To be honest, its hard to motivate myself to go outdoors with some of the miserable weather we are having this January. But it’s one of our biggest challenges to get our, now thirteen year old, to do the same. His preferred position is in front of a screen with a controller, cuddled up under an old duvet. Especially at weekends, which he reminds us are “for relaxing.” Even when he was younger he had very strict rules about what weather could be engaged with. For example, if there is even a hint of rain he can’t go out on his skateboard, as the bearings will get rusted.
So, working with rules and routine, we have always made it clear that unless there are extreme weather conditions he will go outdoors at weekends and the holidays, once a day, but we give a choice of up to 3 activities he can do. I’m not saying that this means it’s plain sailing every time, but now he has got used to the idea it generally works well. And it’s great to see him come back from an activity that he has enjoyed and done well at, despite the initial moans. We also try to regulate screen time.
1.Special interests are our friends!
What are your child’s special interests at the moment? Museums, visitor centres and other attractions are less busy at this time of year. Look out for new exhibitions or workshops or creative days that might fit in with something they love. Even going to see one specific item can be enough, we frequently do this at our local military museum, because I know that once he has spent a long time with the big gun, I can get him to look at other exhibits, and maybe go to the park on the way home.
2. Get happy in the big outdoors.
Do your kids like dinosaurs? Get fossil hunting at your nearest beach. Trains or planes? go spotting, photographing and recording what you find. Animals? Wrap up warm and visit a local wildlife park with hot chocolate to follow.
3. Find an outdoors/indoors activity that can become routine.
In our case that would be something we have had to keep trying at. We have had happy spells doing archery, cycling, cricket, walking and skateboarding. But not many last long, so its a question of trying a variety of new things for us. At the moment our son is enjoying badminton and climbing, and drums regularly.
It’s difficult to get our son to go out and do things as a family, so more something we have to insist on and model. However, usually add a food venue into the equation and you can succeed in an at least partial win for all. Volcano ice creams or slush puppies are high on our list. At Christmas we managed a good walk with the promise of a ginger beer at the pub at the end. Some would call this bribery, I prefer to use the word motivation! Recently, we were freezing on the beach as our son got engaged with some rocks and mud for ages, after insisting he was not leaving the house, and had a great time!
5. Finally, if you can’t beat them, join them.
On really foul days outside we stick on the Wii and play winter sports together or do Mario Racing. We get out forgotten Christmas gifts to play with or make, and this weekend made smoothies and burgers. There are lots of sites out there that are more creative and interactive which if they are having screen time you can encourage, such as Kerbal Space Program and Fire Boy and Water Girl, also umpteen places where you can draw, sketch, paint and build.
Good luck. Don’t give up!