Teacher | Blogger | Mom
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,” wrote Henry David Thoreau. His words strike a particularly strong chord today, when the average American child spends only four to seven minutes on unstructured outdoor play, and five to eight hours per day in front of a digital screen. High rates of childhood obesity, a shorter life span, and difficulties concentrating are just a few effects of our current ‘divorce’ from nature, so if you are planning a summer vacation, try to take it outdoors. After all, nature wields as many benefits for adults as it does for children. If you have a dog, make sure to bring him along; he will undoubtedly feel like he has landed in Heaven as soon as he steps out into wondrous nature.
How can an Outdoorsy Vacation Positively Impact the Whole Family?
Being in the Great Outdoors and enjoying hours of unstructured activity has a big impact on human beings. A study published by the American Journal of Public Health found that children who spend quality time in nature have a reduction in ADHD symptoms. Many studies have shown that exercising outdoors burns more calories than indoors – which is great news for those trying to shed a few pounds. Being outdoors also has powerful effects on human mental health, with many studies showing that it significantly lowers stress hormone levels. Thus, in Japan, the practise of shinrin-yoku is seeing countless stressed executives heading to woody forest areas to take part in ‘forest bathing’. The latter is simple and is one the whole family can partake in. The key is to simply walk through the woods and to open your sense of sight, hearing, and touch to the majesty around you. Try to keep your mind ‘in the here and now’, open to the plants, trees, animals, and insects you may encounter.
What Type of Outdoors Vacation Suits Your Family?
An outdoorsy vacation can be as rough or glamorous as you wish. If you are up for a simple experience that really connects you to nature, you might decide to spend a few nights in a camping site (or sleep in a tent in your own backyard), build a fire, and toast marshmallows and sausages as you gaze up at the stars. If you have older kids who love swimming and adventure sports, a log cabin by a lake or sea is ideal because you will be living within a solid wood structure, conveniently close to natural surrounds, without scrimping on space or a good kitchen. Log cabins and seaside homes are so popular than many people are investing in a second home close to water features. Indeed, these days, log cabin kits make for DYI projects favored by even those who have not had previous experience in construction.
What Activities to Enjoy on Your Next Outdoor Vacation?
As mentioned above, children are in dire need of unstructured playtime. However, the days are long are you can also fit in many fun activities. For smaller children, a nature scavenger hunt game in which the winner is the one who finds everything on the list fastest, is a firm favorite. You can also hold Easter egg-style ‘hunts’, hiding items and leaving clues that will have everyone on their toes racing to the finish. Water activities are ultra enjoyable and don’t have to be high-octane. Take your pick from kayaking, stand up paddling, or swimming. If you have a boat, there is no better excuse to discover your area better while honing your sailing or water skiing skills.
If you have few holidays a year, try to give your physical and mental health a big boost by opting for an outdoors vacation. The key elements to prioritize include lush scenery, opportunity for activities like hiking or boating, and the creature comforts you enjoy back home (such as preparing meals in a comfortable kitchen). Nature has a unique ability to renew and relax children and adults, as well as hone their focus and of course, keep them active – something that most Americans need more of in their daily lives.
About Jane Sandwood
Jane has been a freelance writer and editor for over 10 years. She has written for both digital and print across a wide variety of fields. Her main interest is exploring how people can improve their health and well being in their everyday life. And when she isn’t writing, Jane can often be found with her nose in a good book, at the gym or just spending quality time with her family.