Doctors and educators are recognizing the benefits of time spent outdoors, particularly for children. Research has shown that children who play outside and spend time in nature are more physically active, which helps prevent obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other health issues. Other benefits include:
- More advanced motor skills, such as agility, balance and coordination
- Higher levels of vitamin D, which in turn strengthens their bones and immune systems
- Stronger awareness, reasoning and observation skills
- Greater likelihood of developing a lifelong love of nature and care to preserve it
- Fewer incidences of illness
- Significantly fewer symptoms of ADHD
As a result, parents may be looking for simple steps to keep their families active outside even as the temperatures climb. From backyard games to excursions at the 85-acre YMCA Camp Moody along Onion Creek, there are a range of options to help everyone stay in touch with their natural environment.
According to YMCA Executive Director Bret Kiester, who oversees Camp Moody, there are several ways to inspire your children to head outside. Try some of these outdoor activities:
Create your own backyard outdoor space – Kids don’t need acres of woods to experience the benefits of nature. An outdoor craft table, sandbox, slackline, swing or treehouse can do the trick.
Go for a hike – How do you stay cool on a summer hike? Head to the water! We are fortunate in this area to have so many hiking trails that lead to creeks, rivers and lakes. Take buckets and water shoes so you can play in the water and cool off before hitting the trail to head back home.
Get back to the garden – Kids love digging in the dirt, and gardening projects can become a family activity. In the summer months, native and adapted plants like cactus and other succulents can work well.
Pick up a paddle – Kayaking, canoing, stand-up paddle boarding and boating are all great physical activities that encourage family communication and coordination. Plus, they make for fun outings into nature. From the water, you can keep a lookout for fish, birds and turtles too.
Prepare ahead of time – Have a dedicated “outdoor” backpack filled with all the things you need for your outdoor adventures (sunscreen, bug spray, hats, gloves, binoculars, magnifying glass). Keep it stocked and by the door, ready to go when you are.
YMCA Camp Moody offers a variety of summer day camps through August for kids ages 8 to 13. In addition, Camp Moody is open to the public for family hiking every Saturday during June and July from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Stop at the office next to the natatorium to register and pick up a trail map. Find more information at austinymca.org/programs/camp-moody-outdoor-summer-day-camp or by calling (512) 523-9640.