10 Outdoor Activities that Endure
It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since I wrote 15 Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids. Daily time outside ended up being as much for me as it was for my kids, and I’ve seen the enduring positive ways daily fresh air continues to impact our choices. Here are ten ways that we still connect to the outdoors (even on those gray cold days when you’d prefer to be on the couch with a blanket):
Take a Nature Walk (Around the Block). When our kiddos start walking, nature walks barely make it out of the driveway because little ones are so fascinated with everything at their feet. As they got older, my kids would ask for a nature walk, literally around the block if we had time for nothing else. Within 15 minutes, we were peeling off the layers and ready to spend more time in the fresh air and enjoy the gradual changes in nature together. A daily walk is still an important part of my self care.
Say Yes When Your Kids Ask You to Go Outside. The invitations may be less frequent, but I still always say yes when my kids ask me to join them. I learned the hard way when they were younger that if I asked them to wait until I was done with something, when I approached them even a few minutes later, they no longer wanted to go out and the opportunity for a special moment was gone. Say yes and you’ll create a special bond that lasts.
Watch the Sunrise or Sunset. With shorter daylight in winter and the leaves out of the way, it’s easier to notice sunrises and sunsets. Now that my kids are teenagers and getting up on their own, we’ll frequently stop and enjoy the moment the sun is rising in the morning. Because we intentionally notice sunrises and sunsets, my kids will even suggest taking in the moment on vacations together, which has led to special memories as well.
Sit By The Fire In Winter. An inexpensive outdoor fire pit can go a long way in outdoor connection as a family. Whether roasting s’mores or sharing hot cocoa outside, sitting by a fire allows space to slow down, enjoy the silence, and share observations about life. Don’t have a fire pit or space for one? Bundling up and having a winter picnic or snack with hot cocoa on a blanket might be shorter, but just as fun (or funny if one person is fussing about the cold).
Take Something You Need to Do Outside. I’m bundled up outside in the sunshine and writing as we speak. Yesterday, I had an in-person meeting with a new community member for my latest venture, ShareMyJourney.org, and we met outside while her son played. Have a call? Put in your earbuds and take a walk for fresh air as you talk.
Look Up. We’re outside in our daily routine more than we realize. Pause to look up and notice the beauty around you: the sky, the clouds, the trees, the birds; who knows what you’ll find to boost your mood in any moment.
Explore Modes of Transportation (and Exercise). Parents are ready for their kids’ independence at different times, but ultimately, by the time kids are teenagers, they need to know how to get around on their own! Biking or scootering to friends’ houses, walking with friends around the neighborhood or to grab a snack. Gaining independence and exploring - especially when they wanted to get somewhere - helped my kids become more independent problem solvers when it was time for the bus or subway.
Take an Outdoor Road Trip. Whether to a park, path, hike, garden, or nearby town, exploring something new within an hour or two of where you live enables the bonding and special feeling of larger vacation, but in a mini, more accessible version. I absolutely adore road trips. I started when my kids were little, whether first by exploring new playgrounds, then overnight camping or longer car trips to beloved children’s museums in new cities. My teenagers are still up for road trips with me and meaningful weekend adventures.
Plan an Outdoor Vacation. What I love about daily time outside is that the feeling of connection is similar to the fun and closeness of a long vacation. And, when we have taken longer vacations, my kids have taken their love for exploring at home to wherever in the world we have traveled: making new friends at playgrounds in France, hiking the Great Wall of China at sunrise, playing soccer in Zimbabwe, canoeing the boundary waters of Canada. Integrate your family’s brand of outdoor fun with your travels for years to come.
Help Yourself Feel Better with Fresh Air. I remember when my older son was in fifth grade and he was home from school with a fever. He asked to go to a park, and as we were walking he said, “I feel a lot better; I think I just needed some fresh air.” To this day, when I’m not feeling well, I slept poorly, or I am grappling with an issue, I head outside. There is something about getting out and having the space and freedom to let go of what is ailing you for a little while that enables rejuvenation.
Rebecca P. Cohen is a social entrepreneur and author of the parenting book Fifteen Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids and children's book, PJ's Backyard Adventures. Rebecca is also founder of ShareMyJourney.org, the curated peer hub that connects you with experience from caring members during challenging life circumstances. Rebecca has worked with over 6,000 children around the world in making outdoor connections for a healthier life. Her work has appeared in USA Today, Better Home and Gardens, Parenting, Redbook, Working Mother, Family Circle, and Backyard Solutions.