You know we’re big fans around here of all that Mama Nature provides. In the busyness of our daily lives, it can sometimes be difficult to get out in that fresh air. So, we asked our friend Ginny Yurich, Michigan mother of 5 and founder and leader of the 1000 hours outside global movement, to share some inspiration on how we can all easily increase our time with Mama Nature. We’re so thankful for her wisdom! Here is her guest post:
Since time outside provides multi-faceted physical, social, mental, and emotional benefits, we are intentional about scheduling nature time into our week. Research shows time and again that kids need quality nature time and they need lots of it! We risk shortchanging our children if we don't allow enough space in our calendars for them to move their bodies outside on a regular basis.
People often ask how are we able to spend these extended periods of time outside with our kids. Many have commented that they just can't make it that long. Spending large chunks of time outside will fill childhood up with movement and with memories! Here are five tips to help lengthen your outside play.
1) Start with a hike.
When you are in the middle of a hike you are stuck in nature. There's no getting around it. You have to finish and so starting with a hike is our top tip! Take your hike before playground time or hitting the beach. If you choose a hike that is along a river or has some other changes of scenery it will better capture your children's attention and help lengthen your time outside.
2) Be child-directed.
Kids are notoriously slow. They are soaking life in. Follow their lead. If they want to try and capture butterflies don't rush it. If they want to spend an hour throwing stones in a river or building a wall out of sticks let it be. If they want to lay on the ground and watch the ants work don't push them to move on.
3) Consider the season and your clothing.
One major deterrent to time outside is discomfort. This is a legitimate concern so plan accordingly. Save hiking for cooler days. If it's going to be a hot and humid outside head to a place that has a water option. Avoid marshy areas when the bugs are at their worst. We are constantly adjusting our activities to fit the weather because when children are grumpy we tend to cut our nature time short.
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4) Pack extra food, water, and a change of clothing.
Nothing will end your outing quicker than running out of food and water. I always pack what I think is enough and then leave just one extra water bottle and one extra box of some sort of snack in the car. Keep an extra full outfit (including socks, underwear and possibly even a pair of cheap flip-flops) in the car if you can. Having a towel or two on hand can be helpful as well!
5) Take your inside activities outside.
Life is busy. Whenever possible, try and take your inside activities outside. Can you sit outside to eat your dinner? Could you put your son's homework on a clipboard and send him outside? How about a game of Candy Land at a nearby park or a hand of Euchre in the backyard? Even scheduling in some family exercise time can be helpful. We recently found a school track about a half mile from our house. We've resolved to head there on the nights when the weather is nice so we can all get in some extra steps. The older kids ride their no-pedal bikes and my husband and I walk and push the baby in the stroller.
Time outside enhances childhood and helps facilitate deep family bonds. What are some strategies you use to keep your kids engaged in nature for long periods of time?
Ginny is a Michigan-based mother of five and the founder of 1000 Hours Outside. She holds a BS in Mathematics and a MA in Education, both from the University of Michigan, and is a thought-leader in the world of nature-based play and its benefits for children. One of her top priorities is to inspire parents to invest in spending time in nature with their children. Her 1000 Hours Outside Challenge spans the globe and many people from all walks of life look to her for inspiration as well as practical tips on how to put down the screens and get outside. Ginny is also a children’s book author and illustrator. Her book, The Little Farmhouse in West Virginia, was published in 2019.