Research shows that children spend a lot of time cooped up indoors. One study done by The National Trust (UK) showed that in comparison to their parents’ generation, kids nowadays spend only half as much time outdoors.
Many researchers are pointing out that the overall engagement kids have with outside rural spaces is very low, and that it depends on various factors, including new entertainment mediums, socio-economic status, and parents’ attitude to outdoor activities. Some parents even mention the “fear of strangers” as a reason they don’t allow their kids to play outside.
While all this is understandable, it’s important to see that both children and parents are missing out a lot by engaging mostly in indoor activities. Here are some reasons to include spending time in nature in your family’s everyday life.
Physical Benefits for the Entire Family
A UK study found that people who spend at least two hours a week in nature experience a boost in their mental and physical health. Natural surroundings encourage people to be physically active, bringing a lot of physical benefits.
Furthermore, even sitting still in nature is believed to bring a health boost. The fresh air can be invigorating for kids, and it encourages physical activities, which, in turn, help build stronger bodies. All kinds of outdoor activities are great for burning more calories and boosting overall fitness and health. Also, exposure to sunlight allows both the kids and parents to absorb vitamin D, which is necessary for a strong immune system.
Nature Brings Serenity
We’ve already mentioned the nourishing effect nature can have on our minds. After all, human beings are instinctively drawn to the outdoors. According to the American Psychological Association, exposure to nature is linked to:
- lower stress levels
- cognitive benefits
- better mood
- improved attention
- empathy and cooperation
- reduced risk of psychiatric disorders
This applies to both adults and children. For adults, spending time in nature is a way to unwind and forget about work problems. It has the same relaxing effects on children, helping them relieve exam stress, for example, and learn how to cope with pressures they face at school, within social relationships, and so on. Spending time outdoors also has many benefits for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The Path to a Stronger, Closer Family
Spending time in nature together can be a wonderful way to bond with your children. This can come as a consequence of the improved mental health of each family member. Also, nurturing family bonds is much easier when you have time to spend together and block out the distractions of technology.
With the entire family free of these distractions, you’ll all be more emotionally available for each other. Some outdoor activities that can be a great bonding opportunity, depending on the kids’ age, are walking, hiking, gardening, camping, exploring, sports, stargazing, etc. All of them can be great shared experiences that help create memories together.
Interaction with Their Peers
Socialization is an important element of growing up. It entails essential social skills that children need to develop and parents need to encourage. When children are playing outdoors, they have more opportunities to interact with their peers. It’s easier to connect with others because they are more relaxed than when they’re at school or engaged in other structured activities. They can make up games and rules, collaborate, and solve problems together without inhibition.
Promoting Creativity and Building Confidence
We’ve mentioned that outdoor play is often unstructured. Being able to interact with their surroundings, approach the world in an inventive way, think more freely, and plan out their own activities, is all crucial for promoting creativity and boosting problem-solving skills. Also, having control over their own actions and choosing their activities helps children feel more independent and confident.
Protecting the Environment
We often hear the phrase “children are the future.” This is true, but it also means that children share a part of the responsibility for that future, while we, as adults, hold most of it and need to teach them how to be more respectful toward the environment. Spending time in nature is the best way to teach kids how to preserve our planet and why that is important.
While being out in the places such as parks, lakes, and forests, kids can learn about the plants and animals they get to see. The more they know, the more they will appreciate every living creature and thing on this planet. Besides talking about the ecosystem, you can also teach your kids the habits that help conserve the environment.
But you need to do more than talk. Lead by example and be the first who will pick up litter wherever you see it and dispose of it properly, and your children will follow.
As you see, spending time in nature brings many benefits to all family members, regardless of their age. Furthermore, it helps the family as a whole to be stronger and closer. Of course, it is much more difficult for those who live in urban environments to find the time for regular outdoor activities, but knowing all this, it is important to make an effort to at least visit the local park whenever you can.