When I was growing up, toward the end of the 20th century, my friends and I practically lived outdoors during the spring and summer months. We would climb trees, jump rope and make hopscotch out of sidewalk chalk. By the end of the summer, my skin would be as brown as the dirt we played in and the bottoms of my feet would be calloused from running around barefoot.
Today, however, children are growing up in a technological revolution that is changing the way they recreate. With so many video games and gadgets to occupy their time, how do we ensure that our children grow up healthy and with an appreciation for this planet that we call home?
Take a Hike
For new and seasoned hikers alike, <a href=” https://www.alltrails.com/”>Alltrails.com</a> is a great resource for finding hiking trails in your area. You can browse trails according to distance and skill level. Designate Saturday or Sunday as a “hiking day” twice a month. Start the morning with your family’s favorite breakfast to get your kids excited about a day outdoors. Pack a few kid-friendly protein bars or a picnic lunch. Make a playlist for the car ride that includes the songs to which your kids love to sing along. Then, once you’re on the trail, allow your kids to take photos and to learn about what may be the least used app on their phones—the compass.
Visit Your Local Beach or Lake
Even the most stubborn couch potato will embrace the excuse to grab a pair of shades and head to where the water is. According to the marine biologist Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, seeing water increases “blood flow to the brain and heart, promoting overall wellness and relaxation”. Being immersed in water also has an affect on and can improve mental health.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a place like San Diego or Miami, the beach can easily become one of your family’s favorite hangout spots. Bring a bag with tools for sandcastle making, sunscreen and plenty of water to stay hydrated in the heat. Where I live, the beaches tend to be rockier, covered in seashells and sand dollars and generally more conducive to exploring than getting a tan. Make the most out of your landscape by taking your kids on a scavenger hunt for local flora and fauna.
Landlocked? No problem! Bring the water to your backyard via a pool or even a sprinkler. If you have the means, an inground pool can be a great investment and a way to beautify your backyard. Inground pool pricing ranges from $6,000 – $12,000 depending on the size. Swimming builds muscle and strengthens the heart and lungs without impacting stress on the body.
Build the Best Backyard on the Block
Create incentive for the kids to turn off the TV by making your backyard more kid-friendly. Build a tree house or install a play set with swings and a slide. If you have the space, a jungle gym and a trampoline are two other great options.
Keep sports equipment on hand, like a football, soccer ball, baseball and gloves. Many experts recommend storing outdoor toys and lawn games, like frisbee, jump rope, croquet, and badminton, in a waterproof bin for protection. Nothing is more natural for kids than playing, and just sixty minutes of play a day can help prevent childhood obesity.
A backyard clubhouse doesn’t need to be elaborate or even permanent—a pop-up tent works just fine! This can offer privacy and encourage imaginary play.
Set the Example
Remember, your kids are going to emulate your behavior. Kids learn from what you do, not just from what you tell them. If you show them how much fun it is to get outdoors, they’ll believe you! Spending time outside as a family and ditching those devices helps to build relationships and to foster open communication. So trade in your iPhone for some sunscreen and a water bottle, grab your kids and find your adventure.