12 Unique Reasons Getting Outdoors Is Great For Our Children Part.1

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This post will be a two part series, come back next week for part 2! 

Many have said the current generation of children prefers to stay indoors rather than go outside. But when many of us were children, we fled outside to play soccer, skip rocks, fish, or search for bugs under a rotting log. It was much more fun than most indoor options (with the possible exception of TV). 

However, with the advent of online gaming and streaming media, being indoors within the range of WIFI offers endless, high-octane entertainment that the lure of mother nature has a hard time competing with. As a result, many kids tend to stay inside and avoid nature.

But the fact that time outdoors is less appealing to our kids does not mean time outdoors isn’t essential. Here are 12 compelling reasons why.

1. Kids Need Active Play

Litte kid playing in the fall leaves

Doctors recommend at least half an hour a day of vigorous physical activity for children. Although it’s possible to get this playing Dance Dance Revolution or on a treadmill or stationary bike, those are poor substitutes for the sorts of shenanigans kids can discover outdoors.

The best active play is under the open sky, where they can ride bikes, play pickup basketball, kick the can, or climb a tree. Better yet, they can do all of that without breaking the lights inside.

Of course, getting outdoors isn’t a guarantee your child will get more exercise, but it increases the opportunities and motivation.

2. It Teaches the Value of Taking Risks

Little kid playing on the shore of a small lake in the mountains It’s essential to learn how to take risks and recover from failure as a child. Missing that opportunity can create significant obstacles for happiness and success as an adult.

The outdoors is full of opportunities to take minor risks, for example:

Jumping over mud puddles
Climbing a tree
Balancing on a curb or fallen log
Trying to lift a heavy rock
Playing tag

Each of these lets your child test their abilities and limits in environments where failure is likely, sometimes messy, and occasionally a bit painful. There are minor safety risks with clear consequences from which your children can learn some of life’s most important lessons.

And because they’re outside, they can do it without a parental audience adding performance pressure to the experiment.

3. Sunshine Is Good for You

Photo of a family snuggling around the fire in the desert  with the Puffy Kachula

Our bodies need sun. It gives us the ability to make vitamin D, which plays a vital role in bone development, immunity, mood regulation, and sleep. Some research even suggests sunlight can help the brain form new synapses and increase its ability to learn.

Sure, sunlight exposure can also cause sunburns and skin cancer, but that’s why we wear sunblock. We evolved in direct sunlight and our bodies are built to use what it can give us. Our kids need it to be healthy.

4. It Helps With Socialization

Photot of water running over rocks at sunrise with snow dusted mountains in the background

An Australian study found that kids who spent the most time outdoors had more vital social skills than those who did not. Time spent playing video games — even video games explicitly built to be cooperative — did not result in the same growth.

The researchers were careful to point out that this wasn’t likely to be a causal relationship. Kids don’t magically become more socially adept from spending time outdoors. Instead, they pointed out that outdoor play is generally more cooperative and exposes children to a wider variety of people than activities available indoors.

So, much like taking risks, the outside is where your children will encounter more opportunities to build their social muscles and become more adept in social situations.

5. It Fights Screen Addiction

Family sitting around the fire snuggled up in Puffy Kachula blanket

Screen addiction is like any other kind of addiction. As your kid spends more and more time looking at screens, the feel-good hormone cocktail released by the brain becomes less effective. As a result, your child needs more screen time to “get their fix” and becomes increasingly uncomfortable when not online. That’s the bad news.

The good news is screen addiction can be counteracted the same way other addictions are. Time away from the screen can help reset your kid’s tolerance for this drug of choice and stimulate the release of other essential mood hormones.

In addition, if your child is becoming increasingly reliant on screens for entertainment and fulfillment, some time outdoors can help re-establish a healthy relationship and balance with screen time.

6. It Helps Prepare Them for the Worst

Photo of child surrounded by wildflowers
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that a bit of doomsday prepping isn’t just for our crazy cousins anymore. Although we’re unlikely to see an actual apocalypse in our lifetimes, an evacuation from a natural disaster or a few days without regular services is a near certainty for most families. When that happens, we must rely on a more primitive lifestyle for a few days or even a few weeks.

If the first time your children experience the comparative hardships of outdoor living is in the middle of a disaster, their distress will make the situation worse. But if they’ve spent time camping, preparing clean water, reading maps, and building fire from scratch, a minor emergency becomes just one more adventure they have with their family.

This post will be a two part series, come back next week for part 2!

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