We interrupt this post for an important public service announcement: Be sure you follow social distancing guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. If your community is sheltered in place, make sure family your outdoor activities are appropriate.

Getting outside benefits physical and mental health. It also helps ease boredom and burn energy so that your little ones can sleep soundly at night. Here’s why you should get your kids out there and what to do. 

Why Get Outside? 

Researchers find a strong connection between time spent in nature and decreased levels of depression and anxiety. You and your children might experience either during this tense time. You might worry about your job prospects, while your kids miss their school friends and possibly events like dances and grade-level graduations.

Signs that your child is experiencing anxiety include nausea and vomiting, a racing heart, excessive sweating, chest pain and shortness of breath. It’s crucial to focus on activities that help with emotional regulation during this time for the sake of your own mental health as well as that of your child’s. Getting out gives them a sense of normalcy and helps them to believe that everything will, eventually, work out okay. 

Suggested Family Outdoor Activities for Kids of All Ages 

Take a Hike

One unexpected benefit of the coronavirus pandemic is lower pollution levels — so take a deep breath outdoors. There has never been a better time to explore your local trails, so take advantage. Grab your cell phones and challenge your kiddos to a contest to see who can take the best nature photographs. 

Exercise

Unless you have an infection, you can get outside to go on a bike ride as a family. To further decrease anxiety levels, practice mindfulness by taking a sensory walk. As you stroll, ask your children what they hear and take in through their senses. You can also engage their sense of touch by using different tubs of materials, such as water beads or sand, where they can step. This activity redirects their attention to the present moment instead of ruminating on future fears. 

Make an Obstacle Course

If you have a backyard, why not create a homemade obstacle course for your little ones? The gang can pretend they are competitors on “American Ninja Warrior.” You can lay a piece of wood on the ground to act as a balance beam. Lay several hula hoops in a row and have kids jump down the line. You can also draw a twisty path on the driveway with chalk and challenge your little ones to follow it on their bikes.

Plant a Garden 

Your local nursery is probably closed during the pandemic, but big box stores like Home Depot remain open. Alternatively, you can save your seeds from your produce and start seedlings inside to transplant later. In the meantime, rake and hoe the soil to ready it for planting. If you have a home compost bin, you can start fertilizing beds. Who knows? Your teenager may feel so tired of being indoors that they’ll offer to mow the lawn! 

Go Stargazing 

You don’t need a telescope to gaze at the night sky in wonder. Take the kiddos outside after dark and challenge each other to identify as many constellations as you can. Learn about the legends behind popular star clusters. Get creative by inventing new formations and making up stories behind them. 

Stroll a Botanical Garden 

If you have a botanical garden in your town, you have the perfect opportunity to ease anxiety outdoors and teach your children something new. Take a couple of notebooks and write down your observations about different plants and trees — many locations label each variety. Alternatively, download an app that can identify various flora, such as NatureGate, Google Goggles or PlantSnapp.

Camp Out on Your Patio 

If you had a vacation planned for spring, your children might feel understandably disappointed. While you can’t replicate the Magic Kingdom, you can camp out on your back patio or balcony. The best part about this activity is that you don’t have to go without food or restroom facilities. Drag out your sleeping bags and extra blankets. Bring some flashlights to illuminate your faces while telling scary stories. If you have a grill or a fire pit, toast marshmallows or make s’mores.

Ease Anxiety While Social Distancing by Getting Outdoors

Your children might feel as anxious as you do during social distancing. Help to alleviate their fears with some healthy outdoor activities.

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Kate Harveston DrGreene.com contributor

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