By Brandy Browne
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, childhood obesity rates within the United States have more than tripled in the past three decades (Cohen, 2011, p 67). Our children are spending more time indoors, and the time spent with electronics has increased exponentially. Due to the pandemic, our children are being required to have more screen time simply to complete assignments. So, how do we balance that out? The answer is simple. Get them moving, and send them outside.
The benefits of spending even fifteen minutes a day outside are vast, though research studies show we need much more time than that. Rebecca Cohen, author of 15 Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to get out of the house and connect with your kids, states that “spending more time outside improves children’s concentration in school, lessons aggression, and improves their ability to cooperate” (p 158). Additionally, getting our kids moving will aid in their physical health as well, improving heart, lung, and brain development.
Here are ten suggestions for getting your family off the couch and outside…
- Take a family walk. – I love going for a run on a local track or at a lake not far from us. My children love playing while I run. I get my workout in, and my children get time outside. Win win.
- Maintain a garden together.- My family did this for the first time this summer, and we had a great time monitoring our plants and learning what each vegetable that we planted looked like in all the different stages of development.
- Grab binoculars and see how many different types of birds you can spot.
- Take the science experiments outdoors.- My children are fascinated with sensory science experiments (think making slime or a volcano erupt). I love that they are scientific thinkers. However, I prefer they do their experimenting outside. Ha. Less cleanup for me.
- Invest in a trampoline. This is the one thing that can be costly. However, we bought one a few years ago, and my children still use it daily. Today, it was packed with snow. They still jumped until their little feet couldn’t take the cold anymore. Then, they came in and warmed up in the bath tub.
- Teach your children the art of fishing. This is a low cost activity with great rewards. It teaches patience, and the kids love when they finally hook one. If you love to eat fish, this is a bonus.
- Cook outside. We recently bought a pellet smoker. Though it’s cold this week, I love to sit by the smoker and inhale the scent of whatever is cooking while I watch the kids jump on the trampoline.
- If you have a pet, let everyone in on the action when it comes time to go for walks or fetch the ball. We happen to have chickens who free range in the afternoon and evening. The cool thing about chickens is that they will actually put themselves in the coop at dark. However, my kids have all kinds of fun trying to “catch” them and put them up.
- Let them play in the mud. Seriously. Let them squish their little fingers in it, and come in filthy for a shower before bed. It will increase their immunity, and give them a sensory experience to boot.
- Just send them out. No agenda necessary. If you listen, you will probably hear imaginary play games. When kids have some practice with entertaining themselves, their skills grow. So does your sanity…enough said.
Even fifteen minutes a day will improve the mental, physical, and emotional health of your family. If you can squeeze in more time, that is even better. Children communicate through play, and the great outdoors offers a wealth of opportunities to connect with your child.
Cohen, R. (2011) 15 minutes outside: 365 ways to get out of the house and connect with your kids. Source books.