Kids on a Mountain Top

Why 20 Minutes?

The magic number for helping kids feel better.

We get it. It’s tough balancing all the demands of work, school and family activities. That’s why it’s so nice to know that research shows just 20 minutes outside works wonders for your kids’ stress levels and overall feelings of well-being.

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Benefits as big as the outdoors.

Decreases stress, anxiety and negative thinking

Boosts mood and self-esteem

Reduces depression and feelings of isolation

Improves focus in children with attention deficits

Reduces aggression

Lessens impacts of negative events

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Take it from a child psychologist.

Dr. Jenna Glover is a Clinical Child Psychologist and Director of Psychology training at Children’s Hospital Colorado. And she’s a big believer in the power of nature to help with a host of mental issues.

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Helps reduce stress

“Kids have so much stress. Any time we can take away their stress and let a little air out of that balloon, that helps it from bursting. Having outdoor time on a regular basis is one of the ways to help kids be resilient and actually protect against developing a mental illness.”

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Helps ADHD

“We know that especially for kids with ADHD, going outside and engaging in physical activity is one of the main ways to treat and reduce their symptoms. You’re going to see an improvement in their behavior, concentration and their ability to listen to you.”

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Helps with sleep

“I believe the majority of mental health problems would be eradicated if people got appropriate sleep. The majority of children in our country are sleep deprived by about two hours a day. Just getting outside will help your kids sleep so much better.”

1. Host a mud party

Get the mud and fun flowing. Try mud painting. Make mud pies. Squish mud between your toes. All it takes is a big bucket, dirt, water and a little imagination.

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Close-up of a muddy hand reaching out for a high-five gesture in an outdoor environment.
2. Add water & chill

Fish for marbles. Fill a baby pool with ice and water. Then add marbles and try to fish them out with your toes. Or do a frozen T-shirt challenge. Freeze tees and water in plastic bags. See which friend can break the ice to wear one first.

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Close-up of an inflatable fish-shaped pool on a grassy surface.
3. Camp in your backyard

Just pitch a tent or sleep under the stars in your yard. Make some s’mores and enjoy an adventure close to home – and indoor toilets!

Purple tent in outdoor night scene, glowing from its interior light.
4. Go on a color scavenger hunt

Search for things outdoors that match each of the six colors here. Could be flowers, bugs, the sky – whatever catches your eye. Bonus points if you capture a photo or drawing of what you find.

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Colored pencils arranged in a circular pattern on an asphalt surface.
5. Make sun prints

Place colored construction paper outside in the sun. Make a design on top of it with leaves, sticks, rocks and other stuff. Then let it sit out, and in a few hours, the sun will turn it into a wild piece of art. Don’t forget to sign your masterpiece!

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Two sheets of colorful paper showcasing sun prints created with rocks, displayed on an asphalt surface.
6. Make nature fossils

Form clay into circular shapes about a half-inch thick. Find interesting rocks, leaves, sticks and plants that you can press into each piece of clay and remove. Boom! Instant fossils!

Homemade plant fossils imprinted on clay, displayed on a tree trunk with a backdrop of grass.
7. Set up a toy carwash

Here’s something cool to do on a hot day. Grab your toy trucks and cars and hold your own mini carwash. And if a water fight happens to break out, it’ll be even cooler.

8. Play flashlight tag

At dusk, grab some friends and a flashlight, and it’s game on! Whoever gets tagged with the light beam is it.

9. Turn lunch into a real picnic

Any meal is more fun outdoors. So, grab a blanket, a basket of your favorite snacks and a shady patch of grass. To make it extra sweet, cut fruit into flower shapes and munch away.

Watermelon and pineapple artfully cut and arranged on a white plate and set on a black and white patterned tablecloth.
10. Create a bike obstacle course

Grab some chalk and draw a curvy track on your sidewalk or driveway. Add a stopwatch and crown a track champion for the fastest lap.

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Purple and yellow chalk drawings on an asphalt surface.
11. Make a sundial

Grab a stick and 12 rocks. Paint numbers 1-12 on each rock. At noon, plant the stick straight up in a sunny spot. Place rock #12 at the end of the stick’s shadow. At 1:00 p.m., do the same with rock #1 and repeat every hour until sunset. Return the next morning to mark shadows on the hour from sunrise to noon.

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Homemade wooden sundial with colorful rock hours and pencil pointer on grass.
12. Grow veggies from scraps

Place the end of some celery or romaine lettuce in a bowl with a little water. Set it in a sunny spot and watch for roots to appear. Then plant it outdoors or in a pot and watch it grow. No seeds necessary!

13. Go on a safari

Have someone hide toy animals outside and let the search begin. If they’re hidden too well, hints like “cold!” “warm!” and “hot!” will help guide you.

14. Make leaf zombies

Collect rocks and interestingly shaped leaves and make zombie, ghost and monster faces out of them.

Three green leaves with Halloween-inspired face paintings set against a textured beige background.
15. Paint with water on your sidewalk

Grab a paintbrush and a container of water and get your Van Gogh on. Watch what happens to your painting as the sun heats it up.

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16. “Collect” some bugs

Grab a camera and explore your yard or local park. See how many bugs you can add to your photo collection. If you’re nice, they might even smile for the camera.

17. Make a roly-poly habitat

Get a container that allows for airflow, and fill it with dirt, dead leaves, rotting wood and moss. Then add some roly-polies. After having some fun watching it, set them free.

Child in an orange long sleeve shirt assembling a terrarium inside a glass sphere.
18. Feed your bird curiosity

Hang up a bird feeder and then sit back and watch the airshow. Keep a list of how many birds visit, make drawings of them and keep it all in a journal.

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Brown, green, white iridescent hummingbird perched on a brass and glass hummingbird feeder.
19. Take a micro hike

Rope off a 3ʹ x 3ʹ area in the grass with string. Then crouch down and use your fingers to move the grass and dig in the dirt. Use a magnifying glass to see what lives there. It’s a new, close-up way to see the world.

Close-up of a child using a magnifying glass to explore a field of daisies.
20. Make tree rubbings

Nature is one amazing artist – and you can be too. Just hold a sheet of paper against a tree trunk and rub over it with crayons or pencils. Try it against different trees to complete your art collection.

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Green crayon prints on a white sheet of paper.

What’s next?

More ways to live outside the living room.

The List

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