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  • Rebecca P. Cohen

Make every day better with 15 Minutes Outside

I had the best Thursday morning of my life and I owe it all to my kids and our fifteen minutes outside this morning that turned into - I kid you not - two hours outside. Yep, on a school and work day, no less. And it had nothing to do with the weather: low 40s F, overcast sky, and off and on cold rain.

I've always said that not only does our fifteen minutes outside bring us closer together because it is always fun, but also my kids - ages six and nine - will get ready faster in the morning because they know once they accomplish their morning routine (mostly) independently, that they get a chance to play outside before school.

It normally would be a morning one might dread. My husband was out the door for a business trip by 6am, when I got up to do some work before the kids woke up. Although I was tired, once I had my perfect morning cup of coffee, the routine slowly, but consistently hummed along - I even cut a fresh pineapple for breakfast and was generous and made my kids' lunches for them (usually their responsibility). The kids came down at different times to the kitchen to say good morning and then went up to their rooms to get dressed and came back down to have some breakfast.

"Mom, will you ride bikes with me?" my nine year-old asked at 7a.m.

"Sure," I said. "Let's all go and we can walk Sampson at the same time."

Mind you, five minutes before he declared, "It's gross outside." To which I responded, "It's just wet."

My two boys put on their rain jackets, boots, and helmets, and rode their bikes while I walked the dog in the direction of a nearby footbridge over a creek, a favorite destination for not only our family, but also for me too when I need some quiet time.

"Can we ride to the footbridge, Mom?" asked my younger son.

"Sure, if you both want to." I said.

"Yay!" both sons replied enthusiastically.

After spending fifteen minutes riding up and down the hill that leads to the footbridge (a first on their bikes), the boys proudly rode up back toward the house and out paced me quickly.

When I could see our house, I noticed the boys had parked their bikes and now were on their scooters and it was drizzling. Then, my older son invited me for a scooter race around the driveway while my younger son jumped rope and contemplated his plans for the school talent show. One three-lap scooter race led to another and then another.

"Did you like that Mom?" my older son asked.

"Yes, it was fun!" I replied, out of breath and smiling.

Heading inside to put the already-made lunches into the kids' backpacks, my nine year-old said, "Mommy, you know what makes you cool? You let us play outside whenever we want."

Whoa. OK pause. First of all, my older son has NEVER said I'm cool; usually it is the opposite. Second, he gravitates to TV and video games unless I give him a helpful nudge to get outside, but there is no doubt that our fifteen minutes outside every day has made him more proactive about getting outside on his own.

Reflecting further about my son's perspective, on a muddy day like today, he knows his teacher probably won't let them have recess time outside. How much fresh air he gets today is in my hands.

"Can we still ride bikes to school?" the boys asked, since it was raining.

"If you still want to," I said.

"Yay!" they replied.

So we rode bikes to school today in the rain, with smiles on our faces the whole way.

And while your family time outside doesn't have to be the same as mine, what is certain is that 15 Minutes Outside can make every day better.

About Rebecca P. Cohen

Rebecca P. Cohen believes time outside transforms our lives for the better. PJ's Backyard Adventures is the latest project from Rebecca, author of the book 15 Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids (Sourcebooks), and creator of Rebecca Plants Curiosity Cards. Rebecca’s work has been featured in countless media outlets, including USA Today, Parenting, Redbook, Working Mother, and Family Circle. In addition, Rebecca has appeared on live morning news shows around the country, and is also host of the video series, Get Out of the House, which shows fun ideas for time outside in every season. For Rebecca's inspiring blog and free downloads, visit

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