Get Outside

Featured Sliders / Health & Fitness / Lifestyle / Stories / March 8, 2016
from Macaroni Kid Jefferson City editor, Michelle Leaf

Spring is almost here and it’s time to say goodbye to winter’s cold grip! Let’s get outside and play!

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With our screen-centered culture, we sometimes find it hard to get our families outdoors to reap all of the benefits of sunshine and fresh air. Spending time outdoors in nature is an essential part of a child’s physical, mental, and social development. It lowers stress levels, elevates Vitamin D (which helps protect children from bone problems, diabetes, and other health problems, and helps elevate mood) and stimulates a child’s imagination. It is recommended that we should spend at least 30 minutes to 1 hour outdoors every day.  Unfortunately, many of us only get a few minutes a day in the open air, mostly walking to and from our cars.

I love being outdoors and spend as much time outside as I can. My husband, Tim, loves to ride bikes with the family. Lucky for us, Jefferson City has many great places to go to get our daily quota of nature.

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Michelle and her children Dylan, 3, and Sophia, 8, at the Runge Nature Center Hiking Trails.
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Favorite Places to spend time outside

• Runge Nature Center to walk the trails and look for wildlife

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• Katy Trail and the Greenway to ride bikes or walk

• Our many wonderful public parks and playgrounds, including Memorial Park, Ellis-Porter Riverside Park, McKay Park, McClung Park and Binder Park to name a few.

• North Jefferson City offers the Carl R. Noren River Access to play in the sand, watch barges and boats and throw rocks into the river. The Central Missouri Master Gardeners’ Demonstration Garden is located there as well as a recreation area.

• Washington Park, home to the ice arena, offers tennis courts, skateboard area and walking trails.

Spend time in your own Backyard

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Sophia and Dylan plant things in the backyard with help from their mom.
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• Have a nature scavenger hunt. Make a list of common outdoor objects and let the kids loose to find them.

• Eat your meals al fresco. Food simply tastes better when you eat outside.

• Set up an outside homework station so the older kids can do their homework while listening to nature.

• On rainy days, try making art outside. Have children draw a picture with washable marker and put it outside so they can watch the rain spread the ink across the paper.

• Start a vegetable or flower garden. You don’t need much room to grow vegetables and many, such as tomatoes, peppers, and herbs, can be planted in containers on your porch. There are so many benefits of digging in the dirt, like the satisfaction of watching a small plant grow into something that produces food to eat. Having a garden can help build a good work ethic in children because it needs to be tended daily through watering and weeding. Growing vegetables can also convince even the pickiest eaters to eat their veggies. My son, who would not eat carrots at meal times, now loves them pulled straight out of the dirt in our garden (I do make him rinse it off first, however).

• Even if you are just sitting outside together reading books or listening to the birds, get out there and make being in nature a part of your everyday routine!

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The Jefferson City Parks Department has information about all the outdoor activities around Jefferson City. Check out a schedule of local family-friendly events on the Macaroni Kid blog.

by Michelle Leaf, Macaroni Kid Jefferson City | photographs by Leah Beane

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