Get your kids off the couch and outside

Get your kids outside and play with themIt’s summer. The kids are home, it is hot outside, and the kids are bored. No matter how hard you try, at some point the kids are going to complain of being bored.  Suddenly, mom job #1 is to GET YOUR KIDS OFF THE COUCH AND OUTSIDE.

If your kids are like mine, there comes a point where I think their bodies are somehow glued to the couch. Their preferred activities on the couch are almost all screen based (television or video games). If that’s not available, they will assume a hibernation position while reading a book. Books are good, but slug-like behavior all day isn’t. I find it helpful to pry their… pants… off the couch and send them outside for at least ten minutes twice a day.  (I know this is not a full day’s worth of activity!  Kids need to move for at least an hour a day.  If your kids aren’t getting more activity than this, then you need to get them moving in the house or take them somewhere to play.  Ten minutes twice a day is a starting point.)

Ten minutes in the morning while I regain my sanity and recover from the noise.
Ten minutes in the afternoon to prevent the 4pm fighting (too much energy + boredom = fight).  Before you lose your sanity, before the kids start fighting… GET YOUR KIDS OFF THE COUCH AND OUTSIDE.

Most days, my kids end up spending almost an hour being outside and active each time I send them out. Interested? Here’s the scoop.

  1. Gather up a few dozen ideas for things your kids can do outside.  Aim for a handful of simple repeatable ideas that you can spice up with novelty ideas (to keep them guessing) and special activities (to make it memorable).   I have a bunch of ideas pinned on Pinterest if you need them, but keep it simple and repeatable.  Find at least two things you can implement today!
  2. Write down your list and gather your supplies.   Stick the list where you can refer to it.
  3. Turn off the TV.
  4. Send your kids outside with a suggested activity.  It helps if the activity sounds more appealing than whatever you are interrupting.  (“Go outside and play ninja” works far better than “go outside and play.”  Half the time they don’t even play ninja.  Suggestions help).
  5. Lock the door (just kidding).  After you enjoy five minutes of blissful peace go outside and join them.  At least at first.  Play with your kids, take photos of their antics, or shock them with a water balloon.   Giving them your undivided attention is the biggest reward for being outside.

The first few times you do this, the appeal factor better be pretty high.  Be prepared to chase your kids around the yard with brand new water guns.  Be prepared to ask them to taste-test a new brownie recipe to see if it tastes better outside.   Plan on walking outside with them to prove that it isn’t “too hot” to be outside as long as they are running through the sprinkler.  After they accept the idea, it gets easier.   At this point, I don’t have to walk my kids outside and pelt them with a water balloon just to get them outside.  But honestly, I love doing that.  What’s the point of being a mom if I don’t get to play with my kids from time to time?

I can’t stress enough — have a suggested activity, then go outside and join them.

My current list of repeatable activities includes eating a (healthy) popsicle, nerf guns, afternoon / morning snack, water guns, eating watermelon and spitting the seeds, watering the plants, sweeping the sidewalk, water guns, tossing a frisbee, and playing “ninja.”  Special activities include conducting a science experiment, planting something in the garden, “washing” my car with the garden hose, building ice towers out of big chunks of ice, and washing my windows (use a spray bottle filled with ice water).  I’ll add new things over the summer when we need to.

I keep a stash of water guns, nerf guns and bullets, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, frisbees, and a soccer ball in a bucket at the back door along with the mosquito spray, hats, and sunblock.  I keep popsicles in the freezer.  If they want to play ninja, they can track down the ninja stuff from their play room.

I understand not wanting to go outside in the heat.  I live in Houston Texas.  It’s hot.  The mosquitos right now are big enough to carry away the giant cockroaches.  Try putting a fan outside where you can at least sit in the shade with a breeze.  A big insulated cup with ice water helps too.  Most of my ideas in the summer involve water for a a reason.

Safety stuff: If your kids are outside more than ten minutes, make sure you give them water and protect their skin.  You know the drill.  If your kids aren’t ready to be outside unsupervised, then go with them.  If you live where you can’t send the kids outside, then find a way to get them active and unplugged.

Bonus:  here are some silly ways I have gotten my kids off the couch and outside.  I’m a sneaky (but honest) mom.

  • I’m waiting for an Amazon delivery for you.  Can you please sit on the porch and wait for it to get here?  (don’t do this unless it’s true!)
  • I want to surprise Daddy when he gets home.  Can you sit on the front porch and watch for him?  Ring the doorbell as our secret sign. (I knew daddy was only 5 minutes away).
  • Hey, I want to see if your shoes are fast enough.  Can you two race to the end of the street and back? (we live on a dead end street with little traffic)
  • Do you hear the ice cream truck?  (No, but I delivered ice cream outside a minute later)
  • Can you go check the weather?  I want to know if this popsicle will melt.
  • I just burned this popcorn.  Please go outside and feed it to the birds.  (they had a popcorn fight)
  • It’s raining.  Lets go see if the earthworms are coming up out the ground.  Maybe they need rescuing.

 Please share!  What strategies (sneaky or otherwise) do you use to get your kids off the couch?

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Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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