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.
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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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.Learn More
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.Learn More
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!
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.Learn More
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!Learn More
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!
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.
At dusk, grab some friends and a flashlight, and it’s game on! Whoever gets tagged with the light beam is it.
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.
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.Learn More
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.Learn More
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!
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.
Collect rocks and interestingly shaped leaves and make zombie, ghost and monster faces out of them.
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.Learn More
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.
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.
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.Learn More
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.
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.Learn More