Why My Family has Made the Commitment
Studies show that the average American child spends 4-7 minutes a day outdoors and over 6 hours in front of screens. In Last Child in the Woods, author Richard Louv tells the story of interviewing a child who told him that he liked playing indoors more than outdoors “cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.”
I’ve always loved being outside, and knew I wanted to raise my daughter with a strong connection to nature. I swore my child would not grow up to be one of these statistics. Yet somehow in her first year, I got into a habit of hibernating most days.
We live in Alaska, so we have our challenges. The long winters are cold and dark, and the bugs are horrendous in the summer. But the biggest challenge for me was simply taking that first step and getting out of the comfort zone I had created.
I knew something had to change. In January 2018 I committed to the 365 Mile Challenge and getting my family outside more. We started small and throughout the year it snowballed from there. The more time we spent in nature, the happier and healthier we were!
Over the last year I’ve done a lot of reading and research on the benefits of time spent in nature (I love research, I’m a nerd!), and as suspected, the reasons are numerous. Here are my top 5!
My Top 5
1. It’s good for kids!
Oh, let me count the ways. Children who play outdoors regularly..
- Have stronger immune systems
- Develop healthier, more fit bodies
- Have lower stress levels
- Play more creatively
- Have better focus
- Develop a strong vocabulary of nature words
- Learn to properly assess risks
- Develop problem solving skills, confidence and resiliency
- Are less likely to become nearsighted
- Are less likely to be addicted to screens
- Have better moods and sleep patterns
- Develop better balance, coordination and agility
- Nurture their senses of curiosity and wonder
- Are more likely to choose to get outside when they’re older
Even infants benefit greatly from being outside. They soak up every sound, sight, and smell, and nature is much richer in these experiences than a home could ever be. Not only is it enjoyable, but babies actually take this information and use it to develop their ideas about how the world works. Being outdoors actually builds their brains.
Abundant time in nature is a critical wellspring of human health, with a deep and formative influence on children in particular. Nature’s impacts extend far beyond physical fitness, encompassing intellectual and emotional health, self-identity, and basic values and morals. Health benefits of exposure to nature include enhanced healing, stress reduction, creativity, and self-esteem. Nature also has an unparalleled capacity to stir our emotions, fostering raw and powerful feelings of wonder, awe, mystery, joy—and, yes, fear. Smelling a wildflower in an alpine meadow, sprinting into the ocean surf, and sharing a face-to-face encounter with a coyote are all experiences that differ mightily from virtual alternatives.Scott D. Sampson, How to Raise a Wild Child
2. It’s good for adults.
Especially as a stay at home parent (and childcare provider), days stuck indoors go by S-L-O-W! Breaking up the day with chunks of outside time make it fly by, and leave me with the feeling that our day was well spent.
As adults, when we get outside regularly, we have lower stress levels, better immune systems and feel happier! If we are able to get our heart rate up via walking, hiking, or pulling kids around in a wagon or sled, we also get the benefit of endorphins (the happy hormones!).
3. It’s good for the earth.
For ourselves, and for our planet, we must be both strong and strongly connected — with each other, with the earth. As children, we need time to wander, to be outside, to nibble on icicles, watch ants, to build with dirt and sticks in the hollow of the earth, to lie back and contemplate clouds….
Gary Paul Nabhan & Stephen Trimble, The Geography of Childhood, 2004
We live in an ever changing world- and not in a good way. If children do not spend any time in nature, how will they know as adults what will be lost?
Research has found that children with a strong nature connection will grow up to love and respect nature and the environment.
4. We’re making memories.
Kids don’t remember their best day of television.Unknown
Think back to your favorite memories from childhood. I bet some of them involved being outside. Almost all of mine do! I can remember wandering down dirt roads, swimming in the lake, catching fireflies and spending all day on my bike.
When you’re inside, how often are you multitasking? How often are you checking your phone? Now how about when you’re outside? For me, being outside frees me to live in the moment.
5. The house stays clean.
Okay, this reason is not as important as the others. But it does make a difference. Playing outdoors usually entails minimal cleanup.
I’m a Type A personality. I notice every crumb on the counter, unfolded dish towel, and smudge on the mirror. Getting outside means I can get out of my head and leave these silly worries behind.
These are my top 5 reasons for joining the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge.
Send those kids outside! Or even better, go with them.