10 Reasons to Get Your Family Outdoors This Summer

If you live in Colorado, you’re probably already aware that spending time in the outdoors provides fun and excitement for the entire family. But, did you know that research shows there are a variety of social, physical and cognitive benefits of interacting with nature?

Just in case you need some additional motivation to camp, hike or fish, here are 10 science-based reasons to get out and explore Colorado this summer:

1. Get Closer to Your Family

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A father and daughter fishing trip. CPW file photo.

Outdoor recreation helps maintain and increase the cohesiveness in families. This means that the time you spend outdoors with your family this summer will make the connection between the members of your family stronger. Families that explore the outdoors together can be stronger and more resilient when faced with everyday challenges.

(Source:West, P.C., & Merriam, L.C. Jr. (2009). “Outdoor Recreation and Family Cohesiveness: A Research Approach.” Journal of Leisure Research, 41 (3), 351-359.)

2. Enjoy and Explore Nature

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Hikers overlook Horsetooth Reservoir at Lory State Park. CPW file photo.

Enjoying the sounds and smells of nature are another major motivator for creating outdoor experiences. Get out and connect to the experiences of nature and enjoy the side effects of decreased anxiety and increased memory performance.

(Sources: Sotomayor, S., Barbieri, C., Standis, S.W., Aguilar, F.X., & Smith, J.W. (2014). “Motivations for Recreating on Farmlands, Private Forests, and State or National Parks.” Environmental Management, 54, 138-150. Bratman, G.N., Daily, G.C., Levy, B.J., & Gross, J.J. (February, 2015). “The Benefits of Nature Experience: Improved Affect and Cognition.” Landscape and Urban Planning, 138 (2015), 41-50.)

3. Break Out of Your Routine

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A guided hike at Barr Lake State Park. CPW file photo.

Getting out into nature, for most families, represents a break from the monotony of their everyday pattern. Visiting a state park or venturing into Colorado’s backcountry is truly a great way to escape. An outdoor excursion can connect you and your family to your own sense of adventure and spontaneity.

(Source: Sotomayor, S., Barbieri, C., Standis, S.W., Aguilar, F.X., & Smith, J.W. (2014). “Motivations For Recreating on Farmlands, Private Forests, and State or National Parks.” Environmental Management, 54, 138-150.)

4. Feel Better Inside and Out

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CPW file photo.

Spending time in nature contributes to the overall mental and physical well-being for everyone in the family. Taking advantage of convenient outdoor havens lowers stress levels and reduces anxiety and can even help kids focus better in school. Restore your own well-being and reconnect on a quick trip to a nearby park or on a long road-trip to visit Colorado’s highest peaks.

(Sources: Baur, J.W.R, & Tynan, J.F. (2010). “Small-Scale Urban Nature Parks: Why Should We Care?” Leisure Sciences, 32, 195-200. Pearson, D.G., & Craig, T. (October, 2014). “The Great Outdoors? Exploring the Mental Health Benefits of Natural Environments.” Frontiers in Psychology, 5, Article 1178.)

5. Inspire Your Kids to Care

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CPW file photo.

It won’t take much time for parents to see the benefits of outdoor time for their children. Outdoor experiences lead to healthier, happier kids who potentially perform better in school. These experiences also allow kids to form important personal connections to the natural world. Watching these experiences and seeing these benefits often inspire parents to make spending time outdoors a priority. Kids who spend time outdoors learn to care about the natural world and will become good stewards of our natural resources as adults.

(Sources:(McHardy, J. (2013). “Engaging Families in Outdoor Education: Expanding the Scope of Practice.” Taproot Journal, 22 (2), 22-24.Feature, H. (2007). “Nature’s New Educational Mandate: No child Left Inside.” CES National, 23 (3).Wells, N.M., & Lekies, K.S. (2006). “Nature and the Lifecourse: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences to Adult Environmentalism.” Children, Youth, and Environments, 16(1), 1-24.)

6. Shape the Future

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Childhood participation in wild nature (hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, boating, etc.) and in domesticated nature (gardening, planting trees, caring for plants and animals) activities have positive impacts on environmental ethics and attitudes as adults. By connecting your kids to the outdoors at a young age, you are having a positive impact on the future of the planet by creating a life-long environmental ethic in your children. All of this happens as a simple side-effect of having fun outside. Demonstrating your love of the outdoors leaves a legacy of caring for the environment for generations.

(Sources:Wells, N.M., & Lekies, K.S. (2006). “Nature and the Lifecourse: Pathways from Childhood Nature Wxperiences to adult Environmentalism.” Children, Youth, and Environments, 16(1), 1-24. Feature, H. (2007). “Nature’s New Educational Mandate: No Child Left Inside.” CES National, 23 (3).)

7. Learn Something New

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CPW file photo.

Challenge yourself and your kids to learn something new about nature. By demonstrating the importance of continually learning, you will become a role-model for your family and demonstrate that we are all life-long learners. By encouraging your kids to spend a lifetime expanding their own horizons they will be more prepared for new dimensions of learning required to be successful later in life.

(Source: (Fischer, G. (2001). “Lifelong Learning and its Support With New Media.” International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Sciences, 13, 8836–8840.)

8. Do Things Together

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A family enjoys an evening of archery shooting at Barr Lake State Park. Photo by Jerry Neal/CPW.

So many family activities on the weekends involve parents watching from the sidelines while their children have most of the fun. Getting outdoors together allows your entire family to participate. This family leisure time allows everyone to have fun together and connect to the natural world as a group.

(Source: Hodge, C., Bocarro, J.N., Henderson, K.A., Zabriskie, R., Parcel, T.L., & Kanters, M.A. (2015). “Family Leisure: An Integrative Review of Research from Select Journals.” Journal of Leisure Research, 47 (5) 577-600.)

9. See Amazing Sights

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CPW file photo.

Colorado is a beautiful place. For most people surveyed about why they love going outdoors, seeing beautiful scenery is among their top motivations for getting outside. Exploring scenic byways or hiking a trail at a Colorado state park are great ways to see the most beautiful spots in the state.

(Source: Sotomayor, S., Barbieri, C., Standis, S.W., Aguilar, F.X., & Smith, J.W. (2014). “Motivations for Recreating on Farmlands, Private Forests, and State or National Parks.” Environmental Management54, 138-150.)

10. Have Fun

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CPW file photo.

Exploring the outdoors and connecting as a family is fun. From playing in the mud in the backyard to dramatic overlooks of magazine-worthy scenery, the outdoors is waiting for you to get out there. For more information about outdoor activities across the state, visit Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s website. Have a great time!


Written by Tabbi Kinion. Kinion is the statewide education coordinator for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

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