10 ways to get your kids off their screens & playing outside

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If you struggle to find ways to motivate your children to get outside and play, you’re not alone. You may have fond memories of enjoying endless hours of outdoor play, perhaps even unsupervised by your parents, but the options for play inside the house are much more tempting today than they were back then.

Research shows that technology has played a major role in the reduction of outdoor play by today’s children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shared a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation which concluded that kids ages 8-18 spent an average of 7 1/2 hours in front of some kind of screen every single day. This screen time does not factor in instructional time spent on computers during school hours, so the real figure may be even higher.

How Much Outdoor Play Should Kids Have?

The CDC recommends children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Other experts don’t believe that an hour a day outside is enough.

In her book, “Balanced and Barefoot,” pediatric occupational therapist Angela J. Hanscom encourages parents to triple the CDC’s recommendation for outdoor play.

“Ideally, kids should be playing outside three hours each day, and that doesn’t include organized sports,” Hanscom told the Huffington Post. “Of course, some of that should be in school, where recess has to be revived and expanded. But in the meantime, parents should do all they can. My kids have only a half-hour recess, so as soon as they get home they go outside. Ask yourself if your kids can walk to school, go out before school begins, and after school before they start homework.”

The 1,000 Hours Outside movement takes this a step farther. Citing studies that show today’s children get less than 10 minutes of outdoor play each day, organizers with the group are challenging families to work toward getting outdoors for 1,000 hours every year.

“We did some research and read that striving for a goal of four to six hours of outside time within a day (what!?!?) was an ideal amount of time for children to spend, well, outside,” writes founder Ginny Yurich on the organization’s website. “This seemed excessive to us and quite frankly, way too long — most children’s activities are, at most, an hour (like a library program) and, many times, much less. BUT, we tried it. And you know what? We have not looked back. Our greatest times as a family, and my most successful times mothering almost exclusively point back to these fully immersive nature days.”

Taking The First Steps To Outdoor Play

Hours of unsupervised outdoor play may seem impossible, especially during sports seasons and the school year. However, with summer break just around the corner, now is the perfect time to start thinking out of the box (and the house) for ideas to motivate your kids to play outside.

Going from minutes to hours of outdoor play won’t just happen on its own. Screen time habits are hard to break, even for adults. As parents, we need to encourage our children and sometimes even join them in the fun.

First, set realistic expectations for introducing more outdoor play. Start with 30 minutes, if necessary, and go from there. It shouldn’t take long for kids who are having fun to extend their time outside. To help start that habit of unplugged time, we have 10 ideas to help get the kids excited about putting down their devices and getting outside.

1. Print Off A Progress Chart

There is something about an incentive chart that even gets grown-ups excited to try a new challenge. The 1,000 Hours Outside website has a collection of free printable charts that kids of all ages can color in as each hour outside is complete. There are charts designed like mazes, solar systems and mandalas ready to print and decorate.

2. Take Beloved Toys Outside

We love this simple idea. Every kid has some favorite analog (or, at least, battery-powered) toys that keep them occupied inside. Encourage them to take those toy cars and dolls outside to play for a little while. Maybe they can build a city with Lego bricks or building blocks like this Moontoy STEM Toy Building Kit.

4. Allow Them To Get Messy3. Don’t Forget The Classic Outdoor Toys/Games

If you don’t want to keep track of all kinds of pieces, don’t forget about the classic outdoor games that require minimal setup and play. What about sidewalk chalk, bubbles, pails and shovels, and jump ropes? You may already have some of these around the house and if you don’t, the investment is small with a big return on fun.

OK, this one might be a tougher ask for the adults because they have to get the kids cleaned up and the clothes in the washing machine, but children need to be allowed to get dirty (or soaking wet) when they play outside. Whether it’s digging in the dirt, playing with water balloons or on a splash pad, a little mess is a lot of fun. Of course, if there’s water play, make sure there’s adult supervision, especially for young children.

We like this 86-inch splash pad from Berrys Paradise on Amazon for just $30.99 as a great way to cool off on hot summer days.

6. Go GeoCaching5. Explore Local Walking and Biking Paths

There’s more to outside play than going to a playground. Many communities have local park systems which include a variety of trails to explore. Do a quick Google search for your area or download the AllTrails app to find kid-friendly trails just waiting for you.

Geocaching is a bit like treasure hunting, except the treasure stays where you find it. Only photos allowed! In order to geocache, you need a GPS-enabled device (yes, this is a small exception to the no-electronics rule), some geocache locations that can be found at Geocaching.com, and a willingness to go out and explore! Kids who love video games will especially like the way this activity blends the virtual world and the real one.

7. Create A Family Garden

Another way to get the family outside and everyone’s hands a little dirty is to create a garden. You don’t need a big plot of land to get the job done. There are lots of starter kits available for beginners.

8. Have Kids Create A Bucket List

A bucket list is a collection of activities or accomplishments someone wants to do by a certain time. Summertime is the perfect opportunity for kids to sit down and dream big about all the things outside they might want to do before school is back in. Some ideas to add to a summer bucket list include catching and releasing fireflies, swimming a certain number of laps in the pool, going fishing and lots more.

Need more inspiration? Generation Wild has a couple of different lists filled with amazing activities to add to your child’s own bucket list.

9. Enjoy Meals Outside

When’s the last time you went on a picnic? Get kids more comfortable being outside regularly and lead by example by surprising them with periodic picnics. Grab a blanket, fill a thermos with some fresh lemonade, put some sandwiches, fried chicken or taco jars(!) into a cooler or basket and enjoy some quality time with each other.

10. Start An Outdoor Playgroup

We’re sure there are other parents in your community fighting the same battle to get everyone outside. Reach out on social media or at community events to connect with other families to set up some outdoor-only playdates. Maybe a few of you can even set up a weekly playgroup that meets at a local park for some screen-free fun. Kids love having others to hang around with and the parents could probably use a little adult conversation, too! A win-win.


It might take a little extra effort to begin a new outdoor play habit, but the benefits for our children’s physical and mental health are well worth it!


This article originally appeared on Simplemost.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.


More from MediaFeed:

Summer food myths you should stop believing



Summer is fast approaching, and that means family barbecues, picnics in the park, camping trips and more. Sadly, a lot of people don’t enjoy these events as much as they could because they hold onto some of the following common myths about summer foods and food safety.

Yes, many Americans believe some totally false things about how we eat, use, harvest, prepare, combine and store our food and beverages. But it’s time to put an end to that.

Join us as we dispel each of the following 27 food myths. You may be surprised by how many you actually thought were true!



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If your parents never told you as a child that you had to wait at least 30 minutes after eating to get back into the pool, call them right now and thank them for not ruining your childhood.

While the 30-minute rule is a common misconception (You’ll get a cramp! Your food won’t settle! You could drown!) there’s literally no truth to it. So, if you want to take your plate of ribs directly into the pool and swim around while eating them, follow Nike’s line of reasoning and “just do it.” If you don’t believe us, just ask your doctor. But not your parents. Do not ask your parents.


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We love iced coffee season just as much as anyone, but in reality, it probably isn’t doing much toward keeping you cooler on your morning commute than a steamin’ cuppa joe would. In fact, it could be just the opposite.

The science goes something like this: When you drink a hot drink, there’s less potential heat stored inside your body, as long as the sweat caused by drinking the hot drink can evaporate. So, unless it’s really humid out, chances are you’ll end up with a cooler core body temperature if you go with the hot option.

Don’t believe us? Fine. Go read the study for yourself.



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Same reasoning as with the hot drinks, though with food you’re likely to run a higher internal temperature while your body digests the food you just consumed.

Add some spice to your dish and you’ll get an even more rapid cooling effect because it can more quickly induce sweating. Who doesn’t just love sweating at a summer dinner party?


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This one’s a little tricky. There are varying degrees to which this is true, but saying that all grilled foods cause cancer is patently false.

Let’s break it down.

Meats: Meats that are in any way browned go through a chemical reaction that not only creates flavor and that lovely caramelization (it’s called the Maillard Reaction) but also heterocyclic amines (HCAs). And the more well done your meat, the more HCAs that are probably present. If your diet consists of a lot of HCAs you may be at greater risk for some cancers. But it’s not just grilling that creates them.

Veggies: Unless you’re charring your veggies over hot coals doused in petrochemicals, you can rest easy that your grilled veggies probably won’t give you cancer. Veggies don’t contain the necessary chemicals that produce HCAs. And that leads us to…

Different types of grills: Gas grills burn cleaner than wood or charcoal grills. That also means you don’t get that delicious smoky quality that so many people love (unless you’re using wood chips). But if keeping your food as carcinogen free as you can, it’s probably your cleanest option for outdoor cooking.

Looking for some great grilling ideas? Check out these nine foods you’d never think to grill (that are actually delicious).




We can hear you now: “But that char that causes the HCAs is what seals in the juices and makes my grilled steak tender.”

Sorry. That char is crunchy and flavorful, but it doesn’t do anything to “seal” your meat. In fact, that char actually causes some moisture loss. So don’t worry about your steak being less juicy just because you didn’t brown it as much.

Related: Here’s how to cook the perfect steak


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No, cutting your meat to test for doneness doesn’t result in all the juices draining from your beautiful pork tenderloin. However, unless you want to look like a grilling amateur, we don’t advise you start doing this. Why?

Looking at the internal color of your meat to test for doneness isn’t really effective. It also can make your final product less attractive. You’re better off using the “hand method” or a thermometer to check whether your meat is adequately cooked.


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Nope. Nope, nope, nope. There are too many dry pork chops in the world already, so don’t add to the problem by clinging to this myth.

Sadly, overdone pork was something that even the USDA promoted until 2011. That’s when they changed their guidance for cooking pork to an internal temperature of 145 degrees instead of the previously recommended 160 degrees.

So lighten up on your grill (or pan or oven) time and serve your guests some juicy chops and other cuts this summer.




Again, nope. If you want to serve juicy burgers, dial it back a notch on how long you cook your patties. And watch those flareups. High heat and a couple of minutes on either side will do the trick.


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All grills are dirty. They sit outside, they get food particles all over them, not to mention all those sooty bits from flareups and/or charcoal.

If you’re going to use a public grill, you’ll want to proceed just as you would with your own personal grill. Get it good and hot, give it a good scrub with a grill brush and you’re good to grill.


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This myth goes something like this: Keeping raw chicken at the correct temperature during loading, transport, unloading and storage at your favorite restaurant is nearly impossible in summer, allowing bacteria to run rampant.

Maybe there was some truth to this before the advent of modern refrigeration and refrigerated trucks, but today the chicken at restaurants using proper food safety guidelines is just as safe if not safer than what you’re preparing at home.


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Hydrating is especially important in the summer months, but unless you’re incredibly active you probably don’t need to drink eight glasses of water every day, and especially not on top of all the other types of liquids you’re consuming.


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Some people love beer as a recovery drink after a long bike ride or other active outdoor sport. And while it’s true that beer contains carbohydrates and electrolytes, the alcohol causes your body to lose more liquid than you’re consuming. So, have that beer, but chase it with a good amount of water so you don’t end up further dehydrating yourself.


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This myth suggests that the alcohol is more potent in the wine simply because it’s hot outside. While red wine can be less than refreshing on a hot, summer day there’s absolutely no truth to it being too strong to enjoy a nice glass. Red wine typically contains between 12% and 15% alcohol compared to whites with 10% to 14%, so if red’s your thing, go for it. You can always try a lighter red that still pairs brilliantly with your steak. (Just be sure to keep hydrating too.)




Have no fear? Don’t believe it, especially in summer months when alcohol can more quickly dehydrate you. The truth is the order you drink different types of alcohol really doesn’t play a role in whether you become intoxicated or even sick. That has everything to do with how much alcohol you consume and whether you’ve eaten adequately, not the order in which you consume your booze.


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Most foods are safe to consume at room temperature for up to about two hours. That’s when any harmful bacterias that may be present can reach a level substantial enough to cause an adverse reaction, like food poisoning.

If you aren’t familiar with the “danger zone” for different foods, you may want to acquaint yourself so you can keep your family and friends safe while serving foods at their most delicious temperatures, which isn’t always cold right out of the refrigerator.


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If you’re constantly opening the lid and reaching into a cooler to grab this and that, chances are it’s not keeping your foodstuffs at a consistently safe temperature. Likewise, if you didn’t put enough ice or cooling packs into your cooler, it’s probably not going to keep everything at a safe temperature.

To ensure you keep everyone who’s eating out of the cooler safe, check out some instructional videos or articles for how to properly pack and use a cooler.


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If you grew up believing that you shouldn’t eat shellfish during the summer months because it could make you sick, well, that’s mostly a myth. It once was true that algae blooms known as “red tides” could cause sickness in people who ingested shellfish from these areas, but these blooms are now closely monitored and harvesting is not allowed. It’s also true that a lot of bivalves reproduce during the summer months and they actually taste differently during this time, but so many of these and other seafoods are farmed these days, that it’s not necessarily a concern. Check with your fishmonger or restaurant server about whether their seafood is wild or farmed.


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A nice squeeze of lemon juice may make shellfish (and other seafood, for that matter) taste better to some folks, but it doesn’t do anything to inhibit any bacteria that may be living in or on your fresh catch.

To safeguard against possible food-borne illness always buy your seafood from a reputable seller.


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Ever had clam chowder? How about linguine Alfredo with shrimp or scallops? If so, you’ve consumed a combination of milk (cream) and shellfish, so just stop believing this and go have a big glass of milk with some raw oysters. Or don’t. Eww.


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Studies have shown that shellfish, in fact, can reduce LDL levels (bad cholesterol) while raising HDL levels (good cholesterol).


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Wouldn’t it be nice if this were true? We could all just sit around outside chawing on garlic cloves like cows on cuds. Sadly, garlic doesn’t do anything to keep mosquitos from bugging us, but it does totally keep vampires at bay. What? You don’t believe it? Name one person you know who loves garlic and has been bitten by a vampire. See? Proof.


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It must have been somebody’s drunk uncle who came up with this myth just to mess with the kids who were having a grand old time chowing down on their watermelon. Can’t you see it? All the kids’ eyes beginning to bug out as they envisioned their distended bellies filled with huge watermelons? Yeah. Drunk uncles are fun.


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The part of rhubarb commonly sold is the stalks. They aren’t toxic at any time of the year, but the leaves can be, so avoid those — but do feel free to wear a giant rhubarb leaf as a hat if you’re growing your own. You’ll be fine.


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Thank the ice cream gods this isn’t true! Otherwise, we’d all be sitting around sipping boozy, sabayon-esque cocktails and that wouldn’t be nearly as refreshing as boozy ice cream.


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Not true. Totally, totally not true. And it also didn’t originate in Italy. Or in Las Vegas, for that matter, which is another Caesar salad myth.

The closest thing we can get to fact on this one is that the Caesar salad was the brainchild of Caesar Cardini, a restaurateur in Tijuana, Mexico, who ran out of food items one particularly busy Fourth of July and made do with the ingredients he had on hand. Et voila, the Caesar salad was invented.


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If you are absolutely, positively 100-percent certain that your soil and any fertilizer you’ve used are contaminant free and that no animals have gotten into your garden and defecated anywhere, or that no birds have flown over and pooped on your prize tomatoes, then by all means don’t bother washing your produce.

Or you could just give them a good rinse. You know, just to be sure. Your choice.


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Poor mayonnaise. Why does it get such a bad rap? Anytime someone gets sick at a picnic it’s always the chicken salad or the egg salad or the mayonnaise on the sandwiches.

It’s not fair, especially since the acid in mayo can actually counter some harmful bacterias. So just quit blaming the mayo. It was probably the lettuce.


This article originally appeared on MediaFeed.org.


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Featured Image Credit: Imgorthand.