Do you remember playing outdoors as a kid? It was a time to run around and let loose, use your imagination and explore. As a child growing up in the 1980's, I remember walking to school, riding my bike to the swim club or just around the neighborhood to see friends, and making up all kinds of imaginative games in the woods behind my house.

Well, playing outdoors doesn't happen much anymore. Sadly, kids spend five to eight hours a day in front of a screen, which means children are having less experience with and connection to nature.

Children spending less time outdoors has been linked to decreased appreciation of our environment, health problems including childhood obesity and vitamin D deficiency, diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of emotional illnesses like anxiety and depression.

Nature helps reduce stress

Humans have a nature instinct known as biophilia, an innate bond we share with all creatures and plants in the natural world that we subconsciously seek. In fact, a growing number of studies from around the world show that spending time in nature can improve mental health and promotes healing. A breakthrough study found that a healing garden at a children's hospital in California had positive effects on users—about 85% reported feeling more relaxed, refreshed, or better able to cope after spending only 5 minutes in the garden.

We are all struggling to balance a million priorities and to make the best decisions for our family, here are a few ways to get children outdoors:

  1. Spend more time outside as a family. Keep your children's outdoor time unstructured–go for a walk, visit a local park, ride bikes, have a healthy meal in your backyard, garden.
  2. Plan day trips and vacations based on National Parks or other outdoor experiences.
  3. Register your children for outdoor sports and summer camp.
  4. Teach children to be mindful of nature around you.
  5. Lobby for your school to keep physical education and recess on your child's schedule.
  6. Start a nature group at your child's school.
  7. Get involved in a community garden or local environmental group.
  8. Examine ways to minimize technology use in your house.

With a bit of planning, it's easy to be creative and add nature experiences back into our children's lives. Get them out from behind the screen, and go explore outdoors! Just remember to bring your sunscreen and bug spray!

You might also like:

Raising a mentally strong kid doesn't mean he won't cry when he's sad or that he won't fail sometimes. Mental strength won't make your child immune to hardship—but it also won't cause him to suppress his emotions.

In fact, it's quite the opposite. Mental strength is what helps kids bounce back from setbacks. It gives them the strength to keep going, even when they're plagued with self-doubt. A strong mental muscle is the key to helping kids reach their greatest potential in life.

But raising a mentally strong kid requires parents to avoid the common yet unhealthy parenting practices that rob kids of mental strength. In my book, 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don't Do, I identify 13 things to avoid if you want to raise a mentally strong kid equipped to tackle life's toughest challenges:

Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play