Some time ago, REI’s catalog had a fabulous tag line. It read, in big font across the front, “Have an out of house experience!” Perfect. It is all too easy—so it seems—to stay inside after school or on the weekends. It seems like a lot of work to get dressed and go do something outdoors, especially in less than sunny weather. But REI is right, we all should get outside, everyday.
Why you ask? Why is it worth it to don various layers of goretex and polypro and hats and mittens when it is perfectly comfortable in your living room? Where should I begin?
H1N1 and other fun viruses. One reason we experience more colds and flues in the winter is that we spend more time inside then. Indoor air circulation is a fabulous breeder and spreader of germs. Fresh air keeps these nasty bugs at bay and in turn keeps your kids healthier. And by the way, you can NOT catch a cold by being cold.
Obesity prevention. We all know this is a growing problem—pun intended. But did you know that the Center for Disease Control found that the amount of TV that children watch is directly correlated with the amount of body fat they have? Getting kids back outside will automatically get them moving and prevent childhood obesity.
Emotional health. Kids (and parents) need a break from the bustle of everyday life. Nature provides a buffer, a safe zone, a restorative sanctuary like no other. Lots of studies have shown that kids and adults who are experiencing stressful events in their lives benefit greatly from unstructured time outside. Try it. Even if you only have five minutes. Just sit on a bench somewhere and let yourself be.
Motor development. We all want our kids to have good balance and agility. The best, and most fun, place to achieve these skills is outdoors. In a Scandinavian study, children who spent their recess on the playground with a natural setting had better balance, strength and, interestingly, better cognitive scores than children who played on asphalt playgrounds. So running around on uneven ground is not only fun, it is essential to our children’s growth and development.
The benefits go on and on. Suffice it to say, our kids are made to play and grow outside. So make it a practice in your family to have an out of house experience every day!