4 Complaints About Outside Play (and How To Get Around Them)

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TOMS vs the mud. Mud wins.

After publishing the last Idle Parent post (“We play in the fields and the forest”), I heard from a few readers that being outside just isn’t their thing.  It struck a chord with Lisa and I, mainly because we’ve both heard similar comments many times before.

If you’re not a fan of outdoor activities with your kids, you’re not alone.  And believe me, we get it.  Neither Lisa or I grew up with outdoorsy parents.  I’ve never been camping in my life.  Lisa’s never started her own fire (at least, not on purpose … that I know of).  We are not outdoor gurus.  But we do recognize that our kids need to spend time outdoors.  Over time we’ve come up with our own ways of getting our reluctant, indoor booties out the door.  They’ve helped us spend more time outside with our kids, and – miracle of miracles – helped us find activities we actually look forward to.

Here are 4 common complaints about outside play and how to get around them … and start enjoying yourself instead!

It’s messy.

The number one complaint we hear about the outside activities with kids is that they’re messy.  Creek stomping, mud puddles, hiking, sandboxes … you name it.  The things kids love the most involve an element of messiness.  While there’s no way around it, a little preparation will make the messes easier to deal with.  Keep a change of clothes, some old shoes and a towel or two in the back of your car.  When messy play beckons, no matter where you are, you can let the kids play with reckless abandon without worrying they’ll muck up the inside of the car or ruin those new shoes.  This would’ve been excellent advice for me to follow after this particular outing.


You can also get kids in the habit of getting out of their messy clothes in a designated area of your home.  In my house they knew they had to do it just inside the back door on the mat.  Snow, mud, wet, or sand, it doesn’t matter.  It’s still a mess but it’s a contained mess.  Mudrooms and garages work just as well.

I don’t enjoy ___________ (insert common outdoor activity here).

I can’t stand outdoor games.  Lisa’s not a fan of nature walks.  Let’s face it, not everything will be your cup of tea outside.  Don’t give up!  Try a variety of things until you find the perfect one – the one both you and your kids enjoy.  Lisa’s friend swore she hated being outside until Lisa introduced her to kayaking.  Walks in the woods often ended in whiny kids, until we discovered how much we love geocaching.  Pinterest is a great source for ideas, as well as a book I reviewed earlier, 15 Minutes Outside.

It’s boring outside.

So maybe your kids love the local playground, but you’re hot, bothered and bored.  Our natural instinct is to either come up with excuses to stay inside or to pass the time on our smartphones, neither of which sets a great example.  Enjoy the few blessed moments of freedom from entertaining the kids and bring your own fun.  Arrange to meet a friend, bring your knitting or a book.  It will do the kids good to entertain themselves and it will do you good to disengage from technology for a bit.

Katydid6 meets IRL Katydid

I’m afraid of ___________ (insert yucky outdoor things here).

Bugs, snakes, poison ivy, strange sounds, rodents, getting burnt … all valid things to want to avoid at all costs.  But how can we expect our kids to conquer the world if we can’t conquer our fear of daddy longlegs?  I’m known for getting horrendous poison ivy rashes, so being in the woods makes me nervous.  Instead of avoiding nature, I’ve taken the time to educate myself on what poison ivy looks like.  I also learned ways to minimize my exposure after I’ve been outside by changing clothes immediately and washing my hands.  Afraid of bugs or snakes?  Spend some time going through an identification guide with your kids so you know what’s out there (the truth will set you free, right?!).  Or just make it a point to choose activities that ensure you won’t encounter whatever it is that gives you the heebie jeebies.

We hope these tips will get you started.  Just remember – it’s all about baby steps.  No one expects you to go from a recluse to an avid camper.  Start small and see where you end up.

Have you found ways around the obstacles that keep you inside?  Share them with us!




  1. I do like nature walks. I don’t like to carry a small body who is perfectly capable of walking while I hike. I have never started a fire anywhere but the fireplace but as they say, “the day ain’t over yet.”

  2. This is embarrassing because I live in Los Angeles BUT my biggest obstacle to getting outside is weather. I feel cold just about all the time (yes, even when it’s 60 degrees out). I’ve finally stopped denying it & wear more layers & better quality outdoor clothes. Thank God my kids don’t share my problem! 🙂

  3. I love your website and the whole Risky Kids idea. A small quibble that is actually risky to bring up, I guess – “Lisa and I.”

    “Lisa and I went to the store” – Good. “It struck a chord with Lisa and I” – Not so good. Yes, there’re the rules about subjective case (I) and objective case (me) that apply here. More practically, it’s the sound. “I went to the store” sounds fine – it’s the way we talk. “It struck a chord with me” sounds fine too – “It struck a chord with I” – not so much.

    Lots of this going around, particularly it seems among folks of our kids’ generation – “30 somethings” – and younger. Something about the elegant sound of “… and I”? For the sake of risky kids’ everywhere, I hate to see the “…and me” option get lost. “Playing in the mud was fun for Lisa and me” just sounds better than the “elegant” option.

  4. I LOVE to be outside, but sometimes I feel I’m swimming upstream living in the Rocky Mountain West among “competitive recreators” . It’s not enough to go for a bike ride; it has to be mountain biking or training for some mega-ride. Not enough to go for a walk, has to be a run or a hike. Not enough to play in the snow, has to be skiing. I love to be outside and I can get down with just strolling around, watching my 5-year-old-son muck about.

    • “Competitive recreators.” Now there’s a term I’ve never heard, but I love it and I can picture them perfectly! Rebel, I say, and be a good-enough recreator! It sounds like way more fun. Love your blog, by the way!


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