Our family is very fortunate in having cousin Hannah, the matriarch of the family, turn 92 recently.
Hannah’s four children are now in their 60s and her grandchildren are now having children. Our littlest cousin and her newest great granddaughter, Sloan, was just born a few months ago. One of the mantras that Hannah has always told each of us as we began having children was that whenever our children were fussy for whatever reason, to get them outside into the fresh air – in a stroller, on a tricycle or whatever we could do. She promised it would calm them down and actually make everyone feel better.
On a recent Sunday, I remembered Hannah’s advice and re-implemented a Sunday walk, scooter or bike ride around our neighborhood. I again became a believer that getting outside is a true tonic, just like cousin Hannah has told me for years. I walked with the dog, our older son was on his bike and our younger son was on his scooter. Within minutes, they were speaking with one another and laughing. We saw our neighbors, chatted and waved. It all just felt so good on so many levels.
After about 30 minutes, we naturally wandered back home and when we re-entered the house, our moods were much more steady, calm and focused. Homework began more easily. I heard more laughing in the house and I approached my work with a more relaxed and creative mindset. The evening just flowed.
One of the greatest obstacles to getting our kiddos outdoors as they grow up is competition from smartphones, tablet computers and video games. With so many digital pulls and distractions, it is getting harder and harder to extract ourselves – including us adults – to just walk outdoors. For many of you, battles and discussions over these devices are either part of your household or will be within several years. Now that my own two boys are in sixth and ninth grades, my newest title of “iPad and technology manager” is in full force.
We all need a little more outdoor time, nature time and fresh air time. It allows us to appreciate small things like butterflies and big things like the ocean and the green grass, and to actually breathe. The boys don’t know my underlying reason to go outdoors, they just know they have fun. And they acknowledge they do feel better after being outside.
Here are four tips for getting the kids outdoors:
1. Set a specific time so all family members know when the outdoor adventure begins.
2. With safety in mind, let your children choose their own form of transportation: bike, scooter, skateboard or walking.
3. Take turns weekly designating a “leader” who will choose where to go and guide the group.
4. Bring some of the kids’ friends with you. It really allows for connecting and doubles the fun.
So, drop those phones, tuck away the iPads, turn off the news and get outdoors. Keep it easy, just walk outside and see what adventures await. I think Hannah would say, “You will feel better. I promise.”
Lauren Perelmuter is the founder of Art To Grow On Children’s Art Center, a mobile arts enrichment company serving Los Angeles and the South Bay. Learn more at www.art2growon.com.