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Hit pause on screen time with these outdoor games

If it seems like every time you turn around one of your kids is holding an iPad or a game controller, you aren’t alone. Screen time for kids ramped up during the pandemic. Turn the tide with these outdoor games for kids.

There’s no doubt about it—kids and adults alike are spending much more time in front of screens these days. Since the pandemic began, many of our daily activities went from in-person participation to virtual.

That alone made screen time seem like an ever-present part of life. But even after schools reopened for in-person learning and extracurricular activities picked up again, screen time stuck around.

Screen Time Limits by Age

Professional pediatric guidelines recommend that infants 2 years and younger get zero screen time. Children aged 2-5 should get no more than one hour of screen time per day.

According to a 2022 study from JAMA Pediatrics, 75% of children younger than 2 years are being exposed to screens, which exceeds their limit. About 66% of children aged 2-5 are exceeding their one-hour daily limit.

How can you flip the switch and help your kids get the physical activity they need?

A Word about Screen Time

Prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that children and teens get no more than two hours of screen time per day. But the pandemic changed our world.

With more activities being done using a device, including homework and visits with friends and family, the AAP changed those guidelines in early 2021. 

Instead of recommending a set number of hours of screen time, the AAP now recommends that parents allow screen time in moderation, but ensure that it is used in a healthy way. That means using screen time for educational and conversational purposes, rather than simply playing mind-numbing games or watching videos.

They also recommend establishing set times when technology is not used, such as specific times of day or whole days of the week. You can do this by setting firm guidelines as a family, then using functions like parental controls to disarm lock digital devices during that time.

How to Get Kids Active

Getting the kids to put down the electronic device is step one. But how can you get them interested in doing something that’s actually good for them?

Well, think about it this way—as an adult, you’re much more likely to do an activity regularly if you actually enjoy it. So, the trick is to help your kids find activities that they enjoy and that keep them physically active.

Getting them outside for that activity is even better. Exercising outdoors offers a ton of benefits, including improved mood, a decreased risk of depression, and enhanced self-esteem. Seems like the perfect recipe for growing kids, right?

Encourage kids to play outside with these outdoor activities

  • Have a scavenger hunt. Create a list of items that your kids need to “hunt” for, then send them out scavenging! Because you still want to limit interactions with others outside the household, stick to items that can be found in nature or in the confines of your yard.
  • Build an obstacle course. This doesn’t have to be crazy-hard, either! Simply create different challenges for your kids to do—this can include both physical impediments they need to overcome (like climbing over a sturdy box) or physical challenges they need to complete (like a set of jumping jacks).
  • Cultivate a garden. Believe it or not, gardening is a great, kid-friendly physical activity! No matter the age of your kids, there are age-appropriate ways for them to garden. To keep it interesting, look for garden ideas for kids, such as a pizza garden, where you plant some of the ingredients needed to make pizza.
  • Hold the “Family Olympics.” This can be a great way to get the entire family active—and help kids get the 60 minutes of exercise a day that the AAP recommends. Choose a handful of “events” and set up a light-hearted competition. Who wouldn’t want to be the gold medal backyard swinging champion? Up the ante by creating medals or other awards for the winners.

No matter what activities you choose, get in the game yourself! Your kids will be more likely to participate if you’re modeling the activity, and you’ll get in exercise of your own.

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