Take the Kids Outside More: The Benefits Abound

healthy activities and kidsSmart dads know that playing outdoors sparks a sense of adventure in a way that indoor activities just can’t inspire. Several studies found that outdoor recreation also provides your children with abundant health and wellness benefits that indoor activities can’t match, either.

Nancy Wells, an environmental psychologist and assistant professor of design and environmental analysis at Cornell University, reported in a study that children who engaged in wild nature activities before age 11 are more likely to become active, environmentally conscious adults. They were also more likely to have positive attitudes and less stress. Researcher Stephen Kellert reported similar findings in the “National Study of Outdoor Wilderness Experience,” stating that adolescents who experienced the outdoors reported increased self-confidence, self-concept, self-esteem, autonomy and capacity to cope.

Find out how your favorite outdoor hobbies can lead you and your kids down a healthy and responsible path:

Greater Emotional Health

There is a sense of freedom in the great outdoors; there are no walls, safety poles or removable bollards restricting your boundaries, no horns blowing or bustling city noises to make you jump. This physical freedom and direct contact with nature can also help free your mind. Dr. Andrew Lepp, assistant professor of recreation, park and tourism management at Kent State University, found that outdoor recreation can help prevent and reduce stress and improve self-esteem, confidence, creativity and spiritual growth. Lepp also expressed that outdoor recreation increases a sense of “adventure and challenge from life.”

According to the American Psychological Association, engaging in outdoor activity can help children mature into well-rounded adults. Psychologist Martha Erickson, Ph.D., said she pushed outdoor activity over video games and watching TV, and as a result her kids have grown into young adults who are “fit, creative, adventurous and striving to protect the environment.”

Added Social and Bonding Skills

Of course, there are ample physical benefits of outdoor recreation, such as cardiovascular and muscular fitness and a well-functioning immune system. Researchers are also finding that outdoor recreation has a wide range of social benefits as well.

Participating in bond-building adventures outdoors helps build stronger relationship ties in families and among friends. It also introduces youngsters to new people, raises social awareness and can help the local economy, too. According to Lepp, going outdoors gives people the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and can give people a sense of pride for the region in which they live. Gaining an appreciation for our environment can lead to increased involvement in environmental issues.

Wells added that “domesticated nature activities” don’t have as big an effect on environmental attitudes as “wild nature activities, such as playing in the woods, hiking, walking, fishing and hunting. When kids are exposed to nature activities at a young age, they are more likely to be shaped to be environmentally interested adults which can lead to more nature-conscious communities.

Lepp found that those who enjoyed outdoor recreation had active, happy lifestyles, which can make people more productive at work, while increased interest in outdoor recreation can help raise property values and lead to more jobs in the recreation and preservation industries.

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Ten to Twenty Parenting was created as an honest resource for those of us parenting kids between the ages of 10 and 20. Our needs are so different and the issues much more complex than diaper rashes and playground tantrums.


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