As winter in the Pacific Northwest draws on with short days and cold, rainy weather, many of us would rather stay inside where it’s warm. Our daily habits at this time of year tend to include plenty of couch-sitting, binge-watching, and comfort food; all resulting in less activity, less time outside, and falling into less than healthy routines.
However, mounting evidence links the amount of time we spend outdoors with improved physical and mental well-being. Kids who spend more time outside tend to be happier, more attentive and less anxious. In adults, spending time outside has been linked to lowering blood pressure, lessening fatigue and anxiety, and even improving memory. Knowing this should challenge us all, children and grown-ups alike, to break from the mold (no pun intended) and spend more time outdoors.
There are real barriers that interfere with spending time outside, and they vary from family to family. For many it is finding and carving out time between work, school, and other activities. For others it can be related to safety concerns. Some just don’t like going outside when it is rainy and cold. The answer for overcoming these and other barriers is different for each family, but with planning, resolve, and prioritizing it can be done.
Be intentional and find reasons to go out and explore nature. Go on walks. Look for things outside that your child is learning about in school or perhaps in a book you’ve just read. Create a scavenger hunt. Notice and point out beautiful things you see while walking outdoors.
Here are some important messages to repeat to your family and yourself:
“Rainy days are the best days to go to the park. It will be less crowded, we’ll have more space, and may even have the whole place to ourselves!”
“It’s not a weather issue; it’s a clothing issue.”
“Spending time outside in nature is good for all of us. Let’s make this a priority.”
Alright, now stop reading and go explore the great outdoors!
Washington State Parks free days (No Discover Pass required)
Whole Child Access Pass (Tacoma Public Schools students)
Every Kid Outdoors (4th graders) – Free access to public lands for the year