Two things happen in my house every day without fail. First, every day at 6:00 AM, my almost-two-year-old daughter Felicity wakes up. Second, every day at 6:02 AM, Felicity points to the door and begs to go outside.
Since we live in the Midwest, the weather outside in the winter is often in the negatives or low 10s. Sometimes we have to wait until the afternoon to get out, and other days we can’t get out at all. Those days are often the longest, as I spend the time trying to distract Felicity from the fact we can’t get out on our usual 3 walks.
Felicity, like most children, loves being outside. Unlike us adults, kids don’t seem to mind cold snow, itchy sand, or sweaty humid weather. They love being outside because it is a sensory experience for them. There are new textures to touch, places to explore, and exciting things to see.
Today’s children spend around seven hours a day in front of TVs, iPads, phones, computers, and gaming devices. I am sure this number has increased since COVID-19. While electronic devices can help teach and connect children, they can also isolate them from the world around them. Higher use of electronics is also linked to more severe health issues physically and mentally.
I believe that parents have a responsibility to get their kids outside, as it is a critical piece of every child’s education. A recent study stated, that “87 percent of those surveyed who played outside when they were young still held a love of nature into adulthood. In addition, 84 percent of those young adults said taking care of the natural environment is a priority to them.” This all starts in the home.
Here are a few tips and tricks to get your children outside every day:
1. Bring snacks. Food eaten outside always tastes better. Pack healthy snacks that your family can enjoy on a trail or at the park. It will give everyone that extra needed energy boost and make the experience something to enjoy rather than endure.
2. Dress for the right weather. There’s an old saying, “There’s no bad weather only bad clothing.” This is especially true if you live in a place that is colder during the winter. Make sure your kids are dressed warmly so they can enjoy more time outside. Make sure kids have a couple of layers in the winter and be prepared with extras when water is involved (little kids always end up getting wet).
3. Enjoy it yourself. Kids love what their parents love. If you are having a good time and enjoying the outside, your kids will too. Take them to places that you enjoy spending time at and share with them your feelings about nature.
4. Ask questions. Being outside is a good time to teach and ask questions. Ask your children what they see around them,
what they are feeling, and how their bodies feel when they exercise and use their muscles.
5. Create traditions. This can be as simple as doing the same walk every morning or running a 5k every Thanksgiving. In my family, we listen to the same song on the way home from a fun adventure. These traditions will become memories that your children will cherish from their childhood.
Kids who spend time outside experience many benefits including improved motor skills, lower body mass index, improved muscle strength, improved peer-to-peer relationships, and advanced communication skills.
I believe getting your kids outside every day can be one of the best parts of their education in the home. Don’t wait until the weather is warmer or your kids are older—start now to see your kids become happier and healthier every day.
"The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature, and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be." - Anne Frank
Children Who Play Outdoors Are More Likely To Protect Nature As Adults
By Trevor Nace
August 21, 2017
Why Should My Child Play Outside? Benefits of Outdoor Play for Kids