Remember playing outside? Remember the frustration you felt when your mom made you come home and do your homework? With our kids today, we find it more difficult to get them to go outdoors and breathe in some much needed fresh air. The average kid spends as few as 30 minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than seven hours each day in front of an electronic screen. As parents, we know that a lack of physical activity can take a toll on a child’s physical, mental and emotional well-being. From childhood obesity to reduced cognitive development, sedentary habits have a host of negative effects on those little bodies and minds. So let’s get our kids up and moving to get their daily dose of activity. It’s up to parents to show children that regular outdoor activity can not only be healthy, but a lot of fun.
Choose the right spot
With the weather getting warmer, now is the best time to encourage your children to put down their video games and iPhones to spend a little time soaking up some vitamin D! While older kids have several options including organized sports and biking, for a young preschool kid, it might be up to you to make the outdoors ‘play’ safe. If you have a backyard, garden or even a patio, create a kid friendly zone to watch your child have a blast outdoors. Taking them out to a park or common outdoor area would also work as long as you can supervise!
Make it fun and dirty
Make playtime interesting by handing them a spade to dig with, or a hula-hoop to shake with or a ball to toss around with friends. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to let them get a little dirty. The National Wildlife Federation found that letting children get dirty outside makes them happier and healthier. Many kids who live in an ultra-clean environment have a greater chance of suffering from allergies and asthma than kids who have been exposed to healthy bacteria and viruses that boost their immune system.
Make it a family affair
Getting the whole family to spend time outdoors is a great way to encourage kids to bond with nature. Playing a sport together, riding bicycles together on weekends, or planting and tending a garden together are some of the activities that the whole family can bond over in the great outdoors! Just a picnic lunch at the park, with some healthy food and the whole family can be a great place to start spending time outdoors with your kids.
Teach them to appreciate nature
Inculcating an interest and curiosity about wildlife is a great way to engage kids outdoors. You can get kids interested in nature (insects, birds and animals) through fun expeditions, photography, drawing and books. Cornell University environmental psychologist Nancy Wells shows that children with a greater exposure to nature have reduced stress levels and longer attention spans.
The benefits of getting your children off the couch and out the door are immense. Not only does it keep them healthy, but bonding with nature encourages children to use their imaginations and get creative in ways that cannot be easily achieved indoors.