10 Fun Outdoor Activities to Enjoy with the Family
If someone had used the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” 20 years ago, most people would have laughed. However, due to growing concerns about teens and children not spending enough time outdoors, health experts felt it was time to deem an indoor, sedentary lifestyle an actual condition.
According to one study, 65% of American parents said they played outdoors every day of their childhood. Of those respondents, 75% said that outdoor play contributed to their sense of freedom, joy, and adventure. Yet, due to hectic and over-packed schedules and, of course, technology, many parents report that their children are not having the same experiences. In fact, per the findings, American children spend 35% less time outdoors than their parents, and just 30% play outside every day. Sadly, nearly 50% of children never walk, play, or simply hang out with their parents outdoors, ever.
According to yet another study, American families with young children spend just 37 minutes together each day. Two-thirds of parents blame work, while weekend chores and children’s extracurricular activities were the next two biggest culprits.
These findings are disheartening, to say the least. Yet, you and other parents can use them to identify where the disconnect lies and what steps you can take to fix it. A good place to start, it seems, is to schedule more outdoor adventures with your family unit. Below are 10 outdoor activities that family members of all ages are sure to enjoy.
1. Take a Family Hike
The benefits of hiking as a family are many and range from increased heart health to stress relief. Hiking is also free, provides you with an escape from large crowds and, best of all, requires your children (and your spouse) to leave their screens at home. Another great thing about hiking (if you’re not already completely sold on the activity) is that the term “hike” is relative.
If your family is not exactly outdoorsy, you can call your little jaunts through the park, along nature trails or into the wilderness “walks,” “adventures” or “outings.” Your “hike” can be 10 minutes long or an hour long, and it can involve strenuous uphill/downhill paths of dirt and rock or straight paths of pavement. Either way, “hiking” can make you healthier, happier, and smarter, and it can bring your family closer together.
2. Go Camping
Camping, like hiking, comes with numerous health benefits. Among other advantages, research shows that camping helps to relieve stress, boosts confidence, and presents numerous learning activities for children and adults alike. Camping also bolsters familial connections, as it forces members to spend quality time together, without screens, and to explore new environments together.
3. Hit the Slopes
Adventure and play are important at all stages of a person’s life, but they’re particularly crucial to the emotional development of young children. Skiing — and the evenings at the skating rink, nights in the cabin, and mornings watching the sunrise that typically accompanies it — all foster that sense of fun and adventure that stays with an individual throughout his or her life. Not to mention that these types of vacations result in lifelong memories individuals look fondly upon whether they’re nine or 90.
4. Scale a Mountain
Aside from the obvious benefits, which include strength training and improved coordination, mountain climbing can enrich your and your loved ones’ lives in so many ways. Climbing mountains teaches young children and teens patience, gratitude, and persistence. Because it requires participants to explore often untouched parts of the earth, it instills in individuals an appreciation for Mother Nature and a desire to protect the environment. Rock climbing can also teach your family to prepare and adapt, as you can never fully anticipate what obstacles a mountain might throw your way, and, finally, to appreciate the little things in life.
5. Float Down a River
Kayaking and canoeing are low-impact activities that promise numerous emotional and physical health benefits. Research shows that paddling can decrease individuals’ stress by as much as 27%, burn up to 500 calories per hour, and improve relationships between friends and family members.
6. Start a Pickup Game
Whether your loved ones are more into basketball, baseball, tennis, or kickball, start a pickup game of whatever sport suits your family’s fancy. The benefits of doing so are many and include but are not limited to increased confidence, improved teamwork and leadership skills, and more quality time together.
7. Go Apple Picking
Though it might sound hokey to you, apple picking is proven to improve brain health and psychological well-being. For starters, picking apples (or cherries, strawberries, pumpkins, peaches, or whatever grows near you), gets you and your loved ones off the couch. It also gets you into the great outdoors and encourages teamwork among your family unit, as many of the better fruits are often out of reach.
Snacking on the fruit comes with many benefits as well. An apple a day — or at least 75 grams of dried fruit — can reduce your risk for heart disease and help prevent Type 2 diabetes.
8. Go on a Bike Ride
Biking improves muscle strength, boosts endurance, and can reduce one’s risk of cardiovascular disease by as much as 30%. It also releases the “feel good” hormones that contribute to the proverbial “runner’s high,” or feelings of deep stress relief following a workout. Best of all, when you bike together as a family, you can strengthen your familial relationships.
9. Cast a Line
Fishing is one of those stereotypical “parent/child” activities, and for good reason. Fishing with your children allows you to teach them a new skill while showing them where food actually comes from. It also gets your little ones away from the screens, encourages patience, and teaches them about conservation. Best of all, fishing creates the types of memories that your children will remember forever.
10. Get Moving
You don’t have to schedule an elaborate outing to reap the benefits of any of the aforementioned outdoor activities — you simply have to get outside as a family and get moving. In addition to the physical benefits, running, jogging, or even walking as a family is proven to improve focus, creativity, and empathy, and to enhance the quality of your conversations.
In today’s day and age, when “Nature Deficit Disorder” is a coined condition, it is more important than ever to make time for family togetherness outdoors. If you’re struggling with where to start, give one of the above 10 activities a try.
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