Guest Post: Can We “Addict” Kids to Outdoor Play?

Hi esrkkfafre
Folks! Here’s another essay by David Bond, the British filmmaker working on Project Wild Thing, a documentary about trying to market nature. I think he’s really onto something with the idea of fighting fire with fire – or at least salesmanship with salesmanship.

Except nature doesn’t have a marketing budget. – L.

Me – The Barrier, by David Bond

When I ask my children why they would rather watch TV than go outside, they say television is more fun. But what is fun for a 3 and a 5-year-old? Their tastes are hugely influenced by mine. They emulate me, poor things. And I love screens. So when I complain about the barriers that stop them from playing in the big wide world, could it be that I am a big part of the problem?

Indoor activity has evolved quite a bit since cave painting. Bad entertainment ideas have died off, and through a natural selection process we have been left with the screen content that does its job best. But what job?

The TV shows that survive are those with a powerful hook. What brings in audiences is content that fires up the viewers’ emotions.

Agnes Nairn co-authored a UNICEF report that judges the UK a difficult place to bring up happy children. She says, “There is no evil marketer sitting in a boardroom, stroking a white cat and plotting how to monopolize children’s brains.” Rather, she says, the whole system incentivizes the production of addictive content.

Addictive content is the stuff that best triggers our hottest emotions – our so-called “fight or flight” reactions. The endorphins that we release in response are very addictive. In the wild, the release of such chemicals is usually followed by intense exercise (as we escape the lion). In front of the television, this state is maintained for hours on end with no accompanying exercise. It builds up. So when I turn off the television, my 3-year-old son reacts angrily. He is ready to punch me for denying him the fix.

If screens are drugs, should we go after the suppliers, or the users? Should we start a war on screens? No – because, like a war on drugs, it will not work. Content is available all too easily.

We would get further by dealing with the addicts like me. Spending hours on screens leads to more hours on screen. The stressed physical state means less energy for other activities. Going outside is tough work after TV.

Just 20 years ago, children played out a lot more: 40% would regularly play in natural places. Now only 10% do. That’s why I’m trying to “market” Nature. The sales of outdoor play to children have fallen off a cliff while sales of screen content has soared. Disney and Nintendo have eaten Nature’s breakfast. They are well on the way to winning the battle, and making outdoor play almost unheard of.

We have to do something to persuade ourselves and our children that there’s a world outside of screens that is rich, varied, stimulating, healthy and free. I’m doing a documentary about that idea (help Kickstart it here), but I’d appreciate any other suggestions on how to make nature every bit as attractive as the screen you’re staring at right now.

And so am I. – David

Trade up — to me!

35 Responses to Guest Post: Can We “Addict” Kids to Outdoor Play?

  1. Jenne December 4, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    Adults’ addiction to the screen is often a barrier for toddlers and preschoolers to access the outdoors. If the parent isn’t willing to come outside with a child too small to know how to be outside safely alone, they don’t get the outside time.

  2. Kelly December 4, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

    I think part of the key is not making television something special. Whenever parent’s try to limit something it always increases the value. (i.e. desert is special because parent’s make it so you only get it for doing something else or you only get a limited amount)

    What I plan on doing is just trying to have as many good physical activities as I can. Stock sidewalk chalk, buy a bicycle, make a playhouse, find tons of cardboard boxes, buy art supplies. Even providing a video camera to kids so they can make their own movies would help a ton. They can still use nature to augment their play but if the stuff they have revolves around being physical then it’s easier for them to decide to play with that.

  3. LRH December 4, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    It’s never been a problem here. My kids are the same age as the original poster’s, & play at home outdoors–alone (in a fenced-in area)–all the time. In fact they’ve done so since they were 2 & 4. They run about in the woods, enough I sometimes have to get them to take it easy because they want to just blast off at full speed without me. The 5 year-old has learned how to venture into the 8 foot section of the pool, without a lifejacket, largely on her own (with us close-by), & she’s proud of herself. The Nintendo Wii & Xbox don’t stand a chance around here.

    Android Tablet

  4. Janni Lee Simner December 4, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

    Girl Scouting played a huge role for me in coming to love the out-of-doors. For families that might not otherwise be very outdoor-oriented, Scouting and Guiding can make a difference.

  5. Amanda Matthews December 4, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

    Kids CAN become addicted to outside play. Those same endorphins would be released by much of outside play. So as long as outside is fun, kids will want to do it. Problem is most kids are not allowed to have fun outside anymore, and those that are have a hard time finding friends to do it with. I know from experience that if you only have your sibling to play with when you go outside, going outside becomes a chore of being forced to play with your sibling.

    And, you can’t force it. If mom is the one turning off the tv, the kid is just going to be angry that mom took it away. The kid has to be the one turning of the tv. Just like with any addiction, a person can’t quit until THEY want to quit.

    How can you do this? First of all get rid of cable and antennas. The amount of tv my kids WANT to watch went down greatly after we got rid of them, and the quality of what they do watch has gone up. We use the internet (namely and netflix) to watch all our “tv” now. With no commercials, no channel flipping, etc. you actually have to seek out content rather than it being shoveled onto you. Also there is the fact that if they go out and play, what they DO want to watch will still be there later, when they can’t be outside for whatever reason. They no longer HAVE to “stay tuned” because x show is coming on at x time and they’ll have to wait until tomorrow or next week to see it again, or who knows when to catch an episode they missed.

    Then use the screens to your advantage. Use the internet to find like-minded people that want their kids playing outside. Organize or find get-togethers, where the kids get together and play outside. During the nice-weather months a group I know gets kids together at a different park in the area every Friday. THAT sort of thing is special to them, while the tv is always there. Once they see there is a limited amount of time per day that they can play outside but the tv is pretty much unlimited, their priorities change.

    And lastly, model better behavior! As you said yourself they emulate you. You can’t tell the kids to go outside and play instead of staring at a screen and then stare at a screen while they play outside. Start finding hobbies away from screens. If YOU can’t manage to make outside as addictive as screens, if YOU can’t have fun without them, you can’t expect your kids to do so either.

  6. Yan Seiner December 4, 2012 at 5:17 pm #

    1. Get rid of the TV altogether.
    2. Get out there with your kids and DO STUFF. don’t just sit on your butt pushing your kids into outdoor activity, get out there with them and play.

    Problem solved.

  7. mollie December 4, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

    I’m with Yan, here. Just don’t have a TV. All the shows you want to watch are available for download, should you ever decide to watch them. Broadcast, and its ever-present bombardment with commercial messages, is totally optional.

    At our house, we have a projector and a DVD player. It’s enough. We watch movies as a family once in a while, but it’s not at all a “time filler” around here.

    So the kids play with each other a lot more, and sometimes fight more (which is a form of play for kids, actually, even though adults hate it), and go outside.

    So. TV? I got to say. Handhelds? Another story. I feel sick about this culturally accepted handing over of devices to kids, and because my husband and I have our kids only half the time, in the other households, they’ve all been given handhelds, and it sucks.


  8. Heike December 4, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

    I think being a good role model is key, exactly as David describes: if you want your children to be active outdoors, make time to go outdoors with them. Make it a habit – plan for it – make it an event they look forward to.

    My children are preschoolers, and, yes, they get to play in our yard while I work inside the house. But in addition, I have two mid-week dates with them: twice a week, I leave work early and pick them up at preschool early. Each of these afternoons, we go on a new outdoor adventure: to a new park, a new playground, visiting new sites (recently, we went to the local port and observed container ships getting loaded!) Some of these excursions become regular favorites, some are flops – but I know they look forward to this special time with mom, out in the world, discovering new things. They’d never trade that off for TV time, ever – and neither would I. These two hours twice each week are ours; they are times we make memories together; they are how I am selling my children on being outdoors and exploring the world.

    Try it – it’s so much fun!

  9. Lollipoplover December 4, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

    Adopt a dog! (Or two, like we did.)
    Kids take turns walking dogs and it requires outdoor time in all weather.

    We’ve always been outdoorsy, so going for hikes, bike rides, and other adventures is just part of our lifestyle. Now our kids ride bikes to school and prefer playing freely with friends on the block after school. The newest favorite activity- stilt walking (on antique wooden stilts).

    When they were preschoolers, my kids spent endless hours in the yard by themselves. We garden all year long so they love to see what’s growing, and the sandbox was a favorite spot. You just have to make it an outdoor playroom.

  10. kristin December 4, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

    The sad thing is, my 4 year old likes to play outside, and is allowed to, but no one is there. He doesn’t want to be out there alone. Could that be part of the lack of appeal??

  11. Donna December 4, 2012 at 9:28 pm #

    I agree Kristin. My 7 year old likes outside but rarely has anyone to play with. For my outgoing kid, watching tv is much more fun than playing alone outside any day.

  12. Lazy Couch Potato December 4, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

    I hate sports. Hitting or kicking a ball is just stupid. I wish I could get excited about sports. I don’t “get” sports because I never did sports as a kid.

    I am no activity rolemodel for my children, but I take my boys to various organised sports training on Mon, Tues, Wed and Fri.

    I believe you have to be introduced to activity as a child, otherwise, like me, you will probably never be interested later in life.

  13. Yan Seiner December 4, 2012 at 9:50 pm #

    @Lazy Couch Potato:

    Maybe you hate team sports. I do. I don’t actually do sports. I do things I enjoy – I like being away from people, and seeing nature. So I hike. To hike, I need to be in shape. To be in shape I need to exercise.

    I also like to eat. A lot. And I gain weight. But it’s hard to hike with a spare tire around your gut. So I exercise. A lot, so I can eat what I want.

    I’ve met a lot of people who never exercised as kids, who were discouraged even. That doesn’t mean anything. Find something you like, and do it.

    Get a dog and walk him. Then get a working dog, and train him in agility. Oh, and to keep the dog in shape he needs 2 hours of exercise a day.

  14. Emily December 4, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

    @Lazy Couch Potato–I agree; I hate traditional team sports as well, but I do like yoga, walking/jogging, swimming, skiing, exercising to fitness DVD’s at home, working out at the gym, and when I was living in Australia, I took up body boarding, and loved it. So, I guess you can say that I’m active, but not competitive. The thing is, I didn’t know that I liked being active until I started seeking out these “individual” activities myself, because until that point, my experience of physical activity was almost all from public school gym classes, which were “all team sports, all the time.” I thought that, since I disliked team sports, I disliked exercise, but I was wrong. So, maybe you just haven’t found your “thing” yet.

  15. Violet December 4, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    One more for encouraging you, Lazy Couch! I hate sports and I am not coordinated and I smoked for 25 years. I REALLY hated PE but now I considered myself an advocate for PE and recess in the schools because there is too much testing and I saw how important it is for my son to play even during school. A couple nights a week, my son puts on his roller blades and skates around me as I walk around the neighborhood. Two times a week, I take my kid to the gym where I get on the bike and watch TV with the subtitles and listen to music while my kid plays raquetball. Works for us.

  16. Violet December 4, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    Oh! And during those walks is when I hear about girlfriends or hopes and fears. We talk about everything under the sun because there is no distraction.

  17. Donald December 4, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

    I’m not sure what the answer is but getting the word out is definitely a step in the right direction. Therefore I urge you to support the project that the author of this post is working on.

    Kids go outside but find no one to play with. It’s hard to get your kids outside when many of their friends are allowed to vegetate as often as they want in front of the TV!

    “Why do I have to go outside? My friends get to watch as much TV as they want. Why are you so mean? Why can’t you be a nice mommy like Timmy’s?”

    However problems are overshadowed by the bigger problem. TV and games are addicting!

    I’ll release an article that I wrote. It will probably be sent as a couple of posts

  18. Donald December 4, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

    The addictive TV and video games

    There are many claims about how damaging television and video games are to society. Few believe the impact of these claims because they sound so sinister. The magnitude of these claims would require thousands of the top people in the industry. They’d have to conspire together so that they can destroy the world through entertainment! It’s just too bizarre! That can’t happen!

    I’m here to agree on that. It didn’t happen. Movies and games have evolved into what they are today. The reason behind giraffes having long necks is because of food scarcity, competition and the fact that giraffes with shorter necks were disadvantaged. The same is true about crocodiles. The crocodiles with the stronger jaws and sharper teeth had an advantage over the crocs that weren’t as deadly. In the same way the TV shows that survive are the ones that are best at stirring up emotion.

    We have all heard stories of how cutthroat the entertainment business is. The shows and games that survive are the ones that are best at bringing in viewers. When looked at it from that angle, the damaging claims don’t sound so sinister. It didn’t require a conspiracy of mad scientists that make Al Queda look tame!

    We are all made up of chemicals. Many of which are triggered by emotion. We’ve all heard of fight or flight stress. That’s one of the stressors that game and movie producers are targeting!

    Just like the evolution of the crocodile and survival of the fittest, the games &shows that have survived just happens to be the most detrimental to your physical and mental health!

    Now for the claims.

    The brain releases chemicals called beta endorphins in order to respond to fight or flight stress. These chemicals are 18-45% is addicting as morphine! Remember back to an intensively stressful situation you experienced. Remember how powerful the tidal wave of emotions? Although games and movies can’t recreate the same intensity, they are trying their best. (and getting better at it) That’s why it’s only 18-45% and not 500%.

    The body was designed to handle an intense amount of stress for short periods of time and then recuperate. However, people spend 4.5 hours per day playing games or watching movies! Meanwhile, the tv and games that survive are the ones that keep you in fight or flight stress the longest! Just think about the havoc that plays on your ability to sleep!

    This problem perpetuates because the less you sleep, the less energy you have for other activities. They’re too much work. I’ll do less of them and more television and games. They’re not as much work. Besides, (without realizing it) I have a chemical addiction that drives me to do more of this anyway!

  19. Donald December 4, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

    When we become stressed, the brain broadcasts to the body ‘BATTLE STATIONS’!

    The heart and lungs jump into action for maximum performance. The Blood leaving the heart find the arteries constricted to increase blood pressure while the veins open out to ease blood returning to the heart.

    The increased breathing rate work with the increased amount of blood around the lungs to supply oxygen to the muscles for maximum performance.

    Blood vessels to the skin constrict to reduce the potential blood lose.

    Quality Control for new cells shuts down increasing the likelihood of cancer.

    As we get ready to fight or run, digestion temporarily shuts down. This energy is rerouted for best battle performance.

    While the human body was designed to withstand fight or flight mode, it’s also required to recuperate from this.

    The body is a bank of energy. The more stress that we are under, the bigger withdraw we make on our energy stores. The non essential systems (for battle) such as digestion, is how we top up our account. Stress also hinders the brains capability of achieving the delta waves. These waves are required for deep sleep.

    To make a long story short, stress makes us withdraw while digestion and sleep is how we deposit and ‘save up’ for future withdraws.

    In a financial sense, trouble comes in by withdrawing more than depositing. Some people don’t understand this or lose their ability to top up their bank account. They in turn spend their lives struggling financially.

    In the same way, people can lose their ability to restore their energy bank. Insomnia is a worldwide epidemic. Digestion is another problem.

    As chronic fatigue sets in couch surfing becomes even more desirable.

  20. Donald December 4, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

    This is part of another article that I wrote. Ignore the George and Lenny names. Please see the picture:

    The pic is an MRI scan of the brain. The areas that are orange are brain activity.

    Rational thought is made in the frontal lobe. Reactive thought is done in the back of the brain

    The Pacman game shows two situations where stress is at different levels.
    First, let’s look at the picture on the left. The further away the Pacman is from the phantom, the more the brain is able to think in the frontal lobe. Rational thought can be utilized.

    The picture on the right shows a different situation. The phantom is now close to the Pacman. The stress levels rises because of the added level of danger. The hind brain now overrides input from the frontal lobe. The only input used to determine the game players ability to play the game is reactive thinking! The player actually starts to lose control of their ability to think rationally! The hind brain is hardwired to override rational thinking.

  21. Webb December 5, 2012 at 12:05 am #

    I am starting to believe that an effort to use some of the effective fear-mongering from the safety folks is warranted. I see two kinds of play – social games and adventure – something that involes discovery and maybe adrenaline (note also social but the interaction is a backdrop – maybe I am projecting my childhood too much here). The former can have some structure (though I think it diminishes it) however the latter seems close to impossible with parental involvement. Here is the pitch: if you take no risks, and you do not allow your child to develop then you are a poor parent/bad person/buy this book and your child will likely be less capable as they grow up. There has to be a stat out there showing helicoptered children have poorer outcomes than ones with more interesting childhoods right? Oh and TV is evil 🙂

  22. Reader December 5, 2012 at 6:16 am #

    I think trampolines are great! On a related note, I don’t think springfree trampolines are a bad development. Traditionally, you had to have a trampoline on grass, with such-and-such an amount of unencumbered space around it — for ACTUAL safety reasons, as unless you want kids jumping with helmets it’s pretty dangerous for them to fall onto concrete or into a wall from 2+ metres up. But having a net around it opens up the possibility of trampolines to more families with smaller gardens, no grass, and even some apartment dwellers.

    I also wish more parks had those “jumping pillow” things, though I know they’re high maintenance (and vulnerable to vandals) and hence not necessarily a good fit for public parks.

  23. Cass December 5, 2012 at 6:45 am #

    I have a 3 yo who lives outside. She comes in for food and cuddles and then goes out again. 

    Yesterday she said to me “is the TV working?” (We had had a power outage), wen I told her it was working her follow up question was “can I go outside” a predictable question and she got a predictable answer… Yes. 

    My personal thoughts on why my kids love being outside and don’t care much for inside. 

    Outside is better. 
    We have fruits trees and underneath them is dirt and holes and it is okay to make more holes. When we designed our backyard I refused to let my husband grow grass there… “kids need dirt” was my argument. 

    We have chooks and they free-range aroun our yard. So my kids go play with them. My daughter is more often then not playing inside the chook pen.  I have no idea what she does in there but she spends hours in there every day. 

    We don’t have many toys in our yard. My husband made a little swing for them and they have a three-wheel bicycle that seats two kids, and there are some balls and hockey sticks. 

    But they play. The picnic table became an oven yesterday when a potty filled with dirt needed an oven. We knew this because she was worried the youngest might touch it and get burnt. She found a long garden stake one day.. A green plastic thing. She declared it a kangaroo, it has been a kangaroo ever since… It has no definable features other then being a long skinny green plastic pole, but she sees a kangaroo. 

    We have a vege garden that she visits, we designed it to be a place to play and hide. We have a quite a few strawberry beds which she loves to help herself to. 

    When we thought about the layout of our yard I felt that it was importsnt to ensure everything had dual fuctionality so that the yard would be full of interesting play spaces rather than a defined ‘kid area’. So on our 1/4 acre block we have the grass area (great for running and playing), the fruit trees (a shady area of dirt and leaves and branches good for digging), the garden (more dirt and foliage and hiding spots and a small cage of baby chickens), the front yard (good for eating ice blocks in the afternoon), the driveway (cement for riding bikes and chatting with the neighbours dog), the BBQ area (another shady area with stuff to climb on), the chook pen (eggs to collect, chooks to feed, roosts to climb on). 

    I don’t organise activities for my kids, I just open the door everyday and let them go. They are filthy at the end of the day, and they smell bad. But I never let that put me off, because I know if I keep that door closed then the wont get addicted to the outdoors. (a bit like their lack of addiction to TV is related to it rarely being turned on). 

    One of the hard things is lack of control over the environment. Inside is clean and safe. Outside is not. Inside has a bag of child-safe Duplo laying all over the floor. But outside there is chook poo dotted around the grass, my 1yo loves to eat it despite our efforts to keep her away from it. There are varying sizes of oranges dropped under the fruit trees, small enough for the 1yo to choke on, we pick them up but then she finds a bowl full of them that the 3yo collected to play with. There are sharp objects and unsteady surfaces and gates and all sorts of things that I may have overlooked. It is a bit worrying sometimes, but I just do my best to keep the place safe without hindering my kids. 

  24. SAM December 5, 2012 at 9:00 am #

    Smartest move I’ve made so far as a parent–nixing everything but basic (so only 27 channels) cable. That means no Nickelodeon, no Disney but also no HGTV for me and no ESPN for my husband. We’re all the better for it!

  25. Hels December 5, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    The best things for outdoor play are friends, animals and/or living in a walk-friendly and free-range city.

    Friends are the best thing because you really don’t need much more than that – we would sometimes simply race each other down the street ten times in a row… Even in an entirely unexciting place like a residential area we would sometimes just walk around for hours, talking about whatever or going to the local market to check out the wares. Not that we had money to buy anything (maybe an ice cream or a small pie) but it was still fun to look – and it gave us something new to talk about and also a destination. Even walking around just for the fun of walking is more fun when you have a specific destination – even if the only thing you do when you reach it is turn straight around and go back.

  26. Captain America December 5, 2012 at 11:26 am #

    I had a very bad “coach was a jerk” sports experience that turned me off sports at a pretty young age (which, in retrospect was a shame). I still lettered in high school and college, and still continue playing— in a different sport.

    Mr. Bond needs, seriously, a copy of the Boy Scout Fieldbook (not the handbook, the fieldbook) which is a major compilation of outdoor stuff. It’s Number One in the Outdoors Toolkit.

    I love the outdoors; introduced to it by a sportman grandfather and continued this in scouting.

  27. Jespren December 5, 2012 at 11:51 am #

    Unfortunately it’s not just the draw of t.v., but rather the lack of nature. To my great disapointment we live in a city apartment. There is no lawn, no fenced yards, no playgrounds within easy walking distance. This means my kids spend way too much inside. Not because I’m addicted to tv, not because I want them to be, not because I want them to avoid the outside because of some foolish safety nonsense, but because there just isn’t a reasonable alternative. Urban ‘sprawl’ with too many buildings shoved too close together is, to me, the real reason behind the lack of outdoor play.

  28. Mike Lanza December 5, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

    It all starts with kid’s experience playing independently in their neighborhood, in my opinion. If parents can somehow make this happen on a regular basis, kids will become addicted to being outside. That’s what my blog & book “Playborhood” is all about.

  29. JP December 5, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    The screen (of any size) is ubiquitous. As a useful tool it can be helpful – or a tyrant. We choose which.
    When my son was growing up, he was a bit of an experiment. He was allowed to be completely self-regulating (about 99% of the time) in his tv-watching habits. Why was it he watched so little? His viewing habits pretty much matched mine. At his mom’s, on the other hand, he watched quite a bit more. His viewing habits matched hers. Small children (and not so small) are mirrors. They can reflect back what goes on around them.

    As to nature versus the screen? If nature is fun, it will attract a kid like bears to honey. If it isn’t fun (well then, it’s a drag, isn’t it?)
    So we knock ourselves out trying to figure out how to make the natural world fun (and safe…that’s the big one.)
    And in the process, nature flips. A sad disgrace.

    Nature used to be the biggest, baddest, boldest siren of them all. “Psst! Hey kid! Yoo-hoo….I’m over here. Look at me. Ain’t I a smash? Here’s my number. For a good time, give me a call.” And so on.
    Once the formal introduction has been made…….kids don’t really want to be supervised through the exercise. That’s a drag, too.

    I always followed my gut instincts. But a little trick my mother’s philosophy in life taught me, was something rather precious. It went something like this.
    “You’re the captain of your own ship. I can’t pilot it for you. What I can do, is be a lighthouse. In clear weather, not needed so much. But in a storm, look for the light. Shining, guiding – past the rocks and into safe harbor.”

    Nothing on a screen can ever come close to the reality of the natural world, nor should it. Swaying in the breeeze up in a treetop, eyes closed, all motion and senses tingled, powder snow, righteous rain, the turn of seasons, dust devils, hopscotch chalk, the glorious efforts, muscles straining – and everywhere the magic that only a child can invent. Imagination run rampant.
    Dirt under the fingernails and a sacred bruise, earned in noble pursuit.

    The addiction – can (and should!) be an automatic given. For that’s a natural consequence, too.
    When it isn’t? Our un-naturally busy industry has pre-empted the programming.
    A dog spends his entire life straining at a leash. What is it he dreams of? Nothing more than a free run.
    We forget how truly glorious that is, and intead, count the hazards.

  30. Jenny Islander December 5, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

    I think that getting the outdoors back into child culture begins with–well, we all know that it begins with combating paranoia about evil lurking behind/in/on every tree.

    After that, IMO, the next step is resurrecting some of the old kid-invented outdoor games. Kick the Can is my candidate for active games, because adults can be gulled into buying a flashy-colored “can” that produces some satisfyingly technological sounding electronic howl when kicked. Advertise it heavily as an outdoor, definitely outdoor, ain’t you outdoors yet?, game. It can be played anywhere outdoors where there are enough hiding spots.

    For kids who don’t want to run around in groups, resurrect jacks or marbles. They are an existing minority taste already, but pump them up as an outdoor outdoor OUTDOOR game. Make the pieces ***extra sparkly*** to glitter in the sunlight.

    And turn off everything that talks!

  31. Reader December 5, 2012 at 10:59 pm #

    On a related note, I love this video:

    Kind of a combination of screens and outdoors, and some very smart kids with loooooooooooong attention spans.

  32. Jonathan December 6, 2012 at 2:10 am #

    Another voice to Yan and Mollie’s – get rid of the TV! We decided to get rid of the TV for *ourselves* before we had kids.

    Now we have four kids, and they love playing outdoors, which is great … as long as they keep the outdoors out (No, you can’t paint with the mud inside …) 😛 !

    They don’t miss TV, and are always requesting you to read a book to them in the evening.

  33. D December 9, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    Look up Amy Chua/tiger mom. Maybe then it willake sense why some kids are always indoors but never watch tv


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