In March 2021, Hope Smith, the Founder and CEO of MUTHA™, provided us all with something to look forward to. When we were dreaming of an escape as we logged into virtual spaces to learn or work, Hope diverted us from our Zoom screens with an AMA (“ask me anything”) on Instagram. In one of the questions Hope responded to, she described what family time looks like to her. She told readers that she loves sharing any kind of outdoor activity with her family, whether it be skiing, going to the beach, playing tennis or going boating, etc.
Taking Hope’s inspiration for healthy fun activities to share with family members of all ages, here’s a list to inspire you no matter the season or your geographic location.
Farms, Farmers’ Markets, and Healthy Food From the Source
Chances are, no matter where you live, something’s growing. Every region has its seasonal fruits and veggies to harvest. Even in the middle of big cities like Los Angeles or New York City you can find an urban farm or at least a farmers’ market. Take your children there and connect to nature. And, if you can escape the city, even better. Immerse yourself and your family in a tranquil setting and let the kids fill baskets of pick-your-own blueberries in July if you live in the northeast or pick apples in August right from the tree in the Pacific Northwest. Nothing tastes better than sun-ripened fruit. And bonus, your kids will get a chance to exercise and learn some earth science while having a great time.
You’ll get more than just a healthy workout. Comprehensive studies show experiencing greenspaces can reduce stress, high blood pressure and other health issues that bedevil us as we spend more and more time on our smart devices and less time experiencing the benefits of the natural world.
A Simple, Accessible Home Garden
Don’t let your presumed lack of knowledge about growing things stop you from using your outdoor space for a garden of some kind. Plants grow without our interference all the time. If you pick a nice sunny spot and native plants, all you really need to do to help a plant out is find out how much occasional watering it will need. Everything else is extra, including raised beds, drainage, organic soil, nutrients, and pest protection. That’s all very nice if you have the time, but planting a fruit tree or some flowers can be a really low-level commitment for a beginner. And it can give back so much more to your family.
Gardening, the act of growing a living thing, together with your children is invaluable. They can learn about the earth, roots, and leaves while taking on the responsibility of tending to a living thing. You will all feel the nurturing you put into your outdoor space return with the benefit of a new tranquil spot to observe in your yard. Maybe, eventually, you’ll all get to make a healthy nutritious dinner together after picking herbs and vegetables from your garden.
Picnicking in the Great Outdoors
Getting outside in the fresh air with your family can be as simple as eating on a patio or as adventurous as planning a day trip to picnic at a city or state park. Being outdoors in the fresh air isn’t just a refreshing change of pace, it can change your state of mind. Indoors there’s always the distraction of gadgets and the comfort of our everyday habits. Make getting outside a priority and introduce healthy habits that can last a lifetime.
You make the rules. How about instituting a no smartphones at the picnic table rule? And you could start a new tradition, asking each family member to lead a discussion topic of their choice. You may be surprised at what you learn from each other.
Hiking: It’s for Everyone
The U.S. is filled with incredible greenspaces, in our cities as well as our state and national parks. Taking a hike is a great way for the whole family to keep fit and experience the great outdoors without having to commit to camping overnight. And you and your kids might get to see a natural geological feature or see the city or town you live in from a different perspective. The conversations and memories you build will last a lifetime.
Use your smartphone for something besides social media. Find a park nearby on your device and make a plan today.
Swim, Float or Lounge Beachside
Every child should learn how to swim for personal safety and to access adventure. But, did you know that being near the ocean or on a lake or even floating on a river can change how you process your emotions? It’s true. Something called “blue mind science” studies how aquatic environments (Yes, even just lying on the beach.) can reduce stress levels and offer health benefits. We can’t think of a family that doesn’t need to reduce anxiety these days. So, make sure everyone is safe to swim and find your local swimming hole, beach or riverbank.
Get Winter-Proof and Let it Go!
Live in a cold climate? Don’t let winter be a bummer or let Elsa’s next big freeze get you down. Invest in outdoor clothing and get the fam outside. With proper protection from the cold, you and the kids can do all sorts of things from sledding and skiing to BBQing. You just have to use your imagination. One thing we can recommend is luring the kids outside in early winter to find individual snowflakes. Have them take photos that they can compare to those taken by Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley’s famous photographs.
And yes, you’ve got the theme of this article now, getting outside is good for you. This is especially true in winter when our immune systems are getting a workout indoors.
Play is essential to learning. And playing outside provides even greater benefits, including all of the things we’ve previously discussed here: absorbing natural vitamin D from sunshine, connecting to nature and getting exercise. But there’s more to it than that. Playing outside with other family members or kids helps build tools to successfully navigate the world we live in. Playing outdoors is a time to take calculated risks and discover new ways to interact with others. And playing organized outdoor sports with family members or as part of a club can provide kids with methods to self-regulate while they gain self-respect.
And, of course, studies have shown that kids who play organized sports tend to perform better academically. So, get out there and toss that tennis ball or lace up some skates. Show your kids your physical competence and/or vulnerability. You won’t regret it.