Summer begins with a burst of motivation from kids to play outside as much as possible, but I notice that as it winds down, the usual activities become less appealing for them. After a couple of months, the park play sessions, family hikes, afternoons at the pool and splash parks, outdoor family yoga classes, soccer practices, and even good old outdoor playdates with friends that were so exciting at the beginning of the season are suddenly boring. Encouraging outdoor play is incredibly important to us, and the last thing we want is for our kids to prefer sitting around inside because they’ve lost interest in doing the same outside activities over and over. Thankfully, we’ve discovered that by finding new ways to encourage outdoor play – just by breaking from the norm and doing something different from time to time – that spark to be outside is ignited within them again.
When we want to break up the monotony of our usual outdoor activities, the main place we turn is the zoo. We love our local zoo (Brookfield, near Chicago) because in addition to being a guaranteed fun day for the kids, it’s known for its work on compassionate animal care and welfare, and its leadership in conservation efforts – things we feel are essential for our children to learn about and recognize. Our zoo also provides a huge variety of opportunities for free play for kids beyond just walking around and exploring the animal exhibits. There’s a park style playground, splash pad (it was too chilly on the day we went, but it’s normally so fun for the kids), family play zoo, petting zoo, trails to explore, hands-on statues and art, and more. Essley and Emmett both get so much exercise when they’re there, and get to participate in really organic, beneficial outdoor play while they’re learning. We get a membership every year for this very reason. And it’s always a great reminder that when kids get bored with their usual outdoor activities, there are always less ordinary ways to encourage them to be active outside – often that we can be enjoyed together as a family.
Our zoo adventures always end up taking up an entire day, so before we leave the house, I always throw a few CLIF Kid Zbars in my bag for the time between meals when my kids get hungry. Those of you who are regular readers know that we are long-time fans of these as a nutritious, super easy snack. And their new CLIF Kid Zbar Filled bars are our absolute favorites. Essley calls them “Surprise Bars” because she says “there’s a yummy surprise inside!” And she’s right – inside each soft-baked bar is a smooth, creamy nut butter filling. They’re filled with the stuff parents like for their little ones too – certified USDA organic and non-GMO ingredients that are nutritious and wholesome (like oats and nut butters). They’re also free from ingredients we’d rather do without, like high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors. And while they’re particularly wonderful for our zoo days because the kids can munch on them while they’re playing and exploring without having to take a break, they’re also the perfect grab and go snack to keep your little ones nourished and satisfied during pretty much any outdoor activity. We feel good about supporting the brand too, and appreciated CLIF Kid‘s dedication to always encouraging children to get outside and feed their adventures.
Regardless of whether or not you have a zoo close by, if your kids hit the same wall as mine this time of year with outside playtime, I highly recommend spending a day in an outdoor play place (or any outdoor area that allows for active fun) that is different than the everyday. Maybe explore a new bike trail or hiking spot in an area your children haven’t been before. Visit a big outdoor water park, arboretum, or botanical garden that has lots of trails. Sign up for a family race (running or walking). Head to a local outdoor family concert – and dance! Find a big park or playground you haven’t visited before, or even do a “playground day” and visit several in your area in one day. When you sit down and brainstorm, there are countless ways to encourage outdoor play through new-to-you places or activities. And I’m telling you guys, it makes a big difference during the end-of-summer outside play burnout.
How do you encourage outdoor play with your own kids/grandkids/nieces/nephews/friends who are little ones during those times of the year when they’re beginning to get bored? Have any of you visited your local zoo or animal sanctuary this summer?
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