It is a well-known fact that getting kids outside as much as possible proves beneficial in numerous ways. The tough part is fitting it in…especially between school schedules, work schedules and the less-than-ideal weather that will be “plaguing” us shortly. Not to mention a complete lack of daylight that only adds to the puzzle. Well-meaning parents everywhere find it nearly impossible to squeeze in some fresh air for themselves and their children.
Here are our best tips for making it work – obviously not all of them work for every family and it certainly takes some extra effort. But, the payoffs are happier families, kids that sleep better, and better general health (mentally, physically and emotionally) for everyone.
- As soon as kids get home from school, take everyone outside. Put off homework for 20 minutes and enjoy the last bits of daylight.
- Dual-income working family? Pick the kids up from daycare, etc. and go! Be prepared with some healthy snacks (fruit, veggies, etc.) that won’t ruin their dinner and wear headlamps if necessary. Cook dinner in the slow cooker on those evenings so it is hot and ready for you when you get home.
- Be realistic – if once a week is all you can manage for something other than “quick, go play outside for 15 minutes!” then so be it! Even fifteen minutes is drastically better than nothing at all.
- Resist the urge to “throw the kids outside”. Go with them and engage them. Not just for their well-being and keeping a positive attitude about outdoor time, but for your sake too.
- Have a plan and all the right gear to keep everyone happy ready. Is Tuesday your family evening outside? Do you plan on hitting the playground, going on a bike ride, or just a walk around the block with flashlights? Prepare the evening before so you don’t waste time trying to get everything together.
- Set aside an evening a week (or morning or afternoon on the weekends) that is designated family outdoor time. Don’t let weather beat your plans, even if it alters them a bit.
- Headlamps. They are your best friend for beating the winter darkness. Even young toddlers enjoy wearing them.
- Have a good system in your closet for keeping everyone’s warm weather clothing accessible and easy to find. Getting out the door is usually the toughest part. In our family we each have a bin that keeps our own “stuff” in it and we (usually) can find something warm quickly.
- Shop the deals (Sierra Trading Post is full of them) for the right gear so not being warm is no excuse. You don’t have to spend a ton of money, just be smart about your shopping and purchase items that can be passed down from kid to kid.
- Walk, bike or run to work or school or even just the bus stop. Make it as normal in your family as driving a car. It’s healthy for your family and saves money too.
Kids need time to run, play and explore and an inside gym or other avenue is no replacement for fresh air. And, the honest truth is kids aren’t the only ones who benefit. Families who play and engage in a healthy lifestyle are happier together!
-Amelia lives with her husband and two young boys in Yellowstone National Park. She writes over at Tales of a Mountain Mama about their attempts to continue an active, outdoor lifestyle now that babies and kids are in the mix while hiking, camping, biking, skiing and doing plenty of exploring.