My youngest two don't really need encouragement to get outside. Girl 2 is usually with me in the milk barn at 6:15am and then on the swing set by 6:25. To Little Boy, any moment spent inside is a wasted moment that he would've rather spent catching insects or climbing trees.
In fact, look what the two of them have done to this poor Bradford Pear tree. They stack furniture to provide a leg-up, then climb as high as they can. Unfortunately, more than one dainty branch has succumbed to their climbing enthusiasm. I submit this photo as reason #431 that we need to get these kids over to the farm!
Girl 1, though, spends most of her free time on the sofa with her nose buried in a book. As an English teacher-turned-farmer, I love this about her. But, when I asked her the other day to run outside and grab me a bell pepper for dinner and had to GIVE HER DIRECTIONS!!!!, I realized that she needs to spend a little more time outside with her siblings. She's definitely my biggest complainer about heat, so I'm glad the temps are cooling off.
The easiest way to get the kids to play outside is to lure them out. It's super-sneaky, but it works like a charm. I'll ask Girl 2 to help me get the laundry off the line, for example -- a chore that takes about 2 minutes. But, by the time we're done, she's noticed something fun outside that she'd like to stick around and do rather than go back inside.
The easiest way to get the kids outside is to feed them there. Food would get them anywhere. I could probably lure them into the under-the-stairs cat-litter closet, if I told them that was where we were having afternoon snack. But seriously, all I have to do is declare that dinner is on the back porch, and we're in for a fun evening in the backyard that eventually ends with them begging for just a few more minutes to catch lightening bugs.
Why is it so important to get the kids outside? If you're really asking that one, then be sure you're getting out there with them. I can think of lots of good reasons, but here's one that's been on my mind lately. At the kids' latest yearly check-ups, I was taking a look at their growth curves (height relative to weight) and their percentages in each category. Our doctor reminded me, though, that those "average" percentages haven't been updated since the 1970's and that I should probably subtract 20-30% to account for the modern trend toward childhood obesity. He means that I can take Girl 2's 55th percentile in weight and subtract 20 percent, so that her real weight relative to her peers is actually about the 35th percentile. Wow -- what a difference! I think as a culture it's time for us to put down the TV remotes and video game controllers and iPads and, yes, even books sometimes, long enough to get outside and MOVE and explore and learn!