It’s that time of year when we all make resolutions and think about how we can improve our lives. Have you made a resolution to get fit? or perhaps you’ve made a resolution to spend more time with your family away from everyday distractions. If so then this might be the post for you. Spending more time outside with your kids is a fantastic new years resolution. If you’ve ever thought that you should be getting your kids outdoors more or perhaps wondered what the benefits of getting kids outdoors are then this might be the article for you. Perhaps you’ve even wondered how you can get your kids outside more without spending every day stood in the park (I’m not the biggest fan of standing around in the park either). Well, you’ve come to the right place.
First, a little about me and why I believe so strongly in the importance of children spending time in nature. My childhood memories are filled with many happy outdoor ones. I remember playing in the woods behind our house with my friends all the time. My parents also took us out walking lots and yes we moaned a lot that it was boring but I strongly believe that our own childhood influences how we parent. Now I have two young daughters and I love to get them outside and exploring in nature. I’ve also seen for myself how young children are naturally interested in nature. Through this blog and the online community I’m creating, I love sharing ideas for getting young children outdoors as well as learning and exploring the seasons. Why not join a Facebook group created to share ideas and encouragement for getting children outside or sign up to my weekly emails at the end of this post for weekly emails filled with ideas for you to try at home. Let’s make 2019 the year we get our kids outside more. Don’t forget to use #nurturenaturekidswinter on social media so we can all follow along with each other.
Why do we need to talk about getting kids outdoors?
I’m sure you must have heard the research that suggests three-quarters of UK children spend less time outdoors than prisoners? Children are spending more time looking at screens than outside. Over 1 in 9 children never visits a natural environment. Technology and screen time get a blamed a lot for this so-called nature deficit disorder. Just like you though, I can’t imagine my kids not watching tv. We have a tablet that has kids apps on that they love too. So I’m not suggesting that the solution is to stop all screen time. Like a lot of things in life, I believe in balance. We don’t need to ban all screen time and spend all our time outdoors. That’s just not realistic in our busy modern life. I’ll discuss later some simple ideas for spending time outside with young children.
What are the benefits of getting kids outdoors?
There are many benefits of spending more time outdoors as a family both for the kids and adults. Lots of research has been carried out and studies have shown that by spending time outdoors children have:
- Increased physical fitness and reduced levels of childhood obesity
- reduced stress and mental illness
- Increased confidence
- Increased vitamin D from time spent in sunlight
- Improved problem solving and increased ability to assess risks
- Increased concentration
Parents can also benefit from spending time outdoors too. Again spending time outdoors has been proven to help with many mental health conditions like anxiety, depression and stress.
- More chances to bond with your children, away from the everyday distractions.
- Improved fitness, vitamin D and mental health
Apart from all the scientific facts above, as a parent, I find my children need time outdoors pretty much every day. Going out and letting them run around in the park or woods (or even just the back garden) improves their moods, helps them use up some energy and hopefully sleep better. I find my two get on better outdoors. At home, they sometimes fight over toys or my attention but outdoors they seem to play better together. I love the quote “Children can’t bounce off the walls if you remove the walls”. I think this is so true.
How long should kids be outdoors for?
I don’t think there is any right answer to this. Anytime outdoors is better than none. Swapping just 30 minutes of screen time for 30 minutes of time outdoors is a great start but I’m a busy working parent too so I know that on my work days I can’t even commit to this but I do know they get some time outdoors at school and nursery. On my days off we walk to school and on weekends and in the school holidays I aim to get them outside every day no matter how long for. A little bit of rain doesn’t put us off. After all, they love puddle jumping but I don’t tend to take them out when it’s very cold, wet and windy.
What is the best age to start?
As soon as you feel ready. We chose this all-terrain pushchair so we could continue to go on walks when we had our first baby. We also used baby carriers which open up more possibilities. I love this one for newborns, this one, when they get too big for the previous one and this one is great for toddlers. Find out more about the Kiddy adventure pack here.
How to dress kids for all weathers
One of the key factors in keeping kids happy outside is making sure they are dressed for the weather. No child is going to be happy outside if they are wet and cold. Equally, you don’t want them getting sunburnt in the summer.
Dressing kids in the winter months
For little ones, I think they are warmest in a snowsuit for as long as possible. Whilst they were babies and therefore always dry in their pram, I bought high street ones. For toddlers, who will be getting wet and muddy all the time, I recommend one from an outdoor clothing brand that is fully waterproof, warm and that they can move around easily in. This one my daughter is wearing is a mountain warehouse one but we’ve had it a few years now but they still sell very similar ones.
For older children, waterproof trousers are essential. I love these Frugi puddle busters. They’ve had a lot of wear over the past 18 months but are still in great condition to be passed down to my youngest. We’ve always bought high street coats until this winter when we were sent a ski jacket to review. It’s so much more waterproof and practical. I don’t think we’ll go back to the high street next year. A pair of kid’s ski mitts is also a great idea for when the snow arrives. Traditional wool gloves just get wet and soggy in the snow.
Dressing kids for the summer months
It’s much easier to dress the kids in the summer. Suncream is a must though. UV protection sun suits are also a good idea and of course a sun hat and glasses.
Ideas for getting kids outside
There are so many ways you can spend time outdoors. It can be as quick and simple as 30 minutes in the back garden or as long as a weekend camping and everything in between. This blog is filled with inspiration for getting young children outdoors and I will be continuing to add more. Below are a few ideas to get you started, including links to some blog posts and products that may help you.
Exploring and walking with kids
Like I said earlier, I’m not the biggest fan of standing around in the park. Of course, we go to the park plenty as my kids love it but that’s not the only way to get kids outside. We love going out walking and exploring. We have a family National Trust annual membership which we use all the time. The National Trust properties that we have visited are amazing for kids. They often have great play areas, buggy friendly walks and particularly in the school holidays, they run great activities for kids. Some of our favourites are Quarry Bank mill, Dunham Massey, Fountains abby and Plas Newydd. I worked out we used our membership 13 times during the school holidays alone. You can find all my days out posts here, I have many in the North West but also some in North Wales and Anglesey, Yorkshire and Scotland.
If you do plan to go walking with young children you may find this post useful as it’s packed full of ways to entertain young children. I find a rucksack so practical when out with toddlers and older children, easier for chasing after them than your average nappy bag. I love my Mi-pac, it’s always filled with snacks, drinks and things like this magnifying glass. Along with the usual things like nappies, wipes and spare socks.
Things to do in the garden with kids
Raising outdoor kids doesn’t need to involve big days out all the time. Some days you might not go further afield than your own back garden. We have a lovely playhouse and lots of outdoor toys. Water tables have been popular with both my daughters from around 1 year old. Now they are a little older (2 and 5), they love our mud kitchen. We use sand, water, leaves, conkers, pine cones and play dough in ours. You don’t need to stick to just mud!
Gardening with young children is a great way to get children outdoors, teach them where food comes from and perhaps even getting them to try some new fruit and vegetables too. I’ve got two great posts for you on getting started gardening with kids and creating a raised vegetable patch. Another great garden activity is to make your garden inviting for wildlife. This post includes many ideas such as adding bird feeders and bug hotels.
Creative outdoor activities
If your kids love creative activities then you have to get them outside creating. One big bonus is that these activities can be much easier to clean up outside. Perhaps you could keep some crayons and paper in your rucksack for bark rubbing or a set of watercolours so children can be inspired by their surroundings and paint a scene. Other creative activities include painting snow and collecting nature so you can create some art with it when you get home or use your nature finds for sensory play such as using sea shells with play dough or creating a tuff spot with autumn nature finds.
Using books to encourage children to get outdoors
I love children’s books and they are a great way of introducing nature to children. I shared my favourite winter books here, my spring ones here and some autumn ones here. I’ve also shared some gorgeous books about gardening with children. We love I am the seed that grew the tree and Nature’s day.
How can I help you get kids outdoors more?
As well as all the great blog posts mentioned above, you can find all my outdoor children‘s posts here. You might also like to follow me on social media where I share our outdoor adventures as well as inspiration from others. I also co-run a Facebook group Nurture Nature Kids, which is all about sharing ideas and tips for spending time outdoors with young children. We’d love you to come over and join us. These next few months we are really focusing on getting kids outdoors in winter as we know it isn’t easy. Share your ideas on instagram and twitter using the #naturenurturekidswinter or join the facebook group.
You might also like to join my email list. Each Friday I send out a newsletter with inspiration for activities to do with young children both indoors and out (mostly outdoors or nature related). As a welcome gift choose either the 5 day woodland challenge or my printable autumn scavenger hunt for kids. You’ll also be the first to know when I create anything new that might help you and your family. Please note that very occasionally emails may contain affiliate links or advertise any future paid products that I develop. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Pin for later:
Disclosure – This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase through them I may make a small commission. This does not affect the price you pay. Thank you for your support.