The benefits of being outdoors have been proven, both for children and adults. In September 2010 the National Wildlife Federation published an article by Kevin Coyle entitled Create High Performing Students. The research he cites reveals that outdoor education, greener school grounds and more outdoor play time in natural settings contributes to some of the following benefits:
- Usefully employ all of a child’s native intelligences, ranging from math and science smarts to interpersonal communications
- Quantitatively increase student motivation and enthusiasm to learn
- Help students concentrate for longer periods and help mitigate attention deficit problems
- Help students to learn across disciplines and make them better real-world problem solvers
- Measurably improve classroom performance in math, science, reading and social studies.
Taking this point even further, Olga Khazan said in her June 2015 article published in The Atlantic, Green Spaces Make Kids Smarter, “spending time in nature is correlated with better mental health, attention, and mood in both children and adults.”
Some activities to consider as you plan your summer days:
- Find a hiking trail that your entire family can enjoy. Stop along the hike to point out particular trees or plants.
- Try a “geocaching” hike, and let your children lead the way.
- Eat dinner outside at least twice a week, either on your deck or porch, or pack a picnic dinner and explore a nearby park.
- Start a garden, either on your own property, or be part of a local cooperative garden. Teach your children the value of fresh vegetables and fruits, and that growing your own is fun and delicious!
- Research outdoor weekend events in your area. Attend an outdoor concert with your family.
Schools have generally closed or transformed into camps for the summer, but it is a good time to think about what school environment might be the best fit for your child next fall. Evaluate what is the best learning environment for your child. The outdoors isn’t only for summer!
- Does your child’s current school provide outdoor spaces for play and for learning.
- Does your child’s school have a school garden maintained by students?
- Does the curriculum allow for outdoor learning experiences?
- How much time do students spend outdoors?
- Is your child becoming an “indoor child”?
- Explore school options in your local area, and see if other programs are better suited to your family educational philosophy.
- Continue to plan outdoor activities throughout the year, even in the colder months.