Easy ways to explore the outdoors

Easy ways to explore the outdoors
Thomas, Josiah and James of McFarland enjoying the park!

Spending time outside exploring and connecting with nature has proven mental and physical health benefits. From lowering your blood pressure and reducing stress to improving your immune system and reducing the risk of mental illness, a little time outside is just what the doctor ordered. Dean Clinic Family Medicine provider Dr. Amanda Preimesberger shares the ways her family and patients are able to fit more time outside into their busy schedules.

Getting outside to reap these natural benefits doesn’t have to be hard. Try one of these easy ways to spend some time connecting – both with nature and as a family:

Take a walk around the neighborhood. Pay special attention to the different types of plants you see. How many colors of flowers do you see? What shapes are the leaves on the trees? Play a classic outdoor game – or make up your own! Popular classics include Red Rover or Red Light, Green Light. Put up a bird feeder in your backyard. Once the feeder is up you can record how many different types of birds visit. Or, make your own bird feeder out of pine cones, peanut butter and bird seed. Go for a hike at a local park or nature center. Aldo Leopold Nature Center in Monona offers a special Trailside Backpack Program that includes a trail guide and seasonal activity the whole family can enjoy. You can also find excellent hikes for all skill levels in the book “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles.” Many locations listed in this southern Wisconsin focused book are free or very low cost and just short drive from home. Spend the afternoon at Henry Vilas Zoo. Talk about the different animals you see. Make yard clean-up a family affair. In the fall, everyone can help rake and bag leaves. In the winter, snow shoveling goes much faster with extra hands to help. In the spring, plant a garden and talk about the plants you hope to see in bloom. Over the summer months, families can weed gardens or flower beds and rake up grass clippings together. Harvest some healthy snacks. Depending on the season, many area farms offer berry, apple and pumpkin picking. Once you bring your bounty home, you can make special treats as a family. Go on a bug hunt. Head out to the back yard and see how many different types of creatures you can find. You can either make up scavenger hunt cards like this, or simply record what you find. Just play. Frog catching, fishing, fort building or even a quick game of whiffle ball with the neighbors are all great ways for kids to have fun and really connect with nature.

These are just a few examples of how to get outside as a family. For more information on the benefits of spending time outside, check out our online Time For Kids section.