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Most families feel squeezed by work, school, planned activities, sports practice, and home upkeep. We don’t need fancy research to tell us that getting away from all the hustle and bustle for a few hours is refreshing to the mind, body, and soul. But studies do show nature has many benefits like decreased stress, increased mental energy and creativity, and overall, improved mental health. You may wonder how to fit one more thing in your family’s full schedule. However, if you are prepared, even a couple of hours that might have been spent binge watching a show or cleaning out a closet can turn into a family adventure.

Nature has healing properties. Leaving the stress of work, homework, and a dishwasher that constantly wants to be loaded, frees your brain to relax.  Make time and soak up some fresh air. Taking into account the ages and preferences of your family members, make a short list of places you could go to get outside and enjoy creation. If you have toddlers and preschoolers, where is the closest walking trail with a paved path, shade, and perhaps a water feature? Elementary kids, how about a place you can safely bike and end up at a large playground or ball field? Middle and high schoolers might be attracted to a more strenuous hike that could wind you around to a fun outdoor eatery. 

I don’t know about your family, but in ours, often the most difficult part of the journey is the first step. Getting out the door with all the people and all the equipment seems to take forever. I remember having toddlers and thinking that no one would ever be able to put on their own shoes. Now with teenagers, I often wonder if everyone can just find their shoes! At a family dinner, come up with a plan for where your next family adventure will take place. Decide how long you need to make it happen and what you need to take with you. Will you be riding bikes or scooters and need helmets and the bike rack? Will you stay for a meal and need a picnic blanket, snacks, and a cooler? Most adventures would do well to have a hat, water bottle, and sunscreen for all participants. Can you make a list or have these things in a bag at the ready?

To schedule or not to schedule? That is the question. Again, you know your family best. If you have young ones, just look for an empty spot on the calendar and block it off for “Nature Time.” If your kids make their own plans, you may have to request an uninterrupted time a few weeks out. Mark the time off with their approval, then you can send them text reminders. If it would be more fun, invite some friends to join you. Of course you can just enjoy the outdoors, but if you have family members who want to know the purpose of the trip or who are easily bored, you have options. Planning a scavenger hunt (photos of items work just as well as collecting the items) can be a great way to engage everyone and encourage sibling camaraderie. If you decide to bring phones along, you can have a photography contest of the most interesting find. If your children are younger, come up with a game you can play on your walk or ride. Finding something they see for each letter of the alphabet  is a fun way to help them notice what is around them. You can also do a colors-of-the-rainbow contest to see how many different colors people can notice or photograph. As long as you are breathing in fresh air and enjoying your time together, you have accomplished much.