There is always that one point during the day where Acacia gets a little stir-crazy from being cooped up in the house for too long. She gets bored, starts getting into everything she knows she isn’t supposed to, and then the dreaded temper tantrums start. That’s when I know its time to go for a walk or play in the yard because the moment we step outside her temperament changes; she becomes happier and a lot more curious and interactive with her surroundings. I believe nature is medicine and that nothing will ever be a substitute for fresh air and sunshine. Whether it’s a walk to the park or a hike in the woods, there are a numerous benefits for you and your child that come from spending time outdoors.
PROMOTES CREATIVITY AND IMAGINATION
Nature doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Children who play outside are encouraged to use their imagination to create their own activities and games within the environment. Red rover, hide & seek tag, kick the can, water-fights, building forts, & climbing trees – I’m sure most of us can say that some of our best childhood memories were spent running around outside with the neighborhood kids.
TEACHES RESPECT AND RESPONSIBILITY
Plant some flowers or a garden with your kids! It will teach them what happens if they forget to water plants and mistreat the environment. Letting your child experience the cyclical aspect of nature might get them interested in science early on. If our children are taught from a young age that humans are apart of nature just like the plants and animals, they will hopefully grow up feeling a sense of community and stewardship towards the environment.
There are so many boundaries that we set for our children at home. When they play outside, kids are in a less structured environment and are able to make decisions for themselves which can help raise an independent and confident little human!
Playing outside stimulates almost all of our 5 senses at once: sight, smell, sound, and touch. Taste could also be stimulated if you pick berries from the garden, go on a picnic, or if you just happen to have one of those kids who likes to eat dirt. I used to walk around outside with Acacia when she was an infant. I would spend time talking to her and describe what we were looking at. I would brush her tiny hand along the leaves of trees. Sometimes we would lay on a blanket in the grass together and play with toys. Going outside was my favorite sensory development activity to do with Acacia as a baby because the environment naturally did all the work. Whether it was the wind blowing, birds chirping, or the smell right after it rains – there was always something to stimulate her senses. Now that she’s a toddler, Acacia absolutely loves walking around the park or backyard and exploring her surroundings. I still talk to her and describe what things are. I also encourage her to smell flowers and to interact with her surroundings. Although nowadays I have to constantly remind her not to throw rocks at the dogs and to be gentle when she’s touching flowers so she doesn’t rip them out.
IT’S HEALTHY & REDUCES STRESS
I don’t need scientists or doctors to tell me that sunshine and warm weather make me a happier person! But in all seriousness, there are a number of known health benefits that come from a moderate dose of sunshine. 5-15 minutes of sunlight is all you need to experience the vitamin D-boosting benefits which include promoting bone health, a strong immune system, and reduces the risk of getting sick. Studies have also confirmed the stress relief benefits that we receive from nature. Your daily dose of sunshine is known to release serotonin in your brain which helps combat depression and anxiety. Panic attacks have been linked to a number of various factors, including environmental ones like the changing of seasons and less exposure to sunlight. Try to remember that even though their lives seem worry-free, kids get stressed out and overstimulated just like adults do, so do yourselves both a favor and get outside!
GOOD EXERCISE HABITS
It’s obvious that playing outside requires more physical activity than sitting on the couch watching a movie or being confined to a play room, since there is so much more space for kids to run wild. Children who are physically active from a young age tend to create good exercising habits and reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, and other health problems related to lack of physical activity and poor diet.
Numerous studies have shown that children with ADHD have increased concentration and a restored sense of calmness after spending time outside, which some researchers are now calling “green-time”.
Doing outdoor activities together like camping, fishing, hiking, etc. create memories that last a lifetime and family traditions that transcend generations. Every summer since I was about 10, my family would go on a road-trip through the Western Unites States. We had our special stops along the way like Malibu Beach and The Grand Canyon, then we would end our trip with a family reunion at a cabin in Utah with all our cousins and extended family members. It was something I always looked forward to as a kid and will cherish forever. We recently started a new tradition of camping on the Oregon coast and this year will be Acacia’s first time! Hopefully she will grow up with the same fondness for our family summer vacations as I did.
What are your favorite reasons for spending time outdoors?