Why kids need to get out in nature now more than ever

By David Pennington

Most kids today come equipped with smartphones, tablets, and an understanding of the technological world that makes most parents jealous they never learned how to program their VCRs.

This increased presence of technology can come at a cost though. A 2018 ParticipAction study found that only 35 per cent of Canadian children ages 5 to 17 years old are getting enough physical activity. To compound this, another 2018 study by Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario found that these kids lack the fundamental movement skills, knowledge and motivation to engage in physical activities and play.

Fortunately, the fix for this lack of movement is a relatively simple solve with a weekend or week-long family road trip. Take your home on the road and choose from an array of options to travel in — everything from luxury RVs and cute campervans to renovated airstreams and Instagrammable teardrop trailers. 

A road trip adventure is ripe with moments of curiosity, exploration, and mental stimulation — the perfect way to swap screen time for face time, and spend more moments with the ones who matter most. Not to mention, from a kid’s point of view, an RV is essentially a mobile treehouse, one that saves parents from the added hassle and cost of air travel, car rentals, and hotels.

Making intentional time to take your kids outside can have additional positive effects, such as:

Higher grades

Research has shown that time spent outside and in the presence of mother nature can go a long way to alleviating depression and anxiety. In fact, doctors in the UK recently started prescribing long walks in nature for treatment of chronic illnesses. Time in nature may reduce symptoms of attention deficit disorder and could bring your child’s focus back to important things, such as their homework.

Overview effect

Astronauts who have orbited the Earth often return with a different perception of life, time, and the universe we live in. There is more of an “interconnectedness” to their philosophies that many call the Overview Effect.

While anyone can Google search images of the view from a mountaintop or a hiking trail deep in the woods, it is quite another thing to experience it for yourself. Feeling your sense of place be challenged and changed can drive a sense of unprecedented self-change. Home can be a predictable place; city blocks can all start to look the same. The view after someone has challenged themselves with a rigorous hike can rewire the brain for the better.

Environmental protection

A passion for the outdoors starts young, long before we have grown old and accustomed to soft beds, central air conditioning, and convenience-store food. If you want your child to have a life-long appreciation for the outdoors, be sure to get them out as much as possible while they are young and impressionable. As they grow older and start to work jobs that keep them inside and behind desks more often, they may grow nostalgic for their younger days in the wild.

Knowing what the outdoors did for their childhood will only encourage them to protect what is left of our wild, natural spaces for generations to come.

Radical self-reliance

Take away the phones, the immediate access to Google, a GPS, maps, or a way to call someone, and what do you have? A great way to establish a sense of self-reliance. In an age where just about anything can get delivered to your front door with a touch of a button, it can’t hurt to learn how to start a fire, find true north, or keep warm while sleeping under the stars.

Rubbing dirt in the wounds

There is a great power that comes with learning you are not made of glass. Children are designed to fall down, scrape knees, bump heads, and get an array of healthy scars before they do all of their growing up. Being outdoors, in nature, is a great place to allow that to happen. Learning how to fall and get back up again can do wonders later in life, especially as the hits get harder and the recovery time might be longer.

Where to next?

Chances are, there is a weekend getaway just waiting to be discovered in your own backyard. It’s time to look up from this screen, out the window, and find a place to explore.

Article provided by online rental site Outdoorsy (ca.outdoorsy.com).