Five ways you can encourage children to play outdoors

Why is time spent outdoors and in contact with nature so important? And I ask this question as not just an employee of Center Parcs, but more importantly, a concerned parent.


I recently saw the National Trust’s longstanding campaign to encourage young people to get outdoors more often. The campaign is called 50 things to do before you are 11 ¾ and is spurred on by some rather worrying statistics about the youth of today. Today’s generation of 7 to 11-year-olds spend less time outside than any other generation before them. In fact, the time spent outdoors has almost halved from one generation to the next.

Life’s playground

Well there are many benefits. Physically the outdoors offers perhaps the biggest playground your children are ever likely to come across. They can swing, jump and roll around. This improves flexibility as well as motor skills, as well as skills in the classroom with tasks such as writing and drawing. Time spent outdoors is also important for the minds of little ones. Through looking under rocks and finding creepy crawlies, as well as watching and listening to the birds, they will explore their curiosity and come to understand their place in the world.

But perhaps the biggest benefit isn’t for your children but rather their children (don’t panic, I’m sure that’s decades away!) But nurturing a respect and passion for the outdoors will stay with them forever, which can be passed on through generations to come.

So how can this be encouraged?

I have made a concerted effort over the past two summers to really instil in my two boys a love of the outdoors as they grow up. Here are just five of the things I have tried:

1. Let them choose their path

If you’re going for a walk with your children you could try letting them choose the path. The decision-making power will reveal what intrigues them most about nature. If they’re curious to see a fallen tree they can head there. They want to have a look at the pond? Let them lead the way. Keep close to make sure they are safe, of course, but this exploratory instinct is positive and should be nurtured.

2. Put out bird feeders in view of windows…

…And encourage your children to watch the birds come and go. You could also ask them to help out refilling the feeder. This way they will gain a strong understanding of the natural world, as well as the variety of birds and their diet in your surrounding area.

“Nurturing a respect and passion for the outdoors will stay with them forever, which can be passed on through generations to come”

3. Take advantage of the natural resources nearby

If you live near a beautiful park or forest, make the most of it. Don’t forget the outdoors is as healthy for you as it is for your children. At least one of the five Center Parcs Villages are, on average, only a 90-minute drive away from your home. Why not dedicate a long weekend for a UK holiday with us that they are sure to remember? The scale of the natural environment, set in 400 acres of woodland, is sure to keep their little minds ticking over from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave.

4. Allow them the freedom to create their own worlds

As a child one of my favourite pastimes was heading out into the garden and creating my own little bubble. It was a world I would live in for hours. Inventing characters and writing stories, I would dash around, climbing up trees, jumping off them and hiding in bushes. Typical only child? Maybe. But encouraging your children to do the same gives their bodies and their brains a good workout.

5. Be an active parent yourself

Practice what you preach. You are a role model to your children and they will – until they hit the teens, at least – do as you do. Being active yourself will set a good example, allows more quality time together and will benefit your health.

Do you have any advice or tips on how you encourage your children to get outside and stuck into the natural world? Let me know in the comments below.

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Nick Janaway

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Nick Janaway

By day I am a Search and Affiliate Executive, by night I am a family man and tech geek. I know first-hand how fantastic Center Parcs is for families, particularly with young children like myself, so my blog posts highlight how your family can maximise your time during a Center Parcs break.