Are you a Go Big or Go Home outside time Mom OR a Sneaky-sneak subtle outside time Mom?
We all know that spending time outside benefits us in ways that science keeps telling us are important – but really the important thing for me is that it makes my kids FEEL GOOD.
They sleep better, they behave better, they get along better (because I can’t hear them fighting when there all no walls around us) – our quality of life gets better the more time we spend outside.
But not every trip to the Great Outdoors needs to be GREAT or even that outdoorsy – adding in some sneaky subtle hours here and there can still have the benefits of outside time WITHOUT having to pack 8 hours of food in a cooler you took from your Mom’s house.
Here are my 5 favourite ways of sneaking in some time under the sun:
1. THE THREE MAGIC WORDS
Most indoor activities can be taken outside, just say these three magic words and JUST LIKE THAT an indoor activity becomes an outdoor one!
“Take It Outside”
Earned yourself some Screen Time on your handheld game thingy? Take it outside!
Haven’t talked to the family in days because you’re powering through the final battle at Hogwarts in Book 7? Take it Outside!
Throwing a ball at me while I’m making dinner? Take it outside!
Almost ANY Activity can be moved from inside to outside – and the more you tell your kids to do it, the faster the habit will build.
“Mom can I play my DS?”
“Absolutely! Take it outside!”
– Me, and my 6 year old
I get that one of the benefits of spending time outside is to get away from screens, but if they have earned some Screen Time, they’re better off doing it outside.
Honestly, it doesn’t take much to get kids to put down the video game and do something more engaging if they are sitting outside already.
The world outside is just so much more INTERESTING then video games.
Make sure you have spaces created for them to do their activities outside – on a budget, folding chairs, card table, a couple of tree logs or a picnic blanket are all you need – as you upgrade you can add things like Picnic tables, hammocks, gardens, fountains – the more welcoming you make your outside space the more kids will be attracted to it.
I live in the city so our “take it outside” is the patio off the kitchen of our townhouse – they sit on an old cooler, a folding chair and use a little outdoor table I got on sale for $30. I have some flowers and some spices growing out there – but outside is outside.
The trick to using the magic words is just – don’t overthink it!
Remember: Anything they can do inside, they can do outside.
2. Walk places
I don’t mean “go for a walk” – that’s a commitment that requires sunscreen, waterbottles, patience etc.
I just mean walk to the store, to school, to swimming lessons – if you don’t live in a walkers paradise, that’s okay too! Usually shopping plaza’s are squished together, so you can park in one, and walk between the next couple ones while you run your errands.
Sneaking in walk time will increase their outside time without the added stress of an organized activity.
Give older kids some independence by dropping them off at the end of the street on your way home, so they can walk home the rest of the way.
Park further down the street from the places you go so the kids can explore the neighbourhood a bit – while still having a destination in mind.
You can even ride your bikes!
Walk or ride whenever you can, it will add up the outside time really quickly.
3. Dine Al Fresco
In the summer, my kids eat everything outside.
Watermelon, popsicles, an apple, whatever. Finger food lunches that they can eat on the patio/ lawn/desk/picnic blanket are amazing – but my favourite thing is sit down dinners outside with the whole fam jam *magic *
We also really like to garden – the kids each have their own vegetables they pick at the beginning of the season to grow.
Sending them outside to check on their garden, water, pick some fresh spices and veggies for a meal that you eat outside is another great way to sneak in outside time.
If you do it properly, your kids will literally be excited to just
WATCH PLANTS GROW.
If you don’t already eat together as family, starting with some meals outside is a great way to build that tradition.
Try it: Get your kids to grow their own veggies and eat them as a family outside
4. Planes, Trains and Automobiles
or Ferry, Bus, Subway, Streetcar, Watertaxi, Rickshaw…
I guess this is close to the “walk everywhere” thing, but I feel like its strong enough to stand alone.
When you wait for a bus, you’re standing outside. Walking to the subway station adds some outside time too. Just riding on a Ferry or Streetcar is kinda like being outside too.
Standing on a platform, walking to the station, walking to your destination – all outside time – PLUS it feels like an adventure to kids.
It’s a great way to add outside time, especially if the place you’re going to is inside.
Taking public transit with your kids also has a totally different dynamic then just being their chauffeur – you get to travel WITH them instead of taking them somewhere.
Bonus outside points if it’s raining or snowing! Taking public transit on days with bad weather is way better than sitting in traffic driving AND will help to teach your kids to be resilient.
You’ll also be giving them valuable experience about navigating public transit systems – so they won’t be a 21 year old on the subway for the first time (apologies to my university roommate from a very small town for throwing her under the bus here)
Taking Public Transportation is an outdoor adventure
5. Organized Sports
Don’t let the “organized” part scare you
The commitment aspect of this can be really daunting to some people – they think that if they sign them up for a sport they are signing up for a lifetime of 5am Saturday morning practice, giving up cottage weekends for tournaments and spending a fortune on equipment.
Sure, you’re not wrong – BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY!
It’s not what you can do for your sports team, it’s what your sports team can do for you.
Spend a bit of time researching your local teams, if you’re looking for something low-key competition wise – try rugby. If you want something with no weekend obligations, Soccer is usually just weeknights. Want to spend your Saturday afternoon drinking GT’s with your Mom friends? You might be a Baseball Mom.
Signing your kids up for a sport will also introduce you to outside minded parents and their kids – which will set you up for a future of spending time outside!
I personally really like tournaments in the morning – it means we get up and spend 3 or 4 hours outside before it’s even time for lunch. Without the tournaments, it’s anyones guess whether or not we’ll even be dressed by lunch on a weekend.
Whatever the sport is – there is nothing like being out on a field, cheering your kids team on for a game under the lights. It’s a great way to spend the summer.
Find a sport and team that reflects your family lifestyle
There you have it, 5 simple ways to increase the amount of time your family spends outside – and it all starts with just three magic words – Take it outside!
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