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From inside the house, outside often seems uninviting.

It seems too cloudy, too rainy, too sunny, too cold, too hot. Indoors seems so comfortable and easy. Going outdoors takes effort.

But going outside is important from several different angles. Make getting outside a must-do part of your child’s everyday life.

Fresh air and sunshine. Even your grandmother could tell you this: fresh air is good for you. Getting outdoors increases oxygen levels and energizes the brain. Sunshine – even on a cloudy day – delivers vitamin D, which just about everybody needs more of.

Exercise. Running around is what children do and there’s nowhere better to do it than out of doors. This is especially true if your child is more of a couch potato or a delicate flower who seems happy in the house. Something’s missing in your child’s life if she’s inside all the time. Get out and play!

Grace, agility and confidence. I understand: outdoor play is fine for athletic kids but maybe not for yours. I’d like you to reconsider that. Outdoor play contributes to the sort of elegance of motion and coordination every child needs. It adds to a child’s confidence in his physical abilities and adds a hardiness in the face of the elements that will keep him from being perceived as a wimp. Just because your child doesn’t like active play now doesn’t mean she won’t want to join in someday in the future.

New ideas. All that oxygen and fresh things to look at and to do spur creativity and thinking. The sensory experience of being outside – the weather, the birds, even the traffic – provide different things to think about from the indoor scene. A walk around the block recharges your child and you too.

Change of scene and a change of attitude. There is reason to believe that problems with attention and hyperactivity are linked to children’s disconnect from the natural world, according to Richard Luov, author of Last Child in the Woods. Even if your location is in the city, getting onto the sidewalk provides a link to what is universal and timeless in human experience. You’ll feel better for it!

It’s easy to make excuses for staying inside.
• The weather always looks worse from the indoor side of the window. Bundle up and get out anyway and you’ll likely find the weather isn’t so awful as you thought.
• Allergies are a problem but they shouldn’t be a stopper. Don’t let your child become an invalid over pollen. The benefits of an active outdoor life require management of allergies that lets kids be kids.
• Your child’s age isn’t an issue, since even infants benefit from a stroll outdoors.
• And remember that you’re never too busy to take the children outdoors. A few minutes out in the world will refresh you too. Pick a time that works for you – after school or after dinner – and stick to it.

Once you make getting outside a daily habit, you’ll come to expect it, even to look forward to it. Your children may be better behaved and healthier. Your whole family might be smarter.

There will be days you think, oh, I just don’t want to! Those are the days you need to get outside the most!

© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.