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Bring Your Indoors Outdoors and Reap All the Benefits of Nature

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Bring Your Indoors Outdoors and Reap All the Benefits of Nature

Can you feel it? Summer is in full swing and nature is begging us to get off the couch (away from the screens) and spend time outside. Sadly, too many of us spend far too much time inside. It’s time to change that by bringing our indoor activities outside—this summer, and beyond!

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Try “backyarding”

Kris Kiser is president and CEO of Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) as well as the TurfMutt Foundation (<turfmutt.com>). He founded TurfMutt as an environmental education and stewardship program to encourage outdoor learning experiences, and was inspired to do so by his rescue dog, Lucky.

Kiser believes that nature starts right at our doorstep, and we can all benefit from bringing our indoor activities outdoors—a practice that he calls “backyarding.” All of us (kids and dogs included!) can find creative ways to incorporate nature into our everyday lives.

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A shift in thinking

One very interesting way that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our daily habits has been to help us embrace the outdoors. “The pandemic shifted our thinking,” Kiser explains. “The ‘safe space’ was outdoors, and that encouraged us to reconnect with nature.” He believes that the trend is here to stay. From exercising to entertaining, we can do so much outside!

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Make your green space work for you

The key, explains Kiser, is to “tailor your outdoor space to suit your needs.” For example, Kiser loves working in his outdoor office. He suggests thinking of your unique needs, hobbies, and interests, and then creating a plan to make your perfect outdoor space a reality. [DESIGN]

Do you have children? Do you have pets? Do you love to read in a hammock or meditate outdoors? The more personalized your space is, the more you’ll love to be in it.

Be creative!

Make your outdoor space your very own with a …

  • yoga, meditation, or exercise space
  • firepit
  • swing set, playhouse, treehouse, or sandbox for kids
  • veggie garden and/or fruit trees and bushes
  • pond or water feature
  • area for your pet to play
  • picnic table or gazebo
  • hammock
  • outdoor reading nook
  • outdoor office
  • projector for movie nights
  • badminton net

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Make it eco-friendly

Keep in mind, Kiser adds, that “nature isn’t just pretty. It’s also a habitat.” For this reason, he suggests knowing your “zone” (to know which plants grow best in your area) and incorporating plants that help support pollinators.

You may also wish to consider checking with your municipality and adding a rainwater collecting system or composter.

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What if you don’t have a yard?

An estimated one-third of Canadians live in apartments and may not have a yard. However, it’s still possible—and important!—to enjoy nearby green space. Kiser recommends embracing local parks and community land, such as signing up for a plot at a community garden, walking nearby trails, or simply taking in the calming atmosphere of the forest (a practice known as “forest bathing”).

Yard or no yard, we can all benefit from outdoor community spaces, whether enjoying hiking trails, having a picnic at the lake, or going to the playground with the family. For a fun and unique outing, consider checking out nearby outdoor gyms, disc golf courses, botanical gardens, or walking labyrinth paths.

For those with balconies, it can also be a fun and creative pursuit to make your balcony your own outdoor oasis.

10 ways we can help our kids honour and protect the environment

  1. Plant a vegetable garden to help teach children where food comes from.
  2. Take part in seasonal nature-based activities, such as picking summer berries.
  3. Get involved in a volunteer cause, such as removing invasive species or doing a shoreline cleanup.
  4. Hike or camp as a family to foster a deeper connection with nature.
  5. Explain your own eco-friendly practices, such as avoiding, reusing, or recycling plastic.
  6. Visit your local farmers market and chat with vendors about produce and sustainable farming practices.
  7. Create art projects that are inspired by the natural world, such as sketching or writing a poem.
  8. Learn about and practise a new skill as a family, such as birding or orienteering.
  9. Become “citizen scientists” (look up opportunities to gather and submit data to local organizations or governments).
  10. Track your energy usage and/or water usage as a family and find ways to lower it.

A nature scavenger hunt

Looking for a fun family activity? Teach your kids about nature with a scavenger hunt! Help them identify common plants in your area to see if they can find them locally. Even young children can get involved if you use pictures to help identify the plants. Aim for a variety, including trees, flowers, grasses, and berries.

Time in nature is healthier, too

Spending time outside isn’t just fun—it also has countless health benefits for us and for our kids. Researchers believe that spending quality time in nature may …

  • increase children’s physical activity levels
  • improve children’s relationship skills
  • help children better cope with stress and reduce anger and aggression
  • enhance children’s concentration, creativity, and enthusiasm for learning
  • boost children’s academic outcomes
  • increase the chance that children will grow up wanting to protect the environment

An eco-friendly lawn

Doing some landscaping? Consider an alternative lawn filled with drought-resistant, pollinator-friendly plants. There are even lawn solutions that look and feel similar to traditional grass.

Looking for more advice on how to get your kids outside? Check out the Child & Nature Alliance of Canada (childnature.ca) and the Children & Nature Network (childrenandnature.org).

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