In the modern era, technology is all around us. With the help of technology, we work, communicate with others, check the weather and pour ourselves a cup of coffee. Today's young children have grown up with these devices all around them. In several cases, they even use them for entertainment and education combined.
While it's not necessarily a bad thing to let your kid watch cartoons for a few hours, it's likely that if they don't spend enough time outside, they'll miss out on key developmental opportunities.
Here are a few benefits that will encourage your family to experience the wonder of the outdoors.
What it does for the body
Above all else, time spent in nature encourages a healthy lifestyle. Most of the time, screens restrict us to sedentary positions. We sit at desks to browse our computers and on the couch to view movies and television shows. Unless we deliberately choose to be active, many of us aren't. Even taking a short walk to the park or riding bikes through the neighborhood can boost your heart rate. This allows children to get the necessary amount of exercise. When you choose to venture outdoors, you rack up a host of benefits, like reduced fatigue and adequate vitamin D levels.
If your child struggles with obesity, you may want to make it a point to play outside. Organize a family hike, trip to the pool or send them out to the backyard with some friends. These activities will allow them to run, jump and move, which helps to lower their mass body index as a result. This is great for the healthy development of all kids, even those who aren't at risk in this area. Spending time in nature will also strengthen their immune system, as they won't be so cooped up inside.
Spending time outdoors is rooted in sensory detail – we can see the sunset, smell the ocean, feel the grass and hear the wind. All of this provides meaningful stimulation for children that they won't find indoors. Every time we step into nature, we heighten and expand our senses. These various aspects all work together to make the brain function properly. When our senses are lost, like when we can't see in the dark, our body relies on other variables, like hearing, to help us get by. If we don't work on the enrichment of our senses, we may have trouble navigating certain environments.
What it does for the mind
There's only so much that tablet games can do for your child's mental development. The outdoors, on the other hand, promotes creativity and imagination. Often, kids like to invent games or wild stories based on their surroundings. They aren't limited to an app – instead, their minds can run free. This plays an essential part in building emotional and psychological capacities. In nature, your child can expand their realm of what's possible. What happens when they toss a pebble into a body of water? How can they push themselves down this slide? The more they're exposed to these situations, the more their minds will grow.
In the same vein, outdoor exposure promotes confidence. In nature, there aren't as many boundaries as one may think. Of course, there are rules set in stone to keep parks and reserves well-maintained, which are important to teach your children. This freedom inspires the chance for kids to have control over their actions. They can jump in the mud, run across the sand and climb rocks. When you encourage your child to respect and explore nature at the same time, they start to recognize the power of their choices.
Spending time outside can help children think outside of the box, as it prompts curiosity. When a kid asks the age of a tree or why a blue jay is blue, it's because their brains constantly seek new information and the satisfying answers that come with it. Nature creates a sense of excitement and wonder that many kids won't find anywhere else. This is especially true for those who live in an urban area and haven't had the chance to see a mountain or lake in person. The outdoors help kids come to real-world conclusions and expand their horizons.
Hit the power button
The great outdoors provide a number of undeniable benefits, for both the body and mind. As your children grow, encourage them to spend less time on their phones and more time in nature. Plan an excursion to a ropes course or fill up some water balloons for them to throw around in the yard. Even the smallest activities help, like a daily walk after dinner. No matter what, every time your kid takes a step outside, they'll reap the benefits. Make way for a healthy, confident, smart and curious child.
Written by Jennifer Landis
About the Author
Jennifer Landis is a mom, wife, writer, and blogger at Mindfulness Mama. She’s quite fond of peanut butter, distance running, yoga, and drinking as much tea as possible. Find her on Twitter @JenniferELandis.
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