As the last day of school approaches, parents and students are beginning to think about how to spend their summer break.
For some, this summer might include a family vacation to a popular destination. For others, it’s an opportunity to spend some time at the local beach or pool. Or, you may be planning to spend the summer enjoying the warm weather from the comfort of your own backyard.
Whatever your plans might be, make spending time outdoors a priority for your family, and your physical and mental health will thank you.
Time spent outdoors has so many benefits, it’s hard to list them all.
Connecting with nature improves confidence and resiliency, and helps children develop muscle strength, coordination, flexibility, and gross motor skills. It can improve vision, promote social skills, encourage creativity and problem-solving skills, and increase attention span.
Sunlight benefits your body by increasing vitamin D levels, which helps to fight chronic illnesses and improve symptoms of mental health conditions. Exposure to sunlight also helps to build the immune system, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, kill bad bacteria, and fight off anxiety and depression.
And, while you’re outside enjoying the sunshine, you’re likely to be getting some much-needed physical activity. Don’t forget your sunscreen!
The average child spends only 30 minutes a day playing outside, but spends more than seven hours a day in front of an electronic screen. Because of this, childhood obesity has more than doubled in the past 20 years. Today’s generation of children under age 18 is the first generation in the United States at risk of having a shorter lifespan than their parents.
Our children are disconnected, more stressed, and less active. Let’s change the future, and re-connect ourselves and our families with nature and the outdoors.
Unplug the iPads, cell phones, televisions, and computers, and limit use to no more than an hour a day. Create a kid-friendly outdoor space and invest in outdoor toys such as bikes, jump ropes, basketballs, sidewalk chalk, Frisbees, hula hoops, and roller skates. Make unstructured outdoor play a priority, especially for younger children who have an innate need for physical exercise and activity in the fresh air and sunshine.
It may take some time to break the habits of a sedentary lifestyle, but don’t give in to complaints – the more time your family spends outdoors, the more likely they are to discover they actually like it!
As you focus on changing your family’s routine this summer, don’t just send your kids outside. Spending time outdoors is important for adults as well, and there are plenty of activities you can do together as a family.
Start a garden, take a family walk after dinner, go camping in your backyard, play a game, or read a book together outside. Use your imagination, and plenty of activities you would normally do indoors can be moved outside on a nice day.