When temperatures are extremely hot, it’s hard to think about going outside and doing anything except jumping in a pool—and even that feels like jumping into a big bathtub! It’s a shame—because there are so many fun things to take advantage of, wherever you live. When the temperatures cool off a bit and there are only a few weeks before school starts, it’s the perfect time to plan some end-of-summer outdoor adventures with your family.
According to the National Wildlife Federation, childhood has moved “indoors” over the past two decades. The average American boy or girl spends just four to seven minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than seven hours each day in front of an electronic screen.
Children are out of shape, tuned out and stressed out because they’re missing something essential to their health and development: connection to the natural world.
An ongoing research project called Child of Our Time follows the growth of 25 children from the time they are born until they become adults. They have documented some interesting findings about children who play outside.
- One of the benefits of playing outside is that children laugh more. This is good because laughter is a stress reliever and it helps stimulate the immune system.
- Another benefit of outside play is better health. Researchers found that children who engage in outside play have the potential to have stronger bones and muscles from activities like running and jumping. They also get vitamin D just from being in the sun. When children are active, they are less likely to battle obesity and more likely to do well in school.
- Additional studies show that children who play outside are more likely to be adventurous and open to new experiences. They tend to be better at making friends and have longer attention spans. Outdoor play fuels the imagination and teaches children how to be resourceful by creating their own entertainment.
What are you waiting for? Put the iPhone down, pull your kids away from their gaming devices and head outdoors for some family adventures. Experience the benefits an active lifestyle can bring while making some great memories!
If you’re short on ideas, here are a few to get you started:
- Ride bikes through the park.
Visit the zoo.
Look up hiking trails near you and set out!
If you are brave and your children are old enough, check out a zipline adventure.
Grab some cardboard boxes and go sledding down a big, grassy hill.
Teach your children how to play kick the can, hopscotch and freeze tag.
Get out (or rent) the kayaks or paddleboards and travel down a local river or creek.
- Create your own Summer Olympics and get all the neighborhood kids and parents involved. Sack races, egg toss, three-legged race and the wheelbarrow race are excellent backyard Olympic events.
- Take your teens whitewater rafting.
- Find a bridge, country road or local park and take a leisurely stroll.
Playing outside with your children is not only great exercise, it’s also a fantastic opportunity to bond as a family. If having outdoor family adventures is new for you, your kids may balk at first but once they experience the fun, they won’t want to stop. Are you up for the challenge?