Oct 22, 2013

Get Those Babies Outside!

How often do you and your children stop the errands, slow down, go outdoors and take a deep breath? This is one of my goals - as often as possible, whenever the weather is good, whenever our patience is thin - stop and go outside. When we were driving home one day down a street with a few trees and Isabel, my 2 year old proudly proclaimed, "Mama! We are in a forest!", I knew it was time to reconnect with nature and get outside!

Simply being outside has many benefits for mind body and spirit.

Running, climbing and playing is good for the body - it develops muscle, helps to strengthen the bones, develops coordination and even can help your child's eyesight!

Being outdoors exposes us to vitamin D, a crucial nutrient that so many of us are lacking that can be preventative for heart disease, diabetes and so may other health concerns.

With my children, even from a very early age, if they were cranky, overtired, or even unhappy, going outside was the easiest, quickest fix.

There is something about being outdoors that uplifts our moods and calms our spirits. One of the biggest reasons behind our lack of outdoor play is a busy, hurried lifestyle. This go, go, go pace can contribute to anxiety and depression in adults and in children. Giving our children time to play, specifically outdoors, reduces these feelings of anxiety and promotes creativity.

And this is not a mommy opinion! A recent study shows that being in green space outdoors "reduced symptoms significantly" of ADHD. "Notably, 1 study revealed direct evidence of superior performance on objective tests of impulse control in a sample of urban public housing children" exposed to nature. (A Potential Natural Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence From a National Study, Frances E. Kuo, PhD and Andrea Faber Taylor, PhD)

Going outside promotes a sense of curiosity in our children. Even something as seemingly mundane as a squirrel with a nut is immensely fascinating for a child - and those ants climbing over that rock! And birds! And counting the petals on this purple flower!

I also believe that spending time outdoors gives us the opportunity to connect with something that is greater than ourselves. How better to get a sense of the Creator than to be in His creation?

My children are collectors - we have to schedule an hour to walk around the block because we will stop a thousand times to pick up rocks, sticks, and look at flowers, tree stumps and cacti. They have an empty pot by our front door to empty their hands and pockets before going in the house. Doing this routine has lead Isabel and I to some wonderful conversations. When they see new things, they become inquisitive - and isn't that a trait we should encourage?

So, mama (or daddy, aunt, grandma, big brother, etc), your mission is to slow down, get yourself and those you care about outside and spend a little time seeing things you don't normally have time to notice. Literally stop and smell the roses.

Go outside. Smile. Relax.

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