The week of September 24-30 is “Take A Child Outside Week”. There are many studies and books that show the benefits of children (and adults) spending time outside in nature. Honestly, it is the anecdotal evidence that I see in my own family that has me convinced that time outside is one of the most beneficial activities that we can offer our children. While I certainly do not advocate only going outside during this week, I think this is a great chance for us to get excited and create a habit of taking our children outside.
This time outside can be structured with a nature walk or study, fishing, kayaking or it could simply be free time for them to explore outside. You could go into your own backyard, a local park or check out a state or national park near your area. There are so many options for going outside with your children. If you need some help coming up with activities you can check out this great list.
Our family loves to hike together. Sometimes it is a simple local trail and other times we travel to the mountains or another area to see a variety of locations. When we hike we have the opportunity to see wildlife, plants, and scenic views that are amazing. We can clear our minds from the busyness of life, spend quality time together, and get some great physical exercise all at the same time. There is minimal to no cost depending on where you are going. You simply need a good pair of shoes (your sneakers will work just fine), a water bottle, and a place to hike. Many areas have free hiking trails available. If you want to add a bit of nature education on your hike an inexpensive field guide can be a great tool for helping you identify plants or animals that you see on your hike.
Kayaking is an activity that takes more equipment but it is lots of fun and great exercise. We own our kayaks and enjoy paddling around in the river and seeing all of the birds and even the occasional dolphin. I was out on a kayaking ‘date’ with my husband this summer and we were blessed to have the dolphins start swimming and playing near us. It was amazing to see them so close. If you don’t’ own kayaks do not feel like you have to go out and purchase hundreds of dollars worth of equipment to give it a try. Many parks or beach shops have kayaks that you can rent for a few hours to give it a try. If you have younger children you may want to try a tandem so that they can ride with you.
We love the beach. It is truly our ‘happy place’. I enjoy hearing the waves and feeling the sand between my toes. My children love to walk along the beach and collect treasures, fish, shrimp, bird watch, look for animals in the tide pools, and just explore all that the water has to offer. They spend hours swimming and playing and just enjoying the great outdoors.
Playing outdoors does not even have to mean going away from home. You can go outside in your own back yard and explore. You can do activities in small areas like a ‘micro’ nature study where you choose a small area (like a one-foot square) an study it closely looking at any plants, animals (insects), that are in that area. Even just walking and looking to see what you can find or maybe playing games that utilize the imagination. My children have this old fallen down tree that they love to use for imaginative play. Over the years that tree has been a fort, a ship, a pirate ship,the ‘poles’ of a tent and such much more.
No matter where you live or what your favorite outdoor hobby is, I hope that you take some time this week. If you do not have a favorite outdoor activity, pick something new to try. Spending time outdoors has numerous benefits but even if it did not have all of those extra benefits it is fun and enjoyable. Share with us in the comments what you can do this week to “Take a Child Outside”.
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