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How Do I Get My Children to Play Outside?!

Question

How do I get my boys to play outside? We are locked in a power struggle at the moment over this. They never watch TV or videos. They get rambunctious playing inside the house all the time, and I want them outside for periods of time throughout the day. It's hot here in Florida, but we have plenty of water-related activities for them and a big, shady yard. This was never really an issue in previous hot summer months, and I'm not sure how to handle this without all the drama.

Answer

Hi, and thanks for the question! First, make sure you're telling them, not asking them. At breakfast, tell them you and your husband have decided that outdoor play MUST be part of every day--no exceptions (unless YOU make them--but you don't have to tell them this). Lay out the general schedule for the day; you might even want to make a chart on a marker board that you can change from day to day that says something like: 7:00 get up, make bed, 7:30 eat breakfast, 8:00 brush teeth, 8:15 do morning chores (make sure they have regular chores to do), 8:30-9:15 play indoors, 9:15- 10:00 play outdoors, 10:00 slushie break on the patio (or something fun), and finish out your day, including a set "quiet time", a set "book time", and another outdoor play time.--it doesn't have to be this particular set-up, of course, but put it on a schedule that they can see, even though they can't read yet--you show them each activity and the time frame.

When it's time for outdoor play, just say "It's time for outdoor play", and, if necessary, shove them out the door and lock it behind them. They'll probably scream and bang on the door--depending on how destructive this is and how long it goes on, you can ignore it, or you can put a chair or chairs in the middle of the living room (far from each other, and not facing each other, but where you can see them both) or in a corner, and tell the perp(s ) to sit there quietly until you say they can get up--only bathroom emergencies allow them off before then, and watch to make sure they aren't playing in the bathroom. Make it uncomfortably long--at least 30 minutes.

When you think it's been long enough, send them outside and lock the door. Repeat as often as needed, increasing the length of time if necessary. Don't get upset, don't fuss at them, don't engage in any kind of conversation except to pleasantly say "time to go outside!" By consistently and very FIRMLY doing this, you are demonstrating that the only alternative to playing outdoors is total and complete boredom.

Once they figure this out, they'll enjoy being out there and you won't have to do it. If only one is willing to play outside, let him do so. No other activity should be allowed--their only options are outdoors or the chair.

Good luck!
Let us know how it goes!
Kaye Wilson, CLPC
kwilsonok@gmail.com

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