Common sense tells us that kids should spend time outdoors. I’m sure most of us have vivid memories of our parents telling us to “Go out and play!” when we were children.
Studies have proven the many benefits that being outside can have on our physical and emotional well-being. According to the National Wildlife Federation, spending time outdoors can increase fitness levels, lower stress and improve sleep. It’s important that we continue to encourage our children to step away from the iPad from time to time and enjoy what nature has to offer, just as our parents did for us.
That being said, not everyone is the nature type – myself included. While I love being outside and enjoying the sunshine, I do not enjoy getting dirty, being bitten by bugs, or “roughing it” in any way.
However, this does not mean people like me can’t plan (and enjoy) family activities that take place in the great outdoors. There are many fun things to do outside that do not involve hiking Mt. Everest, bathing in a river, or sleeping in a tent.
Here are some ideas to try with your family this summer:
1 | Attend sporting events.
Summer is a great time to take in a ball game. Whether it be a major league game, a local college match up, or even a little league tournament, attending a sporting event is a great way to log some outdoor hours and support your favorite teams, as well.
2 | Spend time at the playground.
Kids love few things more than a good playground. Swings, slides, and monkey bars – what’s not to love? Do a little research to find out where all the great playgrounds are in your area. One of the best ways to do this is just by chatting with other local parents to hear their favorites. Playgrounds are always being built, and are now more often accessible for children of all abilities. NPR recently put together an extensive list of these all-accessible playgrounds that you can view online.
3 | Take a walk around the block.
Walking is excellent exercise and when done outside it is even more beneficial. This does not have to be a rugged hike in the wilderness. In fact, a simple walk around your own neighborhood is all you need. Make a time for the whole family to do this together, including your furry friends. An after-dinner stroll together can become a healthy tradition and regular bonding experience.
4 | Browse farmers markets.
Farmers markets are popping up everywhere. Not only can you buy local fruits and vegetables at these venues, but often you’ll find fun (and free!) activities, as well. These can range from live music and cooking demonstrations to all kinds of children’s activities. Join your local market’s email list and “like” them on social media to get updates of what is going on.
5 | Find local fairs or festivals.
Nothing makes it feel more like summer than attending a good old-fashioned county fair or local festival. From the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland, Maine to the Sussex County Farm and Horse Show (New Jersey’s State Fair) in Augusta, New Jersey, there are events everywhere to fit all interests.
6 | Explore local parks.
Of course, let’s not forget about our local parks. Many parks have a little bit of everything – paved walking trails, playgrounds, picnic areas, and even forest hiking trails, if you’re so inclined. You can find listings of parks in your area with a quick internet search. The National Park Service has a directory of national parks listed by state.
Hopefully something on this list will spark your interest for some outdoor summertime enjoyment. There are plenty of ways to get your daily dose of Vitamin D without channeling your inner Bear Grylls. Enjoy, and don’t forget your sunscreen!