Get Your Kids Outside

According to the National Wildlife Federation, the average American child spends between four and seven minutes playing outside each day. For a young child, that’s about enough time to throw a ball, retrieve it, and then head back inside.

Kids have become more inclined to sit in front of the television than ever before. If you are a parent, I highly recommend perusing the National Wildlife Federation’s Be Out There campaign.

You can even find a link that will help you locate outdoor activities in your local area.

Nature Event Finder

A Change In Times

As a child, sitting in front of the television was the last thing I wanted to do. We’d get home from school and immediately head outside. We stayed outside until the sun went down. There was always something to play. It didn’t matter the season. Whether it was hot in the summer or cold in the winter, we headed outside to play.

My wife and I are raising our children the same way. They love the outdoors. My kids would stay outside all day if we let them. It’s natural for children to enjoy playing outside. The kids of today aren’t different than us. It’s just that their surroundings have changed. We didn’t have the technology that exists today. I still remember when the Atari 2600 came out. If the kids of today had to trade in their Playstation for the old Atari system, they’d probably want to head outside too.

Since that isn’t going to happen, parents need to step up to the plate and invest time in their children. That means getting up and taking your kids outside to play. Yes, there will be times when Mother Nature interferes, but even the winter offers opportunities for the kids to play. I still have vivid memories of my childhood winters. We played football in the snow, went sledding down any hill we could find, skated on the ice, and had monumental neighborhood snow ball fights! As a child, life revolved around what to play and where to play.

The kids of today begin with a similar interest in outdoor play. It fades as they gain more and more access to electronic devices. Parents still have the power to pull the plug however. I don’t want my kids glued to the television set. I’d rather have them involved in a useful activity. Clearly, we can’t spend all day outside, but we can certainly make an effort. Earlier today, I took my son for a hike into the woods. We were gone for no more than a half hour, but he had the time of his life. He didn’t need any toys. He ran in the snow, followed animal tracks, and watched as I collected wood. He had an outdoor adventure and we didn’t make it more than 100 yards from my back door. Outdoor activities don’t need to be complicated. Get outside and your kids will find ways to entertain themselves.

Unfortunately, many kids never have the opportunity. Here is a quote from the National Wildlife Federation site:

American childhood has moved indoors during the last two decades, taking a mental and physical toll on today’s kids. The negative impact of decreased time outdoors includes a doubling of the childhood obesity rate — accompanied by an incremental hundred billion dollar cost to our health care system — as well as declining creativity, concentration and social skills.

Parents have the power to curb these alarming statistics. Your children will follow your lead. Get up, get outside, and promote a healthy and active lifestyle. It doesn’t take anything other than the willingness to get up and get involved. And if you can’t get outside because of the weather, find something fun to do indoors. My kids can turn a few balloons into an hour of fun. They hit the balloons into the air, chase them down to catch, kick, throw, etc.

Once again, children don’t need elaborate toys for entertainment. More often than not, they just want to get up and move. Foster this interest rather than ignoring it with unlimited access to electronic media.

Let a kid be a kid, the way nature intended…


  1. Ross this is one time I’m not going to write a novel….lol. In short “Excellent article Ross” GREAT STUFF !!! Exactly how I feel. One of my favourite quotes ” The best thing to spend on your children is your time”. Well written my friend.

  2. Great stuff Ross!

    As parents we have to take responsibility for our health as well as our kids. Summer or winter, our parents had to struggle to get us to come inside.

    Growing up in Northern Canada, if school was canceled due to cold winter weather we would be so happy we could go out and play street hockey all day!

    The fun thing as parents we get to do all that stuff again with our kids.

  3. The most truth in child rearing I’ve heard in some time. The truth is your kids will have an even greater time if you as their parent are playing with them! To many parents just don’t do this. They need to, it fosters great relationships with your kids and is fun as hell to boot!

  4. I spent an hour or so down the river today swimming and relaxing after some hill running. When I was younger kids used to swim there all the time. I didn’t see one today, what I did notice though, was that the one’s enjoying the great weather and water, were in their 50’s and 60’s. I guess the baby boomer generation don’t play the nintendo…

  5. Im 19, and i think im the last generation that was active.. I know when i have kids ill be making sure there active and ill do everything with them and make sure they arent fat slobs like every other kid.

    Good article ross

  6. I’m guilty as charged during these winter months.

    Our family rarely sees the inside of our house during the spring, summer and fall. We rarely see the _outside_ at all during the winter (my girls can’t stand the cold) – but that’s usually when we break out the Wii Fit balance board games, which my girls love.

  7. Definitely agree. Especially the part about the Atari 2600. But I can go one better: Pong. The original video game lasted about 20 mion for my sisterand I!

  8. 100% agree. My wife and I are expecting our first in August and we’re going to instill a strong sense of adventure from an early age. If you don’t make outdoor time into a lifestyle habit, it tends to fall apart and you “just never get to it.” We’ve got the habit ingrained already, so what we’ll need to focus on is keeping it that way as our family grows. Great post, Ross!

  9. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My wife gave birth to twin boys July 4th and people are right on the money when they say it’s the best thing that ever happened to them. I get the great fortune of being able to stay home and raise them and they will be getting plenty of active time with Dad. I have worked with kids for years in mot a very positive setting and it is sad to see that a lot of what I dealt with could have been avoided by a little participation and encouragement from the parents. Thank you again for a post and a great site (and commitment to your kids!!!!)

  10. You know after reading this article I was inspired and yet upset about the public education our children receive in schools. P.E. is required by law, but what we are asking them to do is not enough.

  11. Ross,

    You are correct. I have 4 kids and I am constantly outside playing with them. Football, dodgeball, baseball, tag, bikes, trampoline, you name it, we do it….They are 8, 6, 3, and 6 months. It is sad since I have parents that will say, why you are a great dad by playing with you kids. I always reply with, nope, it is called parenting….Plus it keeps me young. After three deployments, you really have to live life with the motto, “it is later than you think”… Pretty soon,, my kids will be into something else and dad will not be superman anymore……Great article…

  12. Hi Ross! Great thoughts as always. I have a 2 year old nephew. When I visit to baby-sit, the first thing he does when we go to the family room is walk over to the remote. He even knows how to turn on the correct set top boxes, load the DVD and turn on the TV, even though the remote controls around 6 different devices. Isn’t that sad? Whenever I visit we always play, whether indoor or out. Running around, throwing a ball, jumping up and down laughing or just making silly noises are all great fun and highly mobile activities. I just hate to see the damage that a sedentary life style is doing to our nation, especially the youth. Sorry for the novel, but once again, great post! I couldn’t agree more.

  13. My thoughts EXACTLY! I do remember having an Atari 2600 as a child, but my parents insisted that we could only use it if it were a rainy day. They were strictly anti video games, so when a neighbor gave us an Atari, my parents weren’t exactly thrilled. One of my favorite games was Adventure. Did you used to have it? Here is how it used to look:

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