Do you feel like your child spends too much time in front of screens? If so, you’re definitely not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most children spend five to seven hours of their day parked in front of some type of screen. And unfortunately, all that sedentary screen time can raise kids’ risk of developing physical and mental health issues like obesity, anxiety, depression, and even sleep problems.
But reducing your child’s risk of dealing with screen time-related health issues is fairly simple. And even better, you don’t have to keep all forms of tech away from your kid to get the job done. How do you do it? Encourage your child to replace some of their daily screen time with green time!
Rather than letting your kids park themselves in front of a television, smartphone, or tablet, try strengthening their desire to get outdoors and play. Here are five simple ways you can do that.
1. Give Your Child Some Cool “Safety” Gear
It’s no secret the world can be a hazardous place for young kids these days. And although you may have some trepidation about letting your kids play freely outside, the health benefits of outdoor play far outweigh the potential risks. But as a parent, it can be tough to let your guard down, and that’s where cool children’s safety gear can be a huge help.
What kind of safety gear exactly? A smartwatch for kids. But not just any regular smartwatch because giving your child a standard smartwatch kind of defeats the purpose behind limiting screen time. Rather than a conventional smartwatch, you can give your child what’s widely referred to as a “safe” smartwatch. This no-frills piece of tech allows you to keep an eye on your child’s whereabouts no matter where they’re playing outside.
Decked out with a smartwatch for kids, your child can enjoy playing in the great outdoors while you enjoy peace of mind knowing he or she is safe. Your young one can call or text using the watch, but social media, games, the internet, and other apps aren’t included.
2. Set the Example
If you want to encourage your kids to engage in outdoor play, setting an example may be the most effective way to do that. As you surely know, kids don’t always listen to what Mom and Dad say, but they’re always watching what Mom and Dad do. So if you’re trying to get your kids outside but you’re always indoors, your kids will likely want to follow suit.
Rather than encouraging outdoor enjoyment for your kids but not yourself, encourage the whole family to play along. Get yourself outside and ask your kids to join you! You can play hide and seek or treasure hunt, or you can even go for a simple walk. What really matters here is that you regularly get involved, too. Showing your child that you’re also committed to reducing screen time will help encourage them to do the same.
3. Organize Play Dates
Chances are there are plenty of parents in your circle who are also looking to limit their kids’ screen time, so why not team up? Call around to see who’s willing to participate, and then invite other kids and parents to join you and yours in your outdoor adventures.
Take your kids to the park, an outdoor obstacle course, a lake, a hiking trail — the options are virtually endless. You’ll get to enjoy some adult catch-up time while your kids interact, cooperate, and play together in an invigorating and refreshing natural environment.
4. Get Your Child Involved in Organized Sports
Signing your child up for organized sports like soccer, track, or football is an excellent way to get them playing outdoors. Not only will a team sport get your kid moving, but it’ll also help your child build collaborative skills they’ll use throughout their life.
Team sports help kids make friends and build valuable social skills they’ll carry with them for years to come. They also help kids stay physically healthy and help them explore potential skills they can build on as they move into their adolescent years.
As a bonus, sports coaches won’t allow screens on the field or the court, so practices and games will be totally screen-free blocks of time.
5. Take Weekend Road Trips
Does your child tend to stay parked in front of a screen on their two weekly days off from school? You can easily fix that by planning and executing weekend road trips with the whole fam! To minimize screen time, use a regular ol’ map instead of a map app, and teach your kids how to navigate with a tool that doesn’t involve a screen.
If you have a place you’ve always wanted to check out, why not go there? Or, plan a weekend getaway to a place your child picks out. Whatever you choose, make sure it involves plenty of nature time. Plan a guided tour, an educational outing, or even just a simple trip to play in the forest or make sandcastles at the beach.
Encouraging your child to enjoy time in the great outdoors doesn’t have to be difficult — but getting there will require diligence. Create a plan for screen-free time outdoors, stick to that plan yourself, and you might just be surprised at how willingly your child joins in.