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When you’re busy running a business and taking care of kids, outside time isn’t always a priority. There’s so much to get done, and most days it feels like there’s not enough hours to do it all.
But, summer is the perfect time of year to increase the amount of time you and your kids spend outdoors. The days are longer, the weather is warmer, and there’s typically a bit more flex time in the schedule (since there’s no school.)
Why should you try and get outside more?
I’ve discovered increasing our time outside actually improves my productivity. It doesn’t make a ton of sense mathematically – spend more time outside and still get more done. But, it’s working in reality so I’ll take it!
Benefits of Outside Time I’ve Found
So how does it happen? In my opinion, it’s because of the tremendous benefits that come with time spent outside. When you add up these benefits, they help you to be better focused when you’re trying to work. Thus you get more done in less time.
Here are some of the benefits I’ve found:
There’s lots of research showing the benefits of being outside in the fresh air. For instance, it often leaves you refreshed and with a dose of energy. It also relieves stress, which can really build up as a busy mompreneur!
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, a few minutes in the fresh air can really make a difference to your mental state.
Kids Burn Off Energy
Free, unstructured outdoor play is essential for kids. It’s how they learn and process the world around them. They build their creativity skills, solve problems, and learn to take appropriate risks. These are all important experiences that shape the way a child sees the world.
When you let them get out and play, kids burn off both physical energy, but also their mental energy. They put their body and brain to work as they play.
This means, they’re usually ready for something calm and quiet when they head inside. This is why I almost always make sure the kids get a good dose of outside time before we have our daily quiet time. My four-year old has started napping again since I made this change, and his mood is WAY better.
Unplug & Relax
Our brain isn’t meant to be on work duty all the time. We really do benefit from walking away from the screens and relaxing for a bit.
Sitting outside supervising the kids is a great time to doodle, read a book, or just enjoy the sunshine.
This benefit has been huge for me! There are days when I just don’t feel like writing, or can’t figure out what I want to write about.
When I unplug and get outside, it’s like all my creativity recharges itself. I come back in ready to work, with ideas that have been tossed back and forth in my subconsciousness for a while.
Being outside is good for you! So let’s get creative and find ways to spend more time out there this summer.
Without a plan, outdoor time isn’t going to magically appear on your schedule. Like everything else in life, you’ve got to be intentional about it.
Here are some ideas for making room.
Put It In Your Plan of the Day
By doing it each morning, you can decide when it’d be best to go. If it’s a really hot day, you might find morning or late afternoon work better than the middle of the day. That way you avoid the intense heat and sunshine. If your yard has a lot of shade trees, the timing might not matter as much.
Do you have a doctor appointment in the morning? Maybe you can stop by a nearby park on your way home.
Get intentional about getting out, and let your kids help you brainstorm the best time/place to go.
Need more help getting everything done and learning how to use a Plan of the Day to boost your productivity? Check out my course, Balancing Diapers and Deadlines here.
Cut the Screen Time
Each winter we fall into the nasty habit of watching too much television. The days are short, the snow is deep, and it’s sure cold outside.
Screen time increases for our family every single winter.
But, by late spring I’ve had enough. Strict limits go on and the kids get one episode a day (the kid of the day gets to pick to avoid arguing.)
Without the screen to fall back on, they all opt to get outside more. They build forts, plant gardens, and catch bugs. The outdoors are full of activities that are perfect for kids of all ages to enjoy together.
And since I’m not watching as much TV either, I love to join them and watch their antics.
Eat Lunch Outside
One of my kids’ favorite ways to get more outside time for the family is to take our lunch outdoors. We’ll grab a quick meal of sandwiches, chips, and water bottles, find a large blanket, and head to the yard.
If we’re feeling really adventurous, we’ll hike down to the creek and wade when we’re done. But, the kids don’t need the creek to have lots of fun on a short family picnic.
Eating outdoors is also fun when we’re out and about doing our monthly shopping trip or running back and forth to doctor appointments. Cheap Little Caesar’s Pizza tastes so much better when you’re eating it at a picnic table at a park.
Make an Outdoor Workstation
If I’ve got a tight deadline and I need more time to focus on it, I’ll often grab my laptop and head out. I can use our covered porch as an outdoor workstation. I set up the laptop, mouse-pad, and mouse, and am able to listen to the kids play. This isn’t as refreshing as unplugging, but I still enjoy the fresh air while I work.
In fact, I often work faster when I’m outside, because I’m motivated to get done and join the kids!
If you don’t have a covered porch, you can use an outdoor table to make a workspace.
Wherever you set up, here are a couple things I’ve found to help work go more smoothly outside:
- Don’t use your phone. The glare from my phone is way worse than the glare from my laptop. And, most tasks are much faster to accomplish with a bigger screen and complete keyboard.
- Have an agenda. Know what you want to get done so you don’t waste time trying to figure it out.
- Learn to work through noise, and which noises you can safely tune out.
Other Tips for Getting More Outside Time into Your Day
If you’re going to be spending more time in it, you want to make sure your outdoor space is appealing for the whole family. I took a chunk of the money I earned last year, and combined it with some birthday and Christmas money we’d been saving for this purpose, and we bought a nice play set from Costco.
The kids all love it, and spend a ton of time there. Knowing they have a safe place to play helps me feel better about sending them out.
But, a play set isn’t the only change we’ve made to our yard.
We also upcycled some old tires into some fun spaces for the kids, like this tire tractor. There are also some large cut logs the kids helped arrange, that they use as tables, jumping spaces, and more.
We strung a rope from the clothesline to the flagpole and made a tightrope. They kept challenging each other to see who could get the furthest or get the most crosses made without falling.
Another easy addition was a rock ring fire pit. Now we’ll often roast marshmallows or hot dogs in the evenings on Friday. It’s a great way to get the whole family outside.
Add some fun to your yard, and everyone will want to spend more time there.
If you don’t have any outdoor space of your own, find some nearby. Look for safe areas where you can get to quickly (otherwise you spend too much time getting there for it to be practical.)
Even if you can’t get outside daily, try to fit it in as often as possible. Hit the park each time you go shopping. Take a picnic to a nearby lake. Go on a drive and get out and explore the wilderness. We love driving around looking at waterfalls in Washington and Idaho, and hiking in for a better look.
Find something that works for your family. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t do it.
What Should Your Kids Do Outside?
The more your kids have unstructured time, the more easily they’ll think of things to do on their own. But, it can be tough at first. Each spring I have to guide my kids into free play through some fun activities. Here are some of their favorites:
- Create challenges (climb to the top of the playset, slide down the slide, run to the flagpole, and give me a high-5)
- Build a fort (clotheslines and blanket forts are really quick!)
- Run through the sprinkler
- Set up a bubble machine
- Take a family walk
- Get a nature book and identify plants and animals in your area
- Plant a little garden
- Learn to skip rocks
- Find rocks to paint
- Play walkie-talkie hide and seek
Walkie talkies have been a great asset to increasing outdoor time, especially for my kids. Since we live in the middle of nowhere on a large ranch, I can let a small group of them explore a little further and still have them have a way to contact me. We just make sure to lock the channels before they start off so they don’t accidentally change them.
I like being able to check in on them, and cell phones don’t always work in the middle of nowhere, so this has been great!
What Are Your Favorite Outside Time Activities?
I definitely encourage you to spend more time outside this summer. It’s beneficial for everyone! I’d love to hear your favorite activities while you’re out there. Feel free to share in the comments.
Lisa Tanner is a former teacher turned homeschooling mom with 11 kids. She's also a successful freelance writer. Lisa enjoys helping other busy moms find time to start and grow a side hustle of their own.