Getting Back to Nature

It surprises me how little time kids spend outside these days. When I was a kid I was outside all the time. I rode my bike for hours everyday, my best friend and I loved to walk in the woods, my brother and I would do our school work out on our paddle boat, in the summer we had many lemonade stands, and really most of my childhood memories are outside.

According to a study by the University of Minnesota unstructured free time has greatly decrease in the last 30 years. Unstructured outdoor activities have fallen by 50%. American children now spend an average of seven hours in front of electronic screens. And childhood obesity has more than doubled in the last 20 years, while many things are adding to those numbers, a decrease in childhood activity levels plays a big role.

Another problem for American children is vitamin D deficiency, a shocking 70% of children aren’t getting enough vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D puts children at risk for many health problems including heart problems and diabetes. Vitamin D is required to absorb calcium and promotes healthy bones. Vitamin D also helps make us happier, a lack of vitamin D is linked to depression. Just 10-15 minutes a day can greatly boost the amount your body makes.

Another great reason to get outside is it helps children connect to nature and if they have that connection they are more likely to understand how important it is that we take care of it. There are many learning opportunities outside, your child can learn about science, nature, animals, and more.

There has also been a decrease in how much time families spend together so why not make time outside a family activity? It’s not just children that need more exercise and vitamin D, adults are lacking in both as well. There are many great things to do outside, riding bikes, walking the family dog (yes even dogs are more often obese these days!), playing sports, games like hide-n-seek, using sidewalk chalk, blowing bubbles, and so much more. This time outside will make your family healthier and happier.

If you don’t have children you can likely still use more time outside. Just last night my husband and I spent several minutes playing basketball outside. We got in some exercise, got vitamin D, and spent quality time together all at once. And the best part was, it was free. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Did you spend a lot of time outside as a child? Do you find that your children are spending less time outside than you did? What are your families favorite outside activities?

This is my post for Green Mom’s Carnival which is talking about “Inspiring Ideas for Getting Back to Nature with the Kids” this month. It is hosted at the Green Phone Booth and will be live on May 12 so be sure to check it out.

Photo credit: thisgeekredes

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  1. says

    Happily I’m not afraid to ban screens in good weather and have even been known to kick my kids outside in bad weather. I don’t understand the “fear” so many parents have about sending kids outside. Bee stings, abductions, drowning, etc. Give kids and nature a little credit!

  2. says

    I spent most of my childhood outside, and hope to recreate that as much as I can for my kids. I feel really sad about poor urban kids, like those I used to teach, who often have no good places to walk or play outside, except school (which is often all concrete :(

    I wish more thought had gone into the built environment. It’s a mess, and often doesn’t help anyone get outside.

  3. Lisa Sharp says

    Green Girl: That’s great!! You can be careful without being overly protective.

    Betsy: Yeah we need to get more green spaces into urban areas. Even if it’s just green roofs for kids to play on.

  4. says

    My kids are outside all the time. As a family, we spend a lot of time outside and always have. We are fortunate to have neighbors next door that spend as much time as we do outside- so they have instant friends to play with. Much like Green Girl-my kids are out there, rain or shine. It’s sad to see so many only venturing out for organized sports. Kids need to be kids and explore the wonders of the great outdoors.

  5. says

    Great reminder, Lisa, to get off this computer and get outside! Thank you for speaking up for the adults – its not like we are always so connected to nature. :)

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