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.

hello friend...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.

The Benefits:

  • 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.

sundown silhouettesPhoto 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.

capturedPhoto 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:

Does getting outside help you? What outside activities are you and your children enjoying?

Join the Conversation
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Eren

Eren Hays San Pedro, a contributor at Simple Organic, never thought she would give up her day job in website design and marketing to be a stay-at-home mom. But home is where she is happy these days with her U.S. Navy husband and her three boys (twins who are seven and her munchkin four-year-old). When she is not at the local thrift store, she can be found barefoot in her backyard garden or at the sewing machine. Eren shows how she puts a little vintage into modern day living at her blog, Vintage Chica.

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Comments

  1. Catherine says:

    Your picture of the ghost crab in the net reminded me of how Gabi used to catch them with her bare hands when she was 2 or 3. Thx for reminding me to get the kiddos out – we’ve been stuck inside for 3 weeks as I recovered from a huge asthma attack (I inhaled jalapeno oil). Outside, the girls make fairy houses, catch butterflies, dragonflies, daddy long legs, and lightning bugs with their bear hands, knosh on the fresh grown herbs, veggies, and blueberries, play horse (complete with jumps), Warrior, and whatever comes out of their creative little heads, read in their fort or on the hammock, and all of the normal beachy things that come with living near the coast.

    • Oh Catherine…jalepeno oil…in you lungs…ouch! I hope you are feeling better soon and can get back out to enjoy all of the great things you do with your family.

      Blessings!

  2. Thank you, thank you for those post! I don’t have children yet, but that is how I hope to raise them. Respecting and loving nature. Always outside. When looking at homes, the first thing we always do is check the backyard. Is it enough for our dogs? For the garden I’m hoping for? For our kids to play in everyday? I’ll definitely be referring back to this post in several years when I have kids!

    • Aileen, we have the same criteria in homes…I could have cared less about the master bathroom, but a large backyard was a MUST! And Im sure you know that the benefits of getting outside are not limited to us adults with children 😉 What a great mom you will be someday! Good luck house hunting!

  3. LOVED this post!

    “avoid housework. Live outdoors.” great motto 🙂

  4. Totally love this post – Isn’t it the truth!!! I have so made use of this lately and I feel so …ooo much better for it!!! Somehow the great outdoors puts our day/week … into perspective!!! Not to mention it makes bedtime so much smoother!!!

  5. Yeah! I’m pro-this for sure. 🙂

  6. Great post (and reminder!!) 🙂 I have to ask – is that a real dragonfly in the top picture? If so – what an AMAZING picture – Ilove the cartoon-like eyes 🙂

    • Thanks Eva…and yes, it is a real dragonfly. But I have to be honest and tell you that it was sick at the time and not really flying. It died a few hours after this photo was taken. But we sure did enjoy the time to get to see how amazingly beautiful they are before he went to dragonfly heaven. Their eyes ARE incredible!

  7. Thanks for this encouragement. I thrive outdoors, but it’s easy for me to send the kids outside while I try to get things done inside the house. I would do well to remember the saying you mentioned, maybe as an incentive to streamline what keeps me inside when I’d rather be out.

  8. This is well known that money makes people disembarrass. But what to do when one has no money? The one way only is to get the mortgage loans or college loan.

  9. Time spent in natural world can help build our physical, emotional, and family fitness. Nature living benefits trails may positively affect mental function. A 2011 study published in “Health & Place” established that walking in rural settings was advantageous to mental health.

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