The Benefits of Getting Into Nature With Your Kids
Written by contributor Eren of This Vintage Chica.
I once came across a saying that read “Avoid housework. Live outdoors.” I love this saying, and our family lives by it.
“Oh, it’s raining? Here’s your umbrella.”
“Oh, it’s 109 degrees outside and you are hot? Turn on the water hose, little man.”
Even when my kiddos were babies, we were outside as often as we could be. I remember when we first moved to Wisconsin we visited our new pediatrician. She told us that we should start giving my youngest, who was 6 weeks old at the time, Vitamin D drops. I politely said, “No, thank you. We just take him outside.”
We are in the garden each morning and each evening. We head to the beach a few times a week. When it is rainy we splash in puddles. We lay on the trampoline lat at night and look up in amazement by the number of stars. My boys are constantly bringing me caterpillars and telling me about the bird they spotted carrying a fish overhead.
But did you know all of this time spent out of doors is good for their health?
There is a quiet movement of parents who are realizing that several of the medical problems our children face can be overcome by getting our children out from in front of the tv or video game and back into nature.
Kids belong swinging from tree branches and digging in the dirt. And the list of health benefits to children who play in nature is a mile long.
But are our children the only ones who can benefit from time in the natural world?
Read on as we look more into how getting into nature with your kids can make them smarter and you a better mom.
Photo by Eren Hays San Pedro
Benefits of Nature to Children
According to an article in the Journal of American Medicine, unstructured free play in the out of doors brings cognitive, social and health benefits to children in a variety of ways. Generally children who get outside on a daily basis are smarter, more cooperative and healthier overall.
- Did you know children who play outside on a daily basis demonstrate increased creativity, better problem solving skills, more focus, and better self discipline. What mother wouldn’t want their child to have more focus and better self discipline?
- And the article goes on to cite many social benefits like better cooperation in groups, greater flexibility, and self-awareness. Pediatricians should be prescribing regular time outside to our kids.
- The emotional benefits of time outside include increased stress reduction, reduced aggression and increased happiness. I am a mother of three boys, sign me up for anything that will reduce aggression.
Basically children in the study who had regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors were smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier.
Photo by Eren Hays San Pedro
But a few months ago I had a thought. Am I getting those very same benefits from nature that my children are getting?
And, of course, the answer is yes.
Benefits of Nature To Adults
A little internet search lead me to this interesting article by Dr. John Davis. And it is no surprise that Davis find in his study that nature exposure in adults leads to many of the very same benefits seen in children.
- Increased Relaxation
- Stress Reduction
- Decreased Mental Fatigue
- Restored Mental Clarity
- Increased sense of well-being
- Healthier body
I don’t know any mother of young children that wouldn’t love a dose of stress reduction and restored mental clarity. And all by just walking outside the front door.
Photo by Eren Hays San Pedro
Simple Ideas for Nature Play
Getting into nature does not have to be complicated. Actually it can be the easiest activity ever. Here are some of our family’s favorite ideas that will have you out the door in no time.
- Sit Outside on a Blanket and Look Up – talk about what you see above you. If there are clouds, look for fun shapes.
- See if you can find 5 sticks, 8 leaves, 4 earthworms, etc.
- Go For a 5 Senses Walk – Talk about the things you see, hear, smell, touch and taste on your walk…although taste is a tough one unless you encounter a berry bush along the way.
- Have a picnic – Spread a blanket in your yard and take your plates outside. Breakfast is our favorite outside meal.
- Make a nature table or nature shelf – Designate an area in your home to enjoy the nature finds your child brings you. This could be as simple as a bowl with found rocks, shells, sticks, fall leaves, etc.
- Watch the sunrise, sunset together. Talk about the colors you see.
- Put out a bird feeder and watch the birds.
- Plant a garden.
So, next time you feel overwhelmed, stressed and ready to scream, “Everyone outside for 30 minutes so mama can think!” – Why don’t you join them? I am sure you will be a happier, more patient, and relaxed mom when you all come back inside.
In the middle of typing this post, I decided to take my own advice. I moved my laptop and my iced tea outside to the front porch. I witnessed the most amazing light show from a summer thunderstorm and saw the biggest sphynx moth I think I’ve ever seen. The sound of rain droplets and crickets have melted the day’s stresses away like magic.
Resources for More Information:
- Children and Nature Network
- The Magnifying Glass
- Nature Rocks
- Richard Louv’s book The Last Child In The Woods
Does getting outside help you? What outside activities are you and your children enjoying?
Get our weekly email called
5 Quick Things,
where we share new stuff from the blog and podcast—that way you’ll never miss a thing. Tsh also shares other goodness from around the web... It can be read in under a minute, pinky-swear.
(You’ll also get her quick list of her 10 favorite essays and podcast episodes from around here, helping you wade through a decade of content.)