5 Reasons Why I’m Raising Outdoor Kids

by Josée

A generation or two ago all parents were raising outdoor kids. Kids congregated in forests, parks, streets and backyards to play for hours on end only to be called in for supper or bed. As a child, I dreaded the inevitable supper call and would hide in my tree fort to outside just a little longer. Over time our culture has shifted and kids started spending less and less time outside, and now kids spend the majority of the day indoors.1

As parents we want what’s best for our children. We want to keep our kids safe, healthy and happy and help them grow up to be confident and well adjusted adults. We go above and beyond for our kids, often spending countless hours driving them to extracurricular activities each week, but in our efforts to give our kids more they often miss out on one important thing: getting outside.

5 Reasons Why I’m Raising Outdoor Kids

1. Outdoor kids are healthier.

“Let’s go outside and get some Vitamin N (Nature)” I tell my kids cheerily. “Why?” whines my youngest, “I don’t want to!” This is a regular conversation in our home. “You have to keep your body healthy” pipes in my daughter. I smile at her an give her a double thumbs up.

When kids go outside they play, run, climb and jump, and they do these things much more than they would inside. This is even true for physical education (PE) classes in school; kids move more when PE is outside.2 Outdoor play keeps kids moving and helps them maintain healthier body weight which prevents chronic health issues in childhood and even into adulthood. Being outside also helps their bodies can harness more Vitamin D from the sun to help their bones grow strong. All that dirt is beneficial too! It helps strengthen children’s immune systems, preventing issues like allergies and asthma3 . And there’s more, kids that spend time outdoors have better eyesight.4

2. Outdoor kids are happier.

The moment my kids step outside there’s a shift in the way they play. They are free to to be authentically themselves, whether that’s loud or quiet, busy or still, curious or bored, and it’s not just my kids that experience this shift. It’s been shown through research that kids start feeling relaxed within minutes of being outside around nature.5  The freedom to play outside also helps children feel less stressed, anxious and depressed.

3. Outdoor kids are stronger.

My neighbour stopped by recently and commented on how my kids were climbing everything: trees, fences, even brick retaining walls. I braced myself, expecting to be scolded, and then with a chuckle he admitted “they’re strong! my old joints can’t do that anymore”. Children that play outside on a regular basis are physically stronger. Walking along fallen logs, climbing trees, picking flowers, running up rocky hills, biking around the block and digging holes builds muscle, coordination and balance.

4. Outdoor kids are more intelligent.

Intelligence is a broad term and has many forms. Regardless, it’s becoming known that regular outdoor play, especially in nature, boosts children’s brain development in many ways. While playing outside children encounter challenges and need to find ways of solving them. This boosts their problem solving skills and creativity. This is especially true if kids  are engaging in free outdoor play in nature with minimal adult intervention (the best kind of play!). Time outside also improves children’s memory, concentration and attention span,5 as well as children’s emotional and social intelligence.6 

5. Outdoor kids are environmentalists.

In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught. -Baba Dioum

“Mama look at this litter on the beach, it’s so sad” sighs my daughter. “Why do people litter?”, she asks as she picks up plastic bottle from the sand. When children spend time outdoors they become curious about nature. What is that flower? Will poison ivy actually make me itchy? Why is that rock red? Why is there an empty bottle here? Their questions lead to answers and a better understanding of our natural world. With this knowledge they start to want to care for nature and that is how a young environmentalist is born.

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  1. The 2015 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth.
  2. Assessment of physical activity levels of 3rd and 4th grade children using pedometers during physical
    education class.
  3. Exposing kids to dirt may prevent conditions like asthma, says UBC researcher.
  4. The Association between Time Spent Outdoors and Myopia in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.
  5. The Power of Outdoor Play and Play in Natural Environments.
  6. Discovering Nature: The Benefits of Teaching Outside of the Classroom.

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Alice McCrea January 25, 2018 - 8:39 pm

Bravo josee. I enjoyed reading your 5 reasons why you spend much time outdoors. Very important. Love. AliceAlice

Mar January 29, 2018 - 4:46 am

This post makes my heart sing 🙂 I love the list of books you provided as well.

Rachel January 29, 2018 - 8:19 pm

It’s not on your list but I’m sure you’d enjoy giving a look at a book called “Lagom” its a Swedish word that doesn’t have an exact translation to english but roughly means – “not too much, not too little”

Josée January 29, 2018 - 9:02 pm

That’s a great book! My mom received it as a Christmas gift and I borrowed it from her.

Kelcey Murdoch January 31, 2018 - 9:52 pm

I love everything about this post! If you could only refer one of those books, which would be your top pick? Trying to decide which to read!

Josée February 1, 2018 - 8:47 am

Thank you Kelcey! I would recommend reading this book: https://www.backwoodsmama.com/2018/01/theres-no-such-thing-as-bad-weather-book-review-giveaway.html. It’s a great place to start. The book itself is fun and approachable to read. Let me know how you like it.

A speck in time February 3, 2018 - 9:10 am

Well written article, outdoors build a holistic personality of our kids, making them resilient and ability to connect. You summed up it very nicely. Not only outdoor does good to our future generation, it is equally powerful for us as well.

Kathy Kashner February 14, 2018 - 9:47 am

Hello! I am an early childhood consultant in the state of PA. I help coach programs to higher levels. One standard many programs struggle with is getting children OUTDOORS! Our QRIS standard states that children should be outside if the weather is between 25-90 (taking into consideration wind chill and heat index). Do you have any resources that support this? The pushback is mostly from THE PARENTS of the children in the child care center (NOT THE STAFF). I want to be able to give them a resource that supports that A) Children can handle this! and B) the payout is HUGE! They all agree that outdoors is necessary..but when it drops below 40, 35, or (GASP) 30-they are a strong “NO, mother knows best” kind of attitude. Your help is greatly appreciated!


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