Why Outdoor Play Is Declining for Kids (And What You Can Do as a Single Parent)

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Remember the good days of your childhood when gadgets hadn’t taken over and kids reveled in outdoor play? 

Today’s reality is different now. Children spend more time in front of screens than with friends outside. Playing outside is essential for a child’s overall wellness and is steeply declining nowadays. If you’re wondering how to encourage outdoor play for your children, consider the following insights and actions.

Why Is There a Decline in Outdoor Play?

Outdoor play is essential for your child’s development, but 85% agree that children today play outside less often than children of a few years ago. However, this doesn’t indicate that parents don’t encourage outdoor play for their children. It’s most likely linked to the fact that it’s not accessible to everyone. Other factors include:

  • Limited play spaces
  • Growth and availability of new gadgets
  • Less walkable cities
  • Urbanization
  • Fear surrounding the dangers of playing outside
  • Pollution

Tips for Single Parents to Encourage Outdoor Play for Children

There are ways you can encourage outdoor play for your children. As a single parent, you can spend quality time outside and appreciate these fun activities:

  1. Encourage Free Play

Give your child a space to unleash their imagination. Play at the park, playground or a wildlife park. Giving them space to play independently is good because they can be more creative. Building independence at an early age will be beneficial later in life.

As a parent, ensure your child is doing free play in a safe environment. Keep an eye on areas with potential hazards and check your little one occasionally to ensure they’re safe while having fun.

Related: How to Know if Your Child Is Getting Enough Playtime

  1. Use Technology To Teach

Incorporate gadgets to make outdoor activities exciting. Here are fun, easy ways for your child to use technology to enjoy nature:

  • Take photos: Photography is a great way to ease the mind and an incredible art form you can share with your little one. All you need is a camera and a picturesque view — now teach your kid how to take amazing photos.
  • Design a trivia quiz: Ask questions about trees and animals while exploring the outdoors. You can also use a quiz mobile app to make the experience more enjoyable.
  1. Plant a Tree

The next time you visit a park or walk around the neighborhood, invite your child to observe the trees around them. Explain the value and role trees play in the environment, then make them excited about caring for their tree.

Planting a tree is an excellent opportunity to balance learning and fun. Digging, planting and providing care will teach your child about the tree’s growth stages, discipline and environmental awareness. As your child handles the responsibilities of providing water and nutrients, they’ll learn the importance of giving proper care.

Related: How to Plan Meals as a Single Parent and Keep Your Sanity

  1. Invite Friends, Neighbors and Relatives to Play Outside

As a single parent, it can be challenging to balance playtime and your child’s safety. You could have their friends, relatives or the community involved in playing outdoors. Reach out to parents — arrange outdoor activities in a nearby park and encourage them to join. The more people you know in the neighborhood, the more comfortable they’ll allow their kids to play outside.

  1. Leverage Their Interests  

Think about what your child enjoys. Do they enjoy playing with stuffed animals or reading books? Tailor outdoor activities to their preferences.

  • If they show interest in a particular sport, go out and do it with them.
  • If they love reading, try finding a location that resembles the one in their favorite story.
  • If it’s cooking they like, go on a camping trip and prepare their favorite dish outside.
  • If they want to see animals in real life, go to a zoo.
  1. Join Them in the Fun

Participate to make playtime more memorable for you and your kid. Kick the ball, push your child on the swing and run around. As a single parent with many things on their plate, you reserve the weekend for outdoor play with your child to strengthen your bond. 

Related: How Spending Time Outside Can Relieve Stress for Busy Moms

Benefits of Outdoor Play

Playing outside is more than just a pastime — it’s crucial for your kid’s growth. As a parent, you want your child to grow up with a sense of compassion and independence — two traits they can learn when they connect with the outside world.

Encourage outdoor play so your child can get these benefits:

Advanced motor skills: An outdoor environment gives children plenty of opportunities to move and exercise their muscles and bones. Playing catch, riding a bike and running around help build their physical endurance.

Greater appreciation for nature: When you expose your children to nature, they are more likely to support pro-environmental activities, such as recycling.

Better overall health: Since outdoor play involves a lot of movement, it limits your child’s risk of obesity.

Self-awareness: Kids who play outside learn to take risks and explore more of their abilities. For instance, they can discover how to climb a tree and ride a bike.

Go All Out on Outdoor Playtime

Outdoor play isn’t just a pastime — it’s a way for your kid to grow well physically and mentally. So go ahead, encourage your child to play outdoors, be their ultimate playmate and create wonderful memories today!


Beth is the content manager and Managing Editor at Body+Mind. She writes about parenting, fitness, mental health, and nutrition. You can find Beth on Twitter @bodymindmag.

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