Getting your children to go outside can be challenging. Either it gets too dark after your kids eat dinner to go outdoors, they say they're too old to play outdoors, or they prefer to play with toys or electronic devices inside.
It’s even harder when your child is struggling with sensory processing problems. With the social communications and video games online growing in numbers, it’s even harder to ensure your children are physically active in real life — not just the in the virtual world. Here are seven tips.
1. Jump on social opportunities. Have your child invite a friend over. Even if your child is at an older age, they can still hang out with their friends and it's a lot better than them sitting on the couch watching TV or playing video games in their room all day. You'll be amazed at what a little face-to-face interaction will do. Tell them to go hang outdoors for a while.
2. Set a timer. Set a time limit for how much screen time your child can have. Add in more "off screen" time little by little until there's more real-life play and less video games or TV.
3. Build a fort. Give your child an old sheet and rope and have them go outside and build a fort in the yard. They can use sticks or driftwood as well. Have them invite neighbors or friends to help out.
4. Lead by example. Be a role model for your child by showing them you also appreciate an active lifestyle. Then, make time to be active.
5. Eat outdoors. Take dinner out in your backyard, on the porch or in a park. Food is the sure way of getting your child outside. After they're finished eating, if your kids are young, chances are they've already spotted something in the yard or on the sidewalk to play with.
6. Let them blow bubbles outdoors. Give them some bubbles and tell them there are no blowing bubbles in the house.
7. Take baby steps. Never push your children too hard. You may find this difficult if you're active yourself, but constantly pushing your kids can create a negative association with playing outside. Take baby steps — particularly for children with sensory processing difficulties. Start with a walk to short hikes to camping and longer outings. You can refer to your child’s pediatric occupational therapist for some fun outdoor activities your child could benefit from, while getting them outside.