On weekends or really anytime we are all together, I love taking family walks outside and getting the kids into nature. I think it’s essential for kids’ development to let kids be kids, play outside, ride bikes and to teach them to have fun without electronics, balance their screen time with green time.
This isn’t the easiest task all the time, believe me! Majority of the time, I have one of the kids complaining that they don’t want to go on a family walk because they don’t want to stop doing what they are doing at home and that could be video games, playing with the neighbor kids or playing dolls etc. But I still rally the troops around, bad moods with Mom and all and we go. As parents we can’t take the easy way out and say fine, “do what you want” because that is what’s easy to do! I swear, parenting is the absolutely the hardest job there is.
“If we do what’s easy now, it is not going to benefit the child or the parent in the long run. We are playing the long game here.”
When we were starting on our walk this weekend, I was thinking to myself, Why is getting the kids outside and in nature so important to me?
Immediately a few things came to mind:
- I want my kids growing up and appreciating Nature and what it looks like different times of the year.
- I notice their curiosity and imaginations just blossom when we are outside!
- They don’t fight and argue hardly at all, like they do when we are inside, ha.
- I want them to remember the fun they can have just playing with dirt, rocks, sticks, water, leaves etc.
- I know how much getting outside and going for a walk benefits me mentally and I want the same for my kids.
Now I know everyone doesn’t live where there’s trails, nature centers or hiking spots but every city does have parks. You can drive to a nice park in your area, take the kids’ scooters, pack a few snacks or visit a near by lake and play on the shore. This doesn’t have to cost a thing, it doesn’t have to be elaborate either, just dress appropriately for the weather, yes-even when it’s cold out and just get outside!
An app that I’ve been using and it’s free, is called All Trails. It uses your location or you can type in a city and it will tell you about trails or walking paths in your area. It uses g.p.s. and it will show you where you are on the trail, how long the trail is, difficulty level and what’s aloud on the trail (bikes, dogs, etc.), it’s a great app and I love it!
When I take the kids out and we are exploring, I ask the kids questions or point things out to them that they might not be noticing, to enhance their curiosity and awareness.
I ask questions or make statements like:
- What does it sound like when we step on all the leaves?
- Look over there, do you see that!?!
- I wonder what’s over here?
- Look how the water is running faster here, but not over there…? (And explain to them why)
- Lets throw rocks in the creek!
- Lets send leaves down the creek and see who’s leaf wins!
- Lets close our eyes, what do you hear?
- Look at the colors of the leaves?
All these type of questions or statements get their minds going and makes them think and teaches them something that they might not now or you may not know either and you have to ask the Googles!
They will remember this type of stuff, I promise you!
When I was doing research on this topic I came across a really great article by the National Wildlife Federation that explains the benefits of kids being in nature! Let me share some of what they said below.
- Outdoor play increases fitness levels and builds active, healthy bodies, an important strategy in helping the one in three American kids who are obese get fit.
- Spending time outside raises levels of vitamin D, helping protect children from future bone problems, heart disease, diabetes, and other health issues.
- Being outside improves distance vision and lowers the chance of nearsightedness.
- Outdoor time improves sleep
- Exposure to natural settings may be widely effective in reducing ADHD symptoms.
- Schools with environmental education programs score higher on standardized tests in math, reading, writing, and listening.
- Exposure to environment-based education significantly increases student performance on tests of their critical thinking skills.
- Children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces.
- Play protects children’s emotional development, whereas loss of free time and a hurried lifestyle can contribute to anxiety and depression.
- Nature makes children nicer, enhancing social interactions, value for community, and close relationships.
credit- the N.W.F. article
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Now that our kids are being raised in the digital age we have to be mindful about how much screen time they are having and how much we are having too! I know I am guilty of looking at my phone too much and my kids having too much screen time, especially in the winter but, it’s a work in progress.
In conclusion, I hope I encouraged or inspired you to take your kids outside as much as you can and to teach them to appreciate nature. Nature doesn’t only benefit kids, it benefits adults too! Remember this doesn’t have to be hard or cost anything, it can be as simple as going to your local park or driving to another city that has a walking trail etc. It’s meant to be fun!
Let me know what your favorite thing to do outside with your kids’ is?
Talk to ya soon,
p.s. If you have little ones, make sure to bring snacks and water!