A Summer of Outdoor Fun

Think about it. How many days during the school year is your child forced to be indoors at least a good part of the day? In most states it’s 180 days.That’s half a year!

The benefits of spending time in the outdoors are numerous. Being outdoors can be a stress buster and mood booster. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that the closer you live to nature, the healthier you’re likely to be.

For instance, several large-scale studies have found that vitamin D deficiency is widespread —one in 10 U.S. children are estimated to be deficient. Vitamin D is essential to good bone development, since it helps us absorb calcium and phosphorus. But Vitamin D deficiency can also affect major organs and their functions.

Now we know that being outside in the sun boosts the level of Vitamin D in our bloodstream. But how much sun is healthy for our kids? And what about sunscreen? Won’t it block the rays that are so beneficial to building Vitamin D?

There’s a great article on the USNews and World Report website discussing not only these issues, but also Vitamin D supplements and how to get Vitamin D naturally in our diets. Click here to read the article.

Spending time in the great outdoors has a lot of other health benefits, as well. For instance, natural sunlight helps to regulate your internal clock and normalize hormone functions. And being the fresh air tends to increase your quality of sleep, helping you to fall asleep faster and awake feeling more refreshed.

In addition, outdoor play increases fitness levels and builds active, healthy bodies.The end result is a kid with lean, toned muscles, a good healthy appetite and one who is unlikely to become a childhood obesity statistic.

With all of this in mind, now’s the time to get your kids outdoors to enjoy all the benefits that nature has to offer. Even if you are working and the kids are in daycare, there are many outdoor activities that will enrich your family’s life. Here’s a short list of Miss Cathie’s suggestions for easy outdoor activities if you have limited time.

  • Take a magnifying glass to the backyard and explore
  • Collect interesting rocks and set up a display in a cardboard box
  • Play follow-the-leader while walking to the neighborhood park
  • Turn on the sprinkler and splash around to cool off
  • Take a book and a blanket to a quiet place in the yard
  • Spread a tablecloth on the grass and eat outdoors

And my simple list could go on and on. Put on your thinking cap and you’ll come up with a ton of fun ideas.

If you and your child have more time and want to really explore nature there are many fun suggestions for you.  Here are a couple of my favorites.

  • Pack a picnic lunch, don a backpack and head to the woods. Don’t forget to take along a magnifying glass for checking out hollow logs, mossy rocks and other neat things.
  • Help your child build an underwater bug viewer and head to a nearby pond or lake to explore.
  • Go on a nature scavenger hunt. Make up a list of items (pinecone, pretty leaf, funny shaped rock, etc.) before you leave home and then have a ball searching for the items on the list once you hit the trail.

So these lists give you just a few ideas for fun outdoor activities your family can enjoy. But don’t forget that each item on the list has other purposes besides having fun. First, each one is getting your child off the couch, out of the house and away from the video games. And second, doing these activities gives your child a boost both physically and mentally. Talk about a win-win.

Well, I’ve got to run for now but this afternoon I think I’ll pull out my binoculars and get up close and personal with the birds at the feeder in my yard. I hope you have a fabulous week with your child, having fun in the great outdoors.

Cathie

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