15 Minutes Outside Keeps Families Calm and Connected

by Donne Davis on April 20, 2011

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My two granddaughters, ages eight and four, love to be outdoors. So when I discovered Rebecca Cohen’s book, 15 Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect With Your Kids, I knew it would be a great resource for inspiring more outdoor activities together.

Two years ago, Cohen realized she wasn’t living her life the way she wanted and wasn’t giving her family the rich experience of enjoying the outdoors the way she’d grown up. So she made a New Year’s resolution to get out of the house every day with her two young sons and stuck to it with gratifying results. She discovered that daily family time outside kept her family calmer and more connected. Cohen writes that getting outside every day transformed her life. Instead of frantically running from one task to another, she learned to use the spaces in her schedule to look around, breathe deeply, and live in the moment.

Cohen had an epiphany while riding her bike through her neighborhood. As she stopped to listen to the acorns falling and saw a leaf wafting to the ground, she felt a sense of euphoria. She realized that connecting with the seasons wasn’t about all the places her family could race to.

“The rich changes that happen in nature are going on all around us, every single day. We just have to be willing to stop, look, and listen.”

She vowed to be open to stopping and noticing nature’s beauty with her children and husband whenever and wherever they were.

The 365 different activities are simple enough that you don’t need special equipment, they’re low to no cost, and can be enjoyed year-round. The book is divided into the four seasons, with some inspiration and personal stories about each season followed by an activity for each day of the month. There’s an index at the end which lists each activity by month and date. You can literally flip to any page in the book and find a clever new idea to enjoy outdoors. She also includes outdoor activities for all the major holidays.

Cohen writes that by encouraging her sons to view their outdoor family time as something special just for them, she reconnected with her own enthusiasm. She started noticing what her boys enjoyed doing and made suggestions that suited each child. Sometimes she simply asked: “What would be fun to do together outside right now?”

Cohen’s book made an impact on me, as well. On a recent visit with my granddaughters, I made a conscious effort to spend our time outside and notice what happened. When we took one of our usual walks down to the creek, I suggested the girls see how big a splash they could make by throwing rocks into the water. That was an idea I remembered from her book. I also brought a homemade soap bubble solution and we had two hours of fun blowing bubbles in the garden.

Benefits of Spending 15 Minutes Outside

  • Offers great health benefits through fun physical exercise and sunshine
  • Redirects children’s energies, motivating them to play and explore constructively
  • Creates a family stress-relief valve and a way to spend meaningful time together
  • Makes it easier for busy parents: play dates outside are hassle-free
  • Provides an effortless education in natural science and an appreciation for nature’s life cycles

Cohen created a Family Outdoor-to-Go Kit so her family would always be prepared for spontaneous adventures with a backpack full of what they would need.

Family Outdoor-to-Go Kit

  • Picnic basket
  • Reusable water bottles
  • Non-perishable snack such as pretzels
  • Binoculars
  • Magnifying glass
  • Nature guide
  • Sunscreen and bug spray
  • Hand wipes
  • Rebecca Plants Curiosity Cards

 

 

{ 1 comment }

Susan April 27, 2011 at 7:45 am

Last weekend two of my grandchildren and I had a ball throwing rocks in the lake. They kept trying to dislodge larger and larger rocks to make a bigger splash!

There’s nothing that’s better for my psyche than an outdoor outing with my grandchildren.

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