Birds chirping, the breeze blowing through the trees, the warm sunlight shining down gently through the clouds…not hard to imagine how these sounds are better for your child’s well being than the loud video game noise coming from a play station or ipad, right? Studies show that children who play outside perform better in school, are less anxious, more attentive, and happier overall. There is something about fresh air, green space, and the quiet of the outdoors that centers all of us.
Want your child to love nature and the outdoors? Here are some tips to help:
- Start early. From tummy time on a picnic blanket, to walks in an infant carrier, getting your child outside brings his senses to life with the smells, sounds, and beauty of the outdoors.
- Encourage a minimum of one hour outside per day on school days, and three hours outside each weekend day.Being outside is excellent for mental health. The quiet of the outdoors, the soothing sounds of nature, sunlight, fresh air, and low stimulation all lend to calm and relaxation.
- Go outside with your child. Pull up a seat and watch him shoot hoops, or better yet, join in and have a family game. Sit outside and have lunch, head to the playground or pool, play a game of catch or whiffle ball, or take the dog for a walk.
- Make a daily habit of taking walks together. Walks are a great way to break from the business of life, demands of school work, and noise of screens. Exercise raises endorphin levels, which lend to positive feelings and reduced stress levels. Additionally, kids often talk more when walking, biking, or riding a scooter alongside parents. It is a great time to connect. What if your child fusses? Create an expectation that walks are just part of what your family does after dinner. Let him know that screen time and wind down time can wait until you’ve enjoyed walking with him and connecting.
- Find things on your walk or during exercise outside that hold your child’s interests. Create a story while walking, point out different things you see, talk about the things and people around you.
- Take day trips to national or state parks near you on weekends. Bring along a picnic. Take a canoe or go on a nature hunt. National Parks often offer various discounts or passes that keep expenses low and allow for amazing fun all while saving money.
- Take a long drive along a scenic route. Pick up a hot cider or cool drink and put away the screens. Take in the sights around you.
- Have a campfire outside. Enjoy the sounds of the fire crackling, eat some s’mores, and snuggle up with some blankets.
- Make a craft that will benefit nature. Build a birdhouse or pine cone feeder for the birds and squirrels. Hang it up and watch the birds come daily.
- Go pumpkin or apple picking in the Fall, or strawberry picking in the Summer. Enjoy seasonal activities that can serve as life long memories for your family.
Bottom line…being outdoors with your child every day is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your child’s well being. It allows for connection, unplugging from the world, and investing in quality time together while breathing in fresh air and being centered by nature. Everything about being outside is good for your mind and soul, and nurturing a love for nature will help your child develop a healthy habit for life.
7 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; 8 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. 9 Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? 10 In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”- Job12:7-10 NIV