sit next to a stream for hours. I wish I could say I want to join their world of make-believe, but I don’t. If an adult doesn’t come with you, he can bring a picnic blanket, a book, and a cup of coffee. When the kids see you happily sitting there and you settle down and don’t move for a while, they’ll relax and play outside for longer.
#7. Get MORE kids playing outdoors!
Generally, the more kids you have, the easier it is to keep them playing outside. Gather as many children and parents as possible and venture into the woods.
What if I don’t know many children?
Not everyone has a group of kids they can talk to. I don’t think that was the case when George was a baby, but I found it much easier for him once he started kindergarten. He created a Facebook group for all the parents in his class, making it much easier to arrange get-togethers with other local parents and children.
It’s also worth looking at outdoor clubs, groups and activities. As well as joining a group, you can also meet like-minded parents who want to encourage their children to play outdoors. When George was a baby, I attended Buggy Fit, an outdoor fitness class for new parents. I met a lot of moms who love being outdoors with their babies, and we went for a lot of walks together afterwards.
Facebook groups are also a lifeline to finding like-minded parents. There’s a great group called Outdoor Mums UK, and there are local subgroups that are even better.
In these strange Covid-19 times, informal groups and gatherings are usually your best bet, as formal groups are often cancelled. Please make sure to follow current government guidelines. However, it’s usually easy enough to practice social distancing when you’re outdoors.
#8. Always take snacks and hot drinks
We often take a 10-minute walk, have a snack and a cup of hot chocolate, and then walk home again.
Snacks are an essential item when letting children play outside. Even if your child doesn’t eat it, it’s convenient to have it on hand in case of an emergency!
If it’s a hot day, most of our outings involve getting ice cream!
#9. You don’t need to go far
Remember that children see the world differently than we do, and there is magic in the little things.
I usually like driving somewhere new and exploring places I’ve never been before. I want to see waterfalls (like Abar Falls!) and flowers and wildlife and beautiful rivers.
My kids, on the other hand, are equally happy playing in the puddles at the end of the drive!
It doesn’t have to be an epic adventure to keep things new and exciting for kids. It was cold last week and the kids played for hours in the frozen muddy puddles near our house and couldn’t have been happier.
#10. Start in your own garden
If you’re lucky enough to have outdoor space, start here. Don’t think your kids are too young to help. His son George, 5, helps mow the lawn. Joseph (4 years old) loves digging weeds. Our baby girl Alba (1) also loves watering flowers!
Let them plant their own little flower garden using a small tub and some seeds. Last year we grew sunflowers and the children really enjoyed watching them grow.
#11. Forage for fruit
Nothing keeps kids motivated during a long walk like picking blackberries from the hedge. Make sure to choose one that is high enough for your dog to reach to avoid anything your dog might pee on!
#12. Do a scavenger hunt
Treasure hunting is very easy. I often go to the woods, find a nice bench and sit with a glass while the kids run off to find something on their list. This gives them plenty of freedom to run away and play independently and also gives me his 10 minutes of peace. My eldest son is very smart, so don’t worry about him disappearing from your sight just yet!
Typically you would include something like:
- find something smooth
- find the perfect stick
- find blackberry
- find something sharp
#13. Make walking to school an non-negotiable thing
We walk to school 9 times out of 10, but it’s always been a non-negotiable so our kids don’t question it or ask us to get in the car. Not even. Walking to school may not seem like outdoor play, but my kids always end up running and hiding, picking flowers and playing games all the way there. And when we get home, they almost always want to go to the park on the way home, so we spend 30 minutes at the park most days. I would never go to a park if I didn’t pass by it, but it’s almost impossible for a 5-year-old to walk past a park and not run in for a little fun!
By the way, I don’t want to come across as one of those preachy moms! We are very lucky in many ways because her school is a 10 minute walk away. When traffic is busy, it’s often not even worth the drive as it takes just as long to drive and park!
#14. Make Cheerio bird feeders to hang from trees
I got the idea for this when I made it during a class at my son’s school. Simply make a cheerio bracelet using string and hang it on a tree. It’s super easy, but the kids will be busy making it and have so much fun finding the perfect place to put the bracelets and coming back for days to see if the birds ate the Cheerios!
#15. Walk to the shop to buy a treat
And finally, if all else fails, walk to the store and buy some sweets. In our village, the shop is next to the park, so we always end up going to the park to sit and eat sweets, and the kids inevitably end up playing outside for 30 minutes!
Many of my favorite outdoor memories with my kids were made while glamping. Check out my family glamping blog here!