5 Ways to Get Your Gamer Outside This Summer
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5 Ways to Get Your Gamer Outside This Summer

What if you could get kids off video games and into the outdoors by using ideas inspired by the games they love?

What if you could get kids off video games and into the outdoors by using ideas inspired by the games they love?

What if you could get kids off video games and into the outdoors by using ideas inspired by the games they love?

Last summer, many kids logged more hours on their devices than ever before. The country was in the peak of a pandemic, families were quarantined and options were limited. According to Statista, daily time spent by kids on digital devices skyrocketed by 500% during the COVID-19 outbreak.

This surge has been referred to as “The Covid Effect.” And it’s concerning. There’s a growing body of research that affirms a link between a kid’s digital media use and depression, anxiety and fear. There’s also the physical impact of simply not balancing and diversifying a kid’s activities. Sedentary lifestyles lead to childhood obesity. This has been well-documented. But there’s also evidence that excessive, persistent screen time can negatively affect a kid’’s eye health and brain development.

For these reasons, many parents want this summer to be different, more active for their kids, more diverse. How do we find a balance for our kids, and shake the temptation to fall into the same, unhealthy patterns we grew accustomed to when choices were limited? Circle’s Pause the Internet® feature can help—make the Internet stop for everybody in the family (or just one). When this pause happens, kids tend to resurface. Sometimes their first words after reintroduction are, “I’m bored.”

Well, we have some fixes for that. Ironically, video games may be the remedy. The fictional worlds of video games and the stories they tell inspire. So let’s use that inspiration to get your gamer outside this summer.

Here are five ideas to reintroduce your kids to the outdoors, inspired by their own favorite video games.

1. Minecraft can inspire hands-on building

Minecraft is one of the most played video games of all time, and it currently ranks No. 1 on Ranker.com’s list of most popular video games. Since there’s a great chance your kids are fans of Minecraft, given the game’s usage numbers, let’s build. Except, we’re not building virtually. We’re building IRL.

Say your son or daughter has a room dedicated to gaming or maybe there’s a corner of the bedroom dedicated to their gaming console and flat screen TV. Add flair to the space that’ll impress their friends by building a life-size Steve, the male character featured in Minecraft. How to build out the body can be a creative, brainstorming exercise for your kids. Let them determine the materials they can use, based on what your family has access to. You can find ideas on how to build Steve’s head here, here and here. Or, if you want to make something a little more durable and practical, you can also find cool ideas for how to make a Minecraft chest. This YouTuber repurposed an old toy box for his Minecraft chest.

These hands-on projects allow you and your kid to collaborate on something together. And while you may be able to do the projects indoors, take the work outside. Make your garage your work space, throw the doors open, play some tunes while you’re working and let the fresh air in. Or create a makeshift work area on the lawn, patio or porch.

2. Recreate a popular video game’s side game for outdoor play

If you’ve spent a little time poking around the video games your kids love, or you’ve even played a few, you’ll notice many feature side games or mini games within the larger game. These mini games can be side missions, quests or even video games within the main video game. Essentially, they’re games that take a detour from the video game’s main path or mission. One such game, Orlog, is a dice game featured in Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. The open-world video game puts players in 9th Century England and Norway during the Viking expansions into the British Isles.

While the dice game has enjoyed an unusual degree of success—more than 80% of all Assassin Creed: Valhalla players have tried at least one game of Orlog—a physical version of the game doesn’t exist. At least not yet. And that’s where your kids come in. Orlog’s game pieces and the places where the game is played in Assassin’s Creed—along cliffside overlooks or calm spots with enough space to spread out a leather skin and two wood bowls—lend itself to playing the game outdoors and repurposing things found in nature as Orlog game pieces.

If you’re not an Assassin’s Creed fan and haven’t played Orlog but are still intrigued, Dicebreaker does a good job of explaining how the game works. The idea is to reduce your opponent’s life pool, which is represented by rows of smooth stones. There are six wooden dice (decorated with an axe, arrow, shield, helm or gauntleted hand) and wooden-like cards known as God Favors or blessings. You can imagine how the game could send your kids on an outdoor scavenger hunt of sorts. They’ll need smooth stones or rocks to represent a player’s life pool. Or just any old rock from the yard will do. If possible, smooth, flat pebbles from a shallow creek bed would be cool. Or don’t use rocks at all. Find an oak tree and use the acorn caps you’ll find littered underneath, for instance. For the wooden dice, you may need to purchase these. Unless, of course, there’s a whittler in the family. If not, it’s easy to find affordable, blank dice online and incorporate a DIY element by sketching the game’s images on the dice.

3. Vacation recreation in your own backyard

Board and dice games like Orlog from Assassin’s Creed are fun to play outdoors during the summer months. Especially in the evenings, after dinner, when the sun is low and the weather has cooled. However, there’s plenty of time-tested outdoor games that kids have never played or either have forgotten they existed at all. You’ll find many of these games at family-oriented vacation resorts, campgrounds and summer camps. And guess what else? Kids still dig them.

There are many portable volleyball nets made for easy set up and tear down on lawns or beaches. Some double as a badminton net. Sets come with a volleyball, badminton paddles and a birdie. Make it a family affair, or even a neighborhood competition, by inviting your kids’ friends over, create a tournament bracket and crown a champion.

Other traditional, outdoor games that’ll get your kids out and into the sunlight are bocce ball, horseshoes, cornhole and croquet. These games have another upside too: Parents are more likely to compete with their kids because, for instance, cornhole is way easier than joining in on a game of pickup basketball.

4. Let’s work

Work is one of life’s central themes, just as it’s a central theme in many video games. Even more, gamers like to work. Wait, what? Consider the popularity of “Work at a Pizza Place,” a game on Roblox, the online gaming platform where players play games designed by other users. In the game, players literally work at a pizza shop making pizzas, baking them and doing whatever a pizza shop employee or manager does. It’s a job simulation game. Players use their earnings to upgrade a house, buy furniture or a new car. It’s like real life. But why only mimic real-life work, when you can literally have your kids do real-life work?

Kids don’t necessarily love chores like unloading the dishwasher or cleaning the toilets. But they do like the type of work that gives them a sense of value and purpose. And they especially like work that can earn them cash. Maybe you live in a neighborhood that allows a small chicken coop and a few hens no matter the size of the backyard. Your kids’ summer work could include collecting the eggs and feeding, watering and caring for the chickens each day. Take it to the next level by finding out what it costs to rent a table at your local farmer’s market, sell the eggs by the dozen on Saturday mornings, along with homemade egg salad sandwiches, lemonade and chips.

If owning a brood of hens is too involved (fair enough), follow the same “job simulation” model, but replace the hens with tomato plants. Let’s say you don’t have the space, a tiller or the time for a full-on garden. It’s OK. Instead, a garden can be a simple cluster of four or five pots with a tomato plant in each one. Tomatoes create plenty of work and lots of reward. Not only do these plants require near-daily watering, tomato plants can be suckered (pruning the suckers) and kids can do an evening caterpillar patrol. (If not, these plump worms will eat your entire plant from leaf to fruit.) Next, kids can pick the tomatoes, and sell the harvest to neighbors or use them to make homemade salsa or tomato sauce.

5. Calling all “MLB The Show” gamers

Here’s an easy one: Take your kids to a Major League Baseball game. Chances are, if they’ve played MLB The Show, they’ll know the starting line up of your city’s baseball team. This video game, created by Sony, currently ranks No. 3 on npd.com’s list of Top 10 Selling Video Games. So plenty of kids are playing it. Even more, the game is arguably creating MLB fans in a way that even Little League baseball participation hasn’t been able to do.

Baseball is America’s pastime, and it’s also a sport where its teams play almost every night during the summer. Because of the volume of games, tickets are affordable. Cheap seats can cost as little as $18 to $20 per ticket. Plus, the cheap seats aren’t bad seats. At least not anymore. In recent years, MLB venues have been trending smaller, so every seat puts you in respectable proximity of the playing field.

Another cool thing? Most MLB ballparks have kids’ zones where they can take a break from the game and go burn some energy. At Truist Park, home of the Atlanta Braves, the kids’ zone features a rock-climbing wall, zipline and carnival games, while Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles offers three distinct kids play areas, batting and pitching cages and a virtual photo booth allowing fans to take pictures with players.

BONUS: Rainy day?

Summer is tailor made for outdoor adventure. But, alas, sometimes it rains. So what can parents do about those rainy days? Throw in the towel, and let gamers game? Maybe, but there are attractive alternatives.

So far, we’ve covered traditional outdoor games like bocce ball and badminton. Why not take that traditional focus and put it into what’s entertained and engaged kids for generations? Yes, indeed. We’re talking board games. Creators of board games are developing some fantastic concepts, making boxed games that are as clever and challenging as they’ve ever been.

We’ve curated a list of board games from one-on-one games to those perfect for the whole family. You’ll also find a handful of thought-provoking games too, like Azul. This elegant and easy-to-learn tile game soon takes on a life of its own that’s full of patterns and penalizing mistakes. Plus, don’t forget about Backgammon, one of the oldest known board games in the history of mankind. It’s on the list too. And there’s a bonus game on our list that you might want to know about. It’s an old classic with a twist. In this game, you’ll win by eliminating yourself.

Learn how Circle can help you get kids outdoors and off screens with features like Focus Time and Pause the Internet. Or, if you’d like to read about some of the most popular video games, each game’s premise and what parents should know about each game, read our blog, “Circle’s Parent Guide to the Most Popular Video Games.