As the world becomes increasingly obsessed with digital devices, researchers have begun studying the effects of people spending less time outdoors. Most adults over 30 can remember playing outside as a child until well after dark when Mom or Dad said it was time to come in. However, over the course of the last two decades, children have been spending less time playing outdoors and more time glued to some type of computerized gadget. One of the biggest negative effects of all that screen time results is people are spending less time together as a family unit. One sad result of both of these phenomena is that parents and children often don’t even know each other.
Every study on the subject shows that time in the great outdoors is good for young and old alike. Being outside improves mental attitude and increases physical fitness. A study performed at The University of Montana found that families who do things together develop deeper bonds and stronger relationships that can last throughout life. Taken together, these are compelling reasons to make an effort to get the family involved in some sort of outdoor activity. Following are a few other benefits of spending time outdoors:
- Unplugging Decrees Stress
In the age of technology, where everyone is addicted to their smartphones, tablets, and computers, people can become depressed or anxious over the bad news that seems to be a constant on everyone’s feed. Getting outside can significantly help to alleviate stress. A study published in Landscape and Urban Planning showed the stress hormone cortisol was significantly lower in people who spent time outdoors. They were less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.
- Increases Fitness
One of the intrinsic benefits of being outdoors is that it requires at least a moderate amount of physical activity. Studies have shown that exercise results are cumulative, and just a few minutes of exercise can show a marked difference in a person’s fitness level and mental attitude.
- Reduction in ADHD Symptoms
A highly effective and increasingly popular all-natural treatment for both children and adults with attention deficit hypertension disorder, or ADHD, is what has been coined “green space therapy”. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health followed 452 children with ADHD and found the children’s attention and mood increased as a result of being in an outdoor environment.
- Increases Vitamin D Levels
Vitamin D is essential for good health, and studies have shown it can help ward off serious diseases like cancer and fortify the immune system against colds and flu viruses. Unfortunately, studies also estimate that well over 80 percent of all Americans do not get enough Vitamin D. However, this is easily corrected by spending just a few minutes outside every day as the body naturally produces vitamin D in response to exposure to sunlight.
The evidence from studies conclusively shows that spending time outdoors has many benefits. Still, it isn’t always easy to get the family motivated to get outside and take the time to do things together. To make it as easy as possible for you, here is a list of eight fun things you can do outside and reconnect as a family:
1) Backyard Barbecue
This is an easy one that is both mistake and excuse proof. No matter how busy the family is, everyone has to eat anyway, so why not do it together in the great outdoors. No patio, deck, or terrace? No problem. You don’t even need an official picnic table or a grill, as any table and chairs on the grass will do, and food can be cooked inside and eaten outdoors. Make it a regularly scheduled meal one or more days a week or even a nightly affair when the weather is nice. To keep the bugs from ruining the fun, use a good bug spray with picaridin, which is one of the best insect repellent for children.
Camping is a tried-and-true, time-tested family activity. While some people may not be into spending the weekend in a small tent, there are other options. Fully self-contained RVs can be rented on a daily or weekly basis. And there are “glamping” options, where a large walled tent is decked out like a luxury condo springing up all over. You can even just pitch a tent in the backyard and combine it with a barbecue and an outdoor movie with an inexpensive projector and a bedsheet for a screen. Just don’t forget the insect repellent lotion.
3) Water, Water, Everywhere!
Lakes, rivers, and the ocean, with three-fourths of Mother Earth’s surface being covered by water, have plenty of places for the family to enjoy water activities. Canoes, kayaks, wave runners, and even motorboats can be rented by the hour or day, and fishing, water skiing or tubing and snorkeling, and even SCUBA diving all give you a chance to play in the water as a family. A camping trip to the seashore is a low-cost vacation, or maybe rent a houseboat for a weekend or a week.
4) Outdoor Games and Hobbies
Hanging a basketball hoop up over the garage or setting up a Wiffle ball field in the backyard provides easy outdoor family activities. Outdoor hobbies like gardening will teach children responsibility and give them a sense of accomplishment when the veggies are harvested. Bugs can be bad in the garden, and the best mosquito repellent for children is one free of harsh chemicals with low acute toxicity.
5) Family Walks and Hikes
After dinner, taking a family stroll around the neighborhood is a nice way to end the day together. Check your locality for parks with nature trails where you can explore the woods, and if you bring some food along, you can have a picnic in the forest. Don’t forget to pack an effective mosquito repellent lotion.
6) Talk to the Animals
Visiting a zoo or nature center will allow your family to connect while learning about native and exotic wildlife species. Some facilities hold free days for children and family days with free admission for everyone.
7) Adventure Courses
If you really want to challenge the family, a zip-line, high-ropes course, or rock climbing wall is a wonderful way for families with older children to learn how to motivate and help each other while building trust and enduring relationships.
8) Utilize Apps
While smartphones and tablets are so often times the cause of families becoming isolated from each other, there are a plethora of adventure apps available to help you find fun outdoor things to do close to home or across the country. Hit the Apple or Google Play stores to find some that will work for you.
This is just a short list of fun things to do outside with your family to get you started. Now that you have a few ideas, you should be able to come up with others on your own. Whatever you choose to do outside, don’t forget to use a good bug screen to protect you and your family from biting and stinging disease-carrying insects. Proven Insect Repellent offers a range of family friendly bug repellents that feature the active ingredient, Picaridin, one of the best insect repellents for toddlers, according to the CDC, due to low acute toxicity. Shop Proven Insect Repellent sprays and lotions online at provenrepellent.com or Amazon.