Is your family spending enough time outdoors? A recent study in the U.K. found that three-quarters of the children there spend less time outdoors on average than a prison inmate, and 20 percent of the children studied never go outside at all on an average day. Finding ways to build outdoor time into your family’s life will help your kids develop a lifelong habit of spending time in nature each day.
Why It’s Important
Image via Flickr by mistyj26
According to the Child Mind Institute, outdoor playtime has a number of positive effects on children. Playing in nature helps kids develop confidence in an unstructured environment that promotes creativity and imagination. Kids learn responsibility when they see the consequences of their actions on the natural world around them. They are more physically active when playing outdoors, their senses are being stimulated differently, and they are less stressed and fatigued each day.
Offer Outdoor Time Each Day
There are many ways to persuade your kids to spend time with you outdoors. You might invite them to take a walk with you, serve dinner as a picnic, or toss a ball around in the front yard. When your kids are old enough, they should have some unstructured play time outside without your presence, too, so they can develop their imaginations by creating their own games and activities.
Spend Family Time Outdoors on Weekends
Leave the laundry behind and take your kids hiking, rollerblading, biking, fishing, or camping on weekends. If you’re not ready for that level of involvement with nature, visit a local park, sculpture park, nature center, or zoo — or just pitch a tent in your own backyard. Try to provide a variety of activities, including sports to build strong bodies, creative play to build imagination, natural encounters to build their confidence, and relaxation for their spirits.
Create Appealing Outdoor Environments
Does your yard have spaces for age-appropriate play, relaxation, and family time? Outdoor play areas can include swing sets and playhouses for smaller children or treehouses and sports areas for older kids. Invite your kids to relax outdoors by providing hammocks for reading and lounging or cozy conversation areas to sit with friends. Family dining and entertaining areas, like pergolas, patios, and barbeque islands, invite the whole family outdoors to spend time together and connect with neighbors.
Take Outdoor Vacations
Vacations are the perfect time to explore different environments and bond together as a family in the open air. If you usually head to the beach, visit the mountains for a change of pace. Jungles, deserts, islands, and lakes make great family vacation destinations as well. Don’t forget state and national parks, which offer affordable getaways for long weekends and short breaks.
Spending time outdoors together is a great way to bond as a family. In the outdoors, there’s less pressure of housework, homework, and other responsibilities so your family members can focus their attention on one another, relax, and have fun. Even if your kids don’t seem drawn to spend time outside, you can shape a lifestyle that helps guide them toward a love of fresh air and sunshine.