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family outdoors

Go outside and play (with your kids)

Happy summer, everyone. We’re taking a shift with our two latest videos. On a slightly different angle from recent topics (the story of a new gardener, a sustainable CSA farm or our whirlwind tour through Cultivate ’22), we’re taking a small step away from gardening to talk about something just as important (actually, probably even more important). And that is — why we should get outside to appreciate nature with our kids.

Research shows that getting kids outside to play is vital to their development for a number of reasons. Parents know this. But, it can be hard to get youngsters outdoors to play, especially with busy lives and an even busier world out there. For the sake of experiment, our president, Katie Macdonald, thought she would test a few (fun) ways to just try it — to just go outside and play — and we share the joyful results of her efforts in the videos below.

After picking up a lovely little book called We Love Nature: A Keepsake Journal for Families Who Love to Explore the Outdoors, Katie and her kids found few activities that they all agreed would be fun to try. Then, they threw themselves out the door, and we have to say, we’re all delighted to see what happened.

In the first video, Katie and her youngsters take a walk to collect wildflowers and then take a stab at identifying them while creating bouquets (gold stars for their ID efforts).

In the second video, the gang tackles the activity of listening to nature sounds — both in daytime and at night, then have fun replicating some of the sounds they heard. (Let’s note for the record that we agree, it is indeed super tricky to replicate the sound of water and waves.) The third activity they pursue is to go for a swim to appreciate nature from the H20 side of things, while those of us sitting at our desks writing articles about their fun time get to feel just a teeny bit jealous of the joy they find in the water. Just sayin’.

Why is it so important to get kids outside?

Harvard Health tells us that there are (at least) six good reasons to get children to play outdoors. We’ll paraphrase what we learned below, but we also recommend you read the article yourself to get the full picture.

Sunshine

Activate that vitamin D. Our bodies need exposure to sunshine to make vitamin D, which plays a vital role in the body’s processes, from immune system function to bone development. Exposure to sunlight also helps our mood, and improves sleep, too.

Exercise

You know it, we know it — we all need more exercise. And young people should be active for about an hour every day. What could be more fun than playing outdoors with a ball to toss or kick, or a bike to wheel around? Yep. Active play is the best exercise for kids.

Executive function

Just what is executive function? These are the skills that help us prioritize, plan, negotiate, troubleshoot, multitask and get creative. With well-developed executive functioning skills, we can use our imaginations to problem-solve and stave off boredom by finding ways to move our bodies and amuse our brains. When kids are outside, making up their own games, they’re growing their executive functioning muscles, and that’s a good thing, as far as important life skills goes.

Risk-taking

It’s a scary thought for parents, but kids need to be able to take risks to help them learn the lessons of failure, and success, when they’re given the freedom to reach beyond their perceived limits. There’s lots of ways that getting out into nature (climbing trees, going for a goal in one of those above-mentioned made-up games) can give youngsters chances to explore, develop bravery and confidence, and conquer their fears.

Socialization

Structured settings like school and sports teams create constraints in kids’ abilities to collaborate, make friends, share and cooperate. Playing outside together, exploring, and having adventures in nature all give plenty of opportunity for kids to work together and practice all kinds of ‘we’re all in this together’ types of useful life skills.

Appreciation of nature

One glance at today’s headline news tells us that our natural world is routinely in peril. When young people get out into nature, they can generate a true understanding of just what’s at risk and what could be lost. When we go outside with them, we have a chance to talk about it, and perhaps create strategies to deal with the problems our planet faces — together.

There’s just about a month left of summer left before school’s back in session, so we hope you get a chance to get outside with your kids, like Katie has with her youngsters. And we also hope that you found your time outside to be just as invigorating and enriching, too. Here’s to summer.

yellow petaled flower by elias sorey unsplash

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