Celebrating 10 Years of 15 Minutes Outside
It's hard to believe it has been 10 years since I wrote about my 15 Minutes Outside challenge, which I began when my boys were two and four. Now, my two children tower above me, but the impact of 15 Minutes Outside has endured into their teen years and the choices they've made and the precious memories we've shared.
I can say without a doubt that being intentional about inviting 15 Minutes Outside into your daily life makes a difference now and into the future.
Here are ten of my favorite activities from my book, 15 Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids (and now available on audiobook thanks to narration during the pandemic by actress, mom, and my sister Marni Penning).
Plant peas. Perfect for cooler Spring and Fall temperatures, sugar snap peas seeds are my favorite veggie to grow and taste with kids, either in a clear cup with newspaper or in the ground to watch sprout in just a few days.
Look for mud prints. Wet weather might not feel like fun, but go out to look for animal tracks and be a detective. Put on some old sneakers or rain boots and make your own tracks too!
Keep outdoor props by the door. The suggestion of a scooter or your child's favorite toy, a ball, or colorful sidewalk chalk by the door can prompt kids to go outside or keep them outside instead of coming in from the car.
Listen to the birds. Even when a day is cloudy and grey, take a walk outside and fine-tune your senses to what you hear. The sound of birdsong reminds us that nature is celebrating all around. How many different bird calls do you hear?
Head outside first. "I'll be outside with the ______________!" Name your child's favorite activity, whether a soccer ball, baseball and mitt, or bikes. Chances are, your kids will run outside excitedly after you!
Create outdoor art. Use whatever is around you: make letters with sticks or leaves, create pictures and stack rocks, or create a circular nature mandala with flower petals. You don't need special art supplies to use nature's bounty for outdoor art time.
Make up a game. When all else fails, use your children's creativity to decide something to do. Children are full of ideas! We've used items in the garage for an obstacle course, found sticks to pretend to jump across a river, sailed juice box boats in puddles, and collected all the balls for different carnival-like challenges.
Play with your shadows. Activities are even better when no resources are required! On a sunny day, make your shadows dance, make shapes, and see how your shadows change with you put them together.
Take a snack and homework outside. Coming home from school, instead of heading inside, the kids would be excited to grab a blanket and get started on their homework outside while I grabbed a snack for them. They got their work done and usually stayed out longer to get their wiggles out too before heading inside for a bath.
Say Yes. Whenever your child asks you to play outside, say 'yes.' I learned quickly that when I said I needed to finish something that by the time I was ready, the precious moment had passed and they didn't want time with me anymore. Not only is time outside is good for them, it's good for you and for your bond.
A helpful reference for yourself, your kids, the classroom, and childcare, 15 Minutes Outside gives you 365 ideas at your fingertips so you'll never be stuck with "I'm bored" again. And better yet, use the activities for inspiration to create your own brand of outdoor fun that brings your family closer together and healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
Ready to create some intentions for what you want your post-pandemic life to look like? Join me this Friday April 16th Noon-1pm ET for a free workshop, Discovering What's Next For You. Register here: https://sharemyjourney.org/circles
Wishing you memorable moments outside everyday,
Rebecca P. Cohen is a Social Impact Entrepreneur, Fulfillment Coach, and Founder of BeOutsideAndGrow.com and ShareMyJourney.org, the curated peer hub and community of mutual support that connects caring people 1:1 by phone and in small groups online during life transitions and challenges. Rebecca has been featured recently on the Wonder Woman in Business podcast, People Helping People Podcast, and as a Mom Boss in the Washington, DC area. Rebecca is also author of the parenting book Fifteen Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids (now available on audiobook) and children's book, PJ's Backyard Adventures. 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, Working Mother, Parenting, Redbook, Family Circle, and PBS Parents.