Recently, I have been seeing many blog posts, studies and reading material about how kids are not getting enough time outside. I have seen the recommended time at a minimum of three hours up to six hours a day. This had me thinking, “we are an outdoorsy family, I’m sure we meet this requirement.” I thought about my nine year old daughters’ typical school day during this month of March. In the morning she goes to a before school program that focuses on kids being outside. She is usually outside 30 minutes prior to the bus picking her up. Then she goes to school. After lunch she has recess, which is about 30 minutes. I pick her up from school, she comes home and does her homework. If she does not have basketball then we go for a 30 minute walk. That is it for outside time. An average day she is outside for only about 90 minutes, which is way below the recommended time. I guess we aren’t as outdoorsy as I thought. Our weekends are different as we have more time and there is usually at least one outdoor activity a day planned that is a couple hours, but that is only two days out of the week.
This got me thinking how we can get kids outside more and what has been helpful to get my daughter outside starting from a young age. Below are my recommendations that have helped get her outside more.
Kelty Backpack: When my daughter was old enough to hold her head up well we used the Kelty pack a lot. We used it for hiking, walks around our neighborhood, cross country skiing and snowshoeing. My daughter loved it and it was an easy way to get her outside more. This was a must have for babies.
Sand Toys: So this may seem simple, but I can remember in the spring my daughter having just a shovel and bucket and digging for hours in out driveway making rivers out of the snow melt. In the summer spending time in the sandbox. They do not have to be toys, they can be old spoons and bowls from your kitchen.
Fitbit Ace: I have had a fitbit since my daughter was born and it has always helped me stay active. My daughter started asking for one. I was hesitant to get her one as I did not want it to be another thing to sit in her room. I got her the Garmin Vivo Fit Jr as Fitbit had not come out with a kids version yet. She wore it every day for 2-3 years and was also excited when she hit her goal or was beating me When it broke I splurged and got her the Fitbit Ace last summer when it came out. She wears it every day, unless the battery has died, then she is upset if it is not fully charged before school. She continues to be excited when she is beating me or when she has gotten her goal. If she has not gotten her goal she is running around the house or asking to go for a hike. This has been well worth the money.
Hiking Backpack: This has helped her carry her own water, snacks, journal and anything else she may want to carry. As well as teach her responsibly in carrying items on the trail.
Snow Markers: These create hours of fun in the snow. The best part is after you run out of the powered dye that comes with it you can just refill the markers with food coloring and water.
Outdoor Challenges: My daughter loves these. We have participated in a few different one, which you can read about in my Outdoor Challenges for 2019 blog post. These have been a huge motivator to get outside more.
Journal: My daughter sees me writing about my own hikes in my journal that she has wanted to do her own as well as draw and write about things she see’s in nature. I have seen her sitting her in tree house writing in her journal or laying in bed after a day’s adventure writing about what we did or saw.
Backyard or local park: You do not have to go far to get gets engaged outside it can be your own backyard or a local park. Any place where there is a tree, dirt and grass. Kids can create their own adventures using their imagination.
Friends: This has probably been the easiest way to get my daughter to hike and be outside. Be with a friend. It is amazing what happens on the trail when you see kids hike together. They explore, discover, sing and talk all while having a blast. I have brought my daughters friends on a few of my hikes and it always amazes me when they ask if they can come again. I am always afraid that they will be bored, but they never seem to be.
Another thing that I constantly have to tell myself is not rushing their time outside. We live in a rushed society and I even struggle with this. When we are hiking I want to just get to the top or finish the hike so I can get home to do the next thing on my to do list. Kids need time to explore and expand their interest in the outdoors. Letting them stop and look at the flower or bug or allowing them to climb that tree. I am continuously making an effort to improve on this. The more I allow my daughter to do in nature the more she will come to love and appreciate it.
I hope some of my suggestions have been helpful to you. I would love to hear what keeps you and your family motivated to be outside.
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