The Benefits of Outdoor Time
Charlotte Mason said that we should:
“Never be within doors when you can rightly be without.” (Vol. 1 p.42).
She even encouraged mothers to get outside more!
She encouraged us to let children discover and collect specimens of nature. And let them see what happens with them. Nature study is an obvious reason to get our kids outdoors more.
“Do children keep tadpoles, and silkworms, and caterpillars in these days? Very few have given us the results of their own observations. We have many capital descriptions from books, and that is better than nothing, but the very essence of natural history is that it should, so far as possible, be drawn direct from Nature.”
For more CM tidbits like this check out this site , Charlotte Mason Help.
Our family has done lots of collecting and observing caterpillars, tadpoles, and various and sundry creatures, as you will see from the pictures in this post!
When boys are outside they often feel a sense of freedom and adventure. It gives them the opportunity to move around and encourages them to explore. They discover things about the world around them. They interact with nature. They get grounded. It clears out the cobwebs and helps them to think more clearly. They can exercise their muscles and get stronger and keep their body healthy.
There are many ways to get our boys outside, even if we live in the city.
We can go to a park.
They can walk around the neighborhood if they’re old enough.
Or we can take them on walks. And sometimes they can be nature walks.
We can set up a trampoline or swing set for them to play and climb on.
We can do school outside. I used to take all the kids outside and read a story to them.
We can have picnics at a park or even in our own yard. Kids love that, and it’s nice for clean up, too!
They can ride bikes, skateboards, or scooters in a safe place. You may have to find a good place for these activities.
The Benefits of Outdoor Time According to Some Real Live Boys
For my research I consulted some “expert boys”, my four sons!
This is my firstborn son, Shawn! (The taller one.)
Shawn had some thoughts on the matter:
“It’s the best environment for building their imagination. Interacting with nature, the trees, the rocks and everything inspires the imagination and creativity. Outdoors and nature – Creation – is inspirational.” He credits a lot of his ability to think well and deeply to the amount of time he spent outside and how much he played in nature. It clears the mind and gets it unclogged.
He continues: “For boys, it creates a sense of what the real world is. It gives you the sense that life is real. It is a tangible, visceral experience. Things matter, and what’s going on around you matters. It helps you understand the value of life. It helps with the restlessness of boys. And gives them a sense of peace. Boys can feel cagey and gloomy if they’re indoors all the time.
They feel a sense of freedom, like they’re not trapped. Overall, it’s very important developmentally. It instills a sense of confidence being a part of the wide open world instead of cloistered inside all the time. Like you’re a part of it all. You can breathe and move even though you’re outside of a familiar area.”
When Shawn and his friend were about 10 years old they built a treehouse. they looked around for resources and figured out what they could do with the things they found. A lot of creativity was inspired by the time they spent together outside.
This is my second son, Patrick! Here’s his contribution to the discussion about outdoor time, from a boy’s perspective (now a man).
Being outdoors calms ADD symptoms.
Patrick is 23 now. He says being in the outdoors helps the body-brain connection. It helps boys focus when it comes time to sit down with the books.
“It helps them center when they’re alone in the wilderness. They become more in touch with their inner being. It helps them focus clearly. It takes away all distractions; no TV, no media, no phone. It stabilizes you. It anchors you to reality. It shows that you are capable of being fatigued. You learn that you can’t be dependent on the system. You learn survival skills. You become free-thinking and independent. You understand your limits; you can get hungry, thirsty, cold, every mosquito bite is a lesson, and you can get hurt and keep going. You find out how tough you are. You can test your limits.”
This is Morgan, my third son.
Morgan is 18 now. He says:
“Open spaces are good for a boy’s mental state. There are a lot of physiological health benefits, from soaking up the sunlight, and breathing fresh air that is not artificially controlled or produced. The sensations of soft breezes and the sound of a fountain or running water of any kind tends to incline the mind to organize and sort things that don’t generally get sorted out until you sleep; generally promoting a better sense of awareness and well-being.”
This is my youngest son, Garrett!
These are the thoughts of a real live boy!
Garrett is 15 now. He gave me his thoughts on the importance of boys having outside time. He said that it makes boys feel strengthened when they’re outside. They can breathe fresh air. When they’re outside, they can run free. They can breathe freer. They can get rid of the stuffy feeling of being cooped up inside. In his own words, “When you want to run you can just run. If you want to jump, you can just jump.” The wide open spaces make them feel free and able to use their energy. He said he enjoys walking through the woods. He likes to explore and walk along a path and see the different things that are there each time.
He loves to get on the monkey bars. He likes to swing from one bar to the next. It’s a really invigorating feeling to play tag. His favorite part of swinging is going so high that it gives you a tickly feeling in your stomach. He loves swimming, too. He likes to test his breath capacity and see how long it takes him to swim to the other side. He likes to find objects that have been thrown in the water. It strengthens his core, his lungs, his arms and legs, and his heart.
It gives him a new perspective when he walks outside. He observed that “There’s a part of your brain that doesn’t get worked unless you’re outside. It helps you process things. It makes you feel better emotionally when you can sit quietly in nature and see the beauty. It gives you a peaceful feeling.”
To sum it up, being outside is good for boys in a variety of ways: Mentally, emotionally, physically, psychologically, and educationally. Charlotte Mason said we should let our children spend time outside for 4, 5, or even 6 hours every day. If you can do that, I say do it! If we lived in a place that was accessible to nature, I’m sure we would be outside more often. But we can all make it a goal to get our kids outside as much as possible. As you can see from the thoughts of some “real live boys”, it’s definitely a worthy goal!