Ways To Get Preschoolers To Put Down Their Phones And Go Outdoors

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You don't need to track your screen time to know that your screen use soared last year. This is understandable, given the current situation. Now you have a great incentive to put down your phone and turn off your laptop: the weather! Going for a walk, exercising, or just sitting in a park can do wonders for your emotional and mental health.

The same applies to teenagers and teenagers. Their screen time has increased due to online learning, which unfortunately will drain their brains. "Studies have linked excessive screen time use to higher levels of anxiety and depression," says Chea Weltchek, a licensed clinical mental health counselor at LCPC in PMH, N.C., who specializes in parenting, child and adolescent behavior. On the other hand, nature has also been shown to improve mood and cognitive performance.

If your child's phone seems stuck to their hand, don't worry. Think about turning something on instead of turning it off, says Michael Rich, M.D., founder and director of the Digital Health Lab at Children's Hospital Boston. "Change is very hard; It's better to replace their behavior with something they enjoy doing. Once they start exercising, they usually stick with it because it makes them feel better physically and mentally, "he explained.

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Try the following to get your child wanting to go outside.

1.Give them a choice. "Buy toys or equipment that your child would be interested in using outdoors," Laurentine advises. She's a certified parenting coach and founder of Simple Well Balanced, a website that offers advice on parenting, housework and children's activities. Consider: bicycles, motorcycles, pogo sticks, trampolines, slacks, basketball racks or dogs. "All of these programs also give kids the opportunity to learn new skills and get better at it," Tingley added.

2.Start a project they can help with. 'Choose something they can use or own,' Tingley says. Also, depending on your child's interests, maybe you can build a chicken coop, start a vegetable or garden, or make a bird feeder. (A quick online search will bring up a lot of ideas.) "The trick here is to get them to make some big decisions and take on projects," Mr. Tingley said. "Our daughter prefers to stay indoors, but she is also happy to exercise outside because she knows she will enjoy it in the future."

3.Recruit other parents. Parents of your child's friends may be concerned about their child's screen time. Gail Dubnov-Raz, M.D., director of the Exercise, Nutrition and Lifestyle Clinic at Edmond and Lily Zafra Children's Hospital and director of sports and Sports Medicine Services at Sheba Medical Center, suggests bringing them together to brainstorm exciting group activities for your kids. Then ask them to play together.

4.Invite them to join you. The key here is "invite" -- don't force them to do it. But feel free to mention that you're going on a picnic, hiking, jogging, or trying kayaking, or whatever, and ask if they'd like to come along. They might say yes.

5.Giving up benefits at will. MomInformed parenting blogger Girl Pester Anderson suggests, when appropriate, talking about the problems that sunlight, fresh air and exercise can help. "When my son was struggling with acne, I said, 'Hey, you know the sun is good for your skin. Maybe we could take a walk together after school. He didn't accept the idea at first, but after a few weeks of thinking about it and doing his own research, he finally agreed. I noticed he was spending more time outside with his friends."

6.Start the challenge. Start walking, biking, running or hiking with other parents and children. Then choose a joint effort, such as a 5k or challenging trail. Anne Bryan, chief executive of Circle, a screen time management device, said: "If kids are with someone other than their peers or the normal family members they often see, it makes things interesting, more motivated and provides some expectation."

7.The connection. "Children and adults sometimes have no insight into their feelings," Mr. Welchik said. "Recognizing that it feels good to be outside helps connect with that feeling and helps them engage more in outdoor activities in the future."
But don't pounce on the child as soon as you enter. Instead, maybe over dinner, you can casually mention how a work project is stressing you out -- but after you've taken a short walk, you'll feel less frustrated and get the job done with ease. Then you can ask if your child has noticed anything similar after being out for a while.

8.Set Example. "Parents have to model the behavior they want to see in their children," Rich said. If you're constantly on your phone, you can't expect your kids to limit their screen time. Improve your behavior and "do something that lets your child know there are alternatives to sitting in front of a screen," Anderson says.

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