“Let’s go outside!”
Those three little words are music to every parent's ears.
Today, in our always-on culture filled with smartphones, streaming entertainment, online games, and even virtual reality, it’s important that girls make a strong connection to nature and the outdoors.
Getting outside and exploring nature has benefits that go far beyond what one might expect—these experiences contribute to girls’ challenge-seeking and problem-solving skills and make girls more likely to connect with and care for the environment.
What's more, when girls consistently participate in organized outdoor activities, they grow their leadership skills and make more friends. The positive effects of nature are even more pronounced for girls from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
"Research tells us that even 30 minutes of regular outdoor activities boosts self-confidence in girls," explains Liz Williams, Outdoor Initiative Lead at Girl Scouts of the USA. "Regular and consistent outdoor experiences lead girls to develop a passion for the environment and become stewards of the land."
Although getting outside to explore nature can be fun and relaxing, it can also intimidate some parents, especially if they aren’t dyed-in-the wool campers. That’s totally OK, we've got you covered!
Try these six super-easy ways to connect you and your girl with nature, the outdoors, and each other.
- Just. Get. Out! Start off simply: invite your girl to go outside and explore. It's her chance to step away from school pressures and electronic distractions to get into the real world in an unstructured way. Live in the moment; enjoy the sun on your skin, feel the wind in your hair, and hear the birds in the trees. Just have fun, but do it outside!
- Explore and play together! Grab a bunch of friends, and head outside for a scavenger hunt. But mix things up by making Mother Nature the theme. Your girl can look for different kinds of bugs and flowers. Scan the sky for different types of clouds. Find all the colors in natural things. Or simply collect different types of rocks or leaves. There's so much fun to be found outside.
- Try an old-time playtime! One of the great things about getting outside is that there's plenty of room to run. So go "old school," and play some traditional active games. Everyone loves playing hide-and-seek or tag. Amp up the movement by playing tetherball, testing your moves with a hula hoop, or getting your heart going with a jump rope. (Ready for double Dutch?!) Older girls can get going with team sports (softball, basketball, volleyball, track, or tennis, anyone?). And don't forget to go cycling!
- Say "a little dirt never hurt!" Get in touch with the earth, literally. Grab some dirt, a bit of water, and an old bowl or bucket. Mix it all together in the bucket, and then "bake" mud pies on a cookie sheet in the sun. Build a sandcastle if you're near a beach (or sandbox). Or plant some flowers or delicious herbs, and nurture your nature in a window planter or backyard garden.
- Bring the outside inside! We aren't all fortunate enough to have easy access to traditional outdoor areas like woods, lakes, or mountain trails. Don't let that stop you! Go camping in your backyard. No backyard? Go ahead and camp out in the living room. (No campfires, please!)
- Take action! Help your girl learn to care about our natural environment by finding areas in your community that could use a little loving care—maybe it's cleaning up the playground or picking up litter in the park. Or find an eco-organization in your community, and encourage her to participate in an upcoming event.
Kids love the outdoors, so it doesn’t take much to get them outside and running, climbing, exploring, learning, and having a blast. It just takes a little encouragement from parents and the freedom to explore—and they'll take it from there!
Inspiring your girl to experience the world outside walls can be easy for you, educational for her, and totally fun for you both!