Not playing out

My kids grew up in a cul-de-sac. My daughter was born when we were living there, and the boys were 3 and 1 when we moved in. From a very early age, they liked nothing better than to play out in the road – football, bikes, scooters, water fights and bubbles or just running up and down. There was a tree to climb which they could sit in for hours, just chatting.

But we don’t live in the cul-de-sac any more and my kids don’t play out any more. We have a lovely, big garden but somehow the kids don’t want to play out there. They’re all active kids, with their football, rugby, dance lessons and their ability to walk a really long way, so I don’t know why they don’t want to go outside any more.

There are a few factors, and I’m not sure if it’s one of them or several of them put together:

  • They think they’re too old for playing outside (unlikely, but possible)
  • The XBox is taking up too much of their time (likely)
  • Their friends don’t live there any more (likely)
  • We’re not in the cul-de-sac any more (likely)

Our friends lived two doors down (we even moved into their house temporarily after they’d left!) and their kids were often outside. As soon as our kids saw them, they would sprint outside too. Yes, sometimes they would go inside to play computer games, but a lot of the time they would be outside. Without seeing them outside, my kids don’t have the same compulsion to play out.

Strangely, my younger son’s best friend lives next door. But the wall between our houses is very high, he goes to a different school and his house is actually on a different road, so my son doesn’t play with him that much. If he could see him playing out from the window, I know he’d be out there like a shot. And his brother and sister wouldn’t be far behind him.

I know my kids liked the freedom and safety of playing in a cul-de-sac. What they seem to forget, because they can’t actually see it, is that the cul-de-sac is just round the corner! If they would still like to play there, they can. But it seems like it’s out of sight, out of mind. And in the meantime the summer holidays are just around the corner and my kids are spending too much time indoors.

Any tips for getting some big kids motivated to play outside again?

Author: Sarah Mummy

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13 Comments

  1. I remember going through a phase where I thought playing out was for kids (and I was old and too cool for it). The weather is fantastic right now so it’s the best time to start going out to play more isn’t it? Maybe they need a push back to the cul de sac?

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    • It really is the best time. The garden is lovely and the cup-de-sac is just round the corner. They need a shove out of the door!

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  2. I wonder whether you’d be able to initiate some sort of outside interest like looking at insects through a magnifying glass, collecting leaves for leaf rubbings or bird watching or something?

    The other idea I had was to give each of them a patch – a small area of the garden that they can do what they like with such as growing flowers, fruit or vegetables. I was never really an outdoor kid, but I did like checking up on how my patch was doing!

    Good luck – hope you find something that works!

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    • I like the idea of the patch of garden. We’ve got lots of space in our garden 🙂 Thanks very much for taking the time to comment!

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  3. We’re in a cul-de-sac full of kids, but not one of them plays in the street. I do think a lot of it is down to parental preoccupation with safety.
    That said, I’ve noticed the same with mine, and I’ve started pinning open the back door when we get home from school whatever the weather. The Bug is always keen to kick a ball, but GG is more of a sit on her bed and read kind of girl. I’ve noticed though, that whenever she sees a swing, we can’t get her off. I’m putting one on her birthday list.
    Let me know if you get to the botttom of it and find a solution x

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    • I will do! I leave the door open too, great minds, eh? We had a badminton net up, which pulled them out there a bit, but then we took it down to cut the grass and didn’t put it back up!
      I can’t believe kids don’t play out in your cup-de-sac. We didn’t have any other kids in ours once our friends had left – it was full of very old people! x

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  4. We live on a culdesac and our children have had phases of playing inand out. Like you, we got worried but then gradually they started playing out again. I think the novelty of being out is good at the start and then they get bored. There isn’t much to do really so I don’t blame them and I wouldn’t want them getting bored and being a nuisance (like I used to! Cherry knocking! Blush!) We always keep their bikes handy so they go out on those. The other thing is they also go out more when they are on an iPad Wii ban!

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    • It’s amazing what an electronic equipment ban does for them! We used to do cherry knocking too – and prank phone calls! Didn’t think it was wrong at all at the time! Our bikes are wedged really badly in a shed – not good!

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  5. I think there is something special about cul de sacs. My old house was on a private road of about 20 houses, at least half of which had kids, and they were just one big gang who roamed around, I haven’t had that at any house before or since – I think it’s the feeling of privacy because nobody really goes there unless they live there! Luckily your kids get their fresh air and exercise in other ways – I have had to instill a rule in the holidays – we have to go out somewhere for a couple of hours each day, and then Max can plug into computers if he wants – I just hope we have a garden soon, as I know Syd would love it, even if Max probably won’t care quite as much as I would like him to!

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    • I always drag the kids out for a walk in the holidays too! At least I know they’ve had some fresh air and exercise then. We used to play in my friend’s cup-de-sac as kids. It was brilliant – there was about eight or 10 kids of different ages playing together. Those were the days!

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  6. Cul de sacs and squares are just amazing for kids – and mine had both when they were small. But things change as they get older. my eldest was allowed to walk to her friend’s houses once she was 9 or 10. I definitely believe that encouraging them to find a sport they really love is the key – it certainly worked for my gymnast daughter: it helped to keep her out of trouble as a teenager and now she is earning good money as a coach too!

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    • Luckily all my kids have a sport they love (two for my younger son) and I agree they are brilliant. It’s good to hear your daughter is making money from it now 🙂

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  7. It is really tricky isn’t it, you can’t chuck them out and make them play outside but it is frustrating when they want to stay in all of the time. We are lucky that there is a lot of safe car free space by us and the boys can wander a little and stay away from the roads. They do go out sometimes and play on their scooters but they are also happy in the garden. I dread the time when they start wandering a bit further afield as I quite like knowing where they are all of the time

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