There is a quick and easy way to make sure your kids stay healthy and happy.  That is making sure your kids are playing outside.  It’s always a little easier said than done, however.

I recently read that Americans spend 90% of our time at home, INSIDE.  Honestly, I haven’t researched the exact statistic, but I bet it isn’t too far off from reality.  So if you’re feeling like your kids are the only ones who don’t spend ample time outside, don’t.  It’s a issue throughout society.

While it is comfortable inside (luxuries like t.v., phone, ac/heat), a sedentary lifestyle is a actually dangerous way to live, health-wise. A sedentary person will, most likely, have a shorter life expectancy and may suffer from a slew of health problems.

That’s why we MUST get our kids outside playing!

Not only are there health benefits to playing outside, but also educational benefits for our kiddos.  If we engrain these healthy habits when they’re young, they are more likely to stick with them when they’re adults.

Here are the benefits of playing outside and ways you can encourage your children to get out into the great outdoors!

kids playing outside

Benefits of being outside: 

1 |  Kids playing outside gives them a healthy alternative to screen time.  

Screen time is one of those things that sucks kids right into its web (pun intended).  My nemesis is the setting on Youtube that continually plays videos.  If I don’t turn it off, my kids will watch videos for an infinite amount of time.

I’m not totally against screen time.  I think it definitely has its time and place in our lives.  But, I also know that screen time can cause behavioral and health issues.

In my own experience, after my kids have spent a lot of time on screens, they are moody and irritable.  Or sometimes, they just don’t feel like doing anything else  That’s fine if they are tired or ill, but hours of screen time just aren’t what I want going on in my house day in and day out..

That’s why I advocate for being outside more.

We signed up for the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge and we are documenting our hours outside.  If that doesn’t cut down on screens, I don’t know what will!

2 |  Kids playing outside helps boost their mood.

Have you ever noticed how happy kids are when they are outside?  It’s like they belong there.  And there’s a reason.

The sun actually helps the brain produce serotonin, which makes people happy.   I swear my kids can be having the worst day ever, but as soon as they go outside, they are giggling and playing together like it’s a whole new day.

In addition to serotonin in the brain, the sun gives us Vitamin D.  Not only is that a huge health benefit, but it makes our bodies feel GOOD.  In turn, our brains then function at their optimal level.

3|  Kids playing outside boosts their creativity.  

Have you ever sat and watched your kids outside?

Do you notice how sticks become swords, trees become forts and leaves become insect boats in mud puddles?

When kids play outside, the outdoors is literally their playground.  There are no distractions, just space to play and run wild with their imaginations.

So, how do you encourage your kids to get outside and play? 

Here are some ideas:  

1 )  Bring Toys Outdoors.

And I don’t mean the IPad.

Bring regular old toys that can be used to mimic real life.

Bring dump trucks, shovels, old baking utensils and pans.

Let your children create their own ramps out of wood and let them get their toys messy.

What’s important is that they are reaping the benefits of being outside and enjoying unstructured play.

kids playing outside

 

2)  Go on a nature walk together {NO DISTRACTIONS}.

There is so much to be gleaned from a walk in nature.  It doesn’t always have to be a walk through a magical forest, perse, but even a walk through the backyard looking with a different perspective, could change the way a child interacts with nature and the outdoors.

Bring a large baggie to carry “treasures” in and then display them proudly inside your home.  We have nature boxes that we keep cool sticks, rocks, leaves, and other nature-y type things in.  We also have a rock collection and seashell collection.

This triggers my kids’memories of finding these treasures and it sparks some great conversations and interest.

kids playing outside

 

3)  Find an awesome local park to go to.

We are lucky to have the most amazing parks in our community.  They are so jam-packed with fun stuff to do that you could spend a full day exploring and still not see everything.

My kids love playing outside at parks because there is so much to see and do.  We alternate parks when we meet up with our homeschool group, so they get to experience several different structures.

We go to one of our local parks to see ducks, turtles and the fish.  My kids love the hiking trails and standing on the water’s edge looking for algae.  These simple activities in nature really instill a love for learning more about the outdoors and encourage outdoor play and discovery.

Parks are a great, free way to engage kids in outdoor play.  Use THIS LINK to find a park in your area.  The National Park Service also has a page on their website completely to kids activities.  You can check that out HERE.

kids playing outside

4)  Let Your Kids Get Messy.


Nothing
is more intriguing to a child than being able to get their hands a little dirty.

When I think back to when I was little, the sky was the limit when it came to my outdoor explorations.  I had a dresser top full of jars that housed anything from spiders to water beetles to a three-legged frog to a chameleon.

My parents not only allowed me to have my collection, but they also encouraged it and assisted me in housing the creatures.  They taught me to be compassionate toward living things while I learned about them.

Mud pies?  YES!  The more the merrier.

Jumping in mud puddles?  Ab-so-lu-te-ly!

And I loved every minute.

And I wanted to be outside more because it was FUN.

Had my parents been constantly hovering over me making sure I was clean, I probably would have ducked back inside to avoid the hassle.  Instead they let me explore and get messy and grow my love for being outside.

kids playing outside

 

5)  Bring the outdoors in.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!  Okay, not so much.  But, pets and other creatures can really make playing outside fun for kids.  Go on a bug hunt with a jar and see what you can find!  Books like the  Ultimate Bug-opedia can help guide your research and get your kids excited about creepy-crawly learning!

Related Post: DIY Ant Farm

Even a stick and rock collection that you take inside to examine can spark some pretty amazing conversations.  Nothing is boring when it comes to nature!

6)  Show an authentic appreciation for being outside and engage in nature activities with your child.

“Monkey see, monkey do” is spot on when it comes to our children appreciating nature.  I believe that people are innately drawn to nature, but that can be swayed if parents don’t encourage their children to get outside and be part of it.

kids playing outside

If you take your child outside on a hike and then text the whole time, you are indirectly saying that there are more fascinating things to be found on your phone.  However, if you are genuinely involved in explorations with your child, they will follow suit.

You don’t have to be an expert at all things outdoors, but even just questioning “I wonder what made all of these holes in this rock?” sparks interest in children and gets them thinking more in-depth about the world around them.

Kids love to learn and naturally love the outdoors, so sharing your own enjoyment of the great outdoors will fuel their innate desire to play outside.

What are some ways you engage your child in nature-based play?  What is your favorite thing to do with your kids outside?  Comment below!  

 

nature based

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