By Ellen Seidman
May 30, 2014
Girls who regularly spend time outdoors are better at seeking challenges in life and solving problems than their indoor-oriented peers, reveals a new poll by the Girl Scout Research Institute. They’re also more likely to want to protect the environment.
Charmingly titled More Than S’mores, the survey of 2862 girls found that their top five most enjoyable activities are camping, playing outdoors, field trips, swimming outside and cooking in the great outdoors.
As a Girl Scout leader whose troop is headed off to a camping trip this weekend, I was thrilled to read the news. I think I’m going to post this on our fridge—or, heck, on the kids’ foreheads—as a reminder that we need to get out there more often. Despite the beautiful spring we’ve been having, there are still times when I have to tear my kids’ iPads out of their hands and tell them it’s time to bike ride.
Technology has cast a spell over them, and it’s up to me and my husband to break it and make sure they’re active outside and not just zooming around the Internet. This weekend, we’re starting tech-free Sundays at our house—no using computers, iPhones or iPads, all of us. I have a picnic planned and it will be blissfully free of iStuff.
The Girl Scout report notes the ways that spending time in nature is different from playing or learning inside for both girls and boys, including:
- Outdoor places support physical play. Kids can get messy, make noise and move around in more intense ways, allowing them to develop movement capability and confidence.
- Time in nature improves concentration and creative reasoning in children and adults—even for kids with attention deficits, research shows.
- Kids find novelty and challenge, enhancing leadership. Because outdoor experiences place kids in different physical, psychological and social situations, it piques curiosity and spurs a sense of of discovery. One study found that natural challenges (like starting a fire in rain) encourages girls to become more self-aware and to cooperate, communicate and solve problems more effectively.
“In this study, we expected to see that girls were having fun in the outdoors,” says lead researcher Kallen Tsikalas, Ph.D. “However, we were surprised by just how important it was for them how much they appreciated having opportunities to take on challenges and build skills in a socially supportive environment. Girls really want to feel like they are accomplishing something and growing as a person, and the outdoors is a perfect place for them to do this.”
About Ellen Seidman
Ellen Seidman writes Love That Max, a blog about raising kids with special needs who kick butt. It ranks #20 in Babble’s list of Top 50 Mom Blogs, and has been featured on AOL, The Motherlode, The Happiness Project, and many other websites.