Today is National Play Outside Day, so it’s the perfect day to encourage your kids to play outside! It’s also a great time to think about how often your family plays outside, and how you can increase that time to reap all the benefits of the great outdoors.
There are so many benefits to playing outside! Research shows that playing outside has important developmental benefits for our children, including improved physical and mental health, improved learning outcomes, and more positive behavior. Here are a few of my family’s favorite benefits of playing outside:
- promotes physical activity
- decreases stress
- promotes a lifelong love of, and care for, the environment
- provides lots of opportunities for kids to play creatively
- It’s a great place to create memories with your kids!
Play Outside–Every Day!
Given all these benefits, it seems like a no-brainer that we would send our kids outside every day to play, but sometimes life–busy extracurricular schedules, less-than-ideal weather, the pull toward screen-based activities–gets in the way. I have found that the best way to ensure my family reaps the known benefits of playing outside is just to make it part of our routine every day, even if it’s only for 15 minutes.
Our Journey with 1000 Hours Outside
I came to the conclusion that we needed to get outside play time every single day after experimenting with counting the actual number of hours we spend outside throughout the year. Last year, my family tried to reach 1000 hours thanks to the encouragement of the 1000 Hours Outside movement. The goal of the movement is to encourage families to make nature time a priority, and to shift the balance of activities children participate in toward more unstructured, outdoor play.
We didn’t make it all the way to 1000 (we totaled 673!), but we certainly learned a lot along the way. Tracking our hours encouraged us to play outside during “bad” weather days (I read and started to subscribe to the philosophy of There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather) when it wouldn’t have otherwise been our first choice of activity, but we were motivated to color in sections on our 1000 Hours Outside tracker.
We learned that getting out the door can sometimes be the hardest part, but once we were out and engaged in an activity, it was easy and fun to stay outdoors! The benefits we experienced motivated us to keep up the outdoor play and make it part of our daily routine.
Ideas for Getting Your Kids to Play Outside
Want to get your kids outside more today, or any day? Try these fun ideas:
- Offer to do something with your kids outside like play catch or go on a bike ride
- Read outside (our family does “Popsicles on the Porch” where we read on the porch and eat popsicles)
- Have a picnic in your backyard or a park
- Create a chalk obstacle course
- Water play!
- Participate in seasonal outdoor sports (golf, skiing, etc.)
- Take a hike at one of these cool hiking locations around Metro Detroit
- Try a Park Week where you visit a different park each day for a week. There are some truly awesome parks in Metro Detroit, including our state parks!
Whether your family gets outside regularly already, or you’re trying to create a new habit of doing so, start today and experiment with incrementally increasing your outdoor play. A half hour today can turn into an hour tomorrow and even more the next day! Talk about it with your kids afterward and ask them what they liked most about playing outside. Soon you’ll all be noticing the benefits you experience. Oh, and don’t forget your sunscreen!