How to Raise Happy Kids 

Little girl laying on grass in a pink jacket, smiling as the camera captures her from above.Grab your kid and go play outdoors!

Do you have happy kids? Parents ask me what they can do to improve kids' mental health and happiness. They are surprised when I mention outdoor play. Sometimes I recommend a parenting course for the parents. Other times I suggest spending more time with the kids. At times, I'll suggest encouraging uniqueness or cultivating a spirit of independence in a particular child. For kids with ADHD, I may suggest more structure at home or in the classroom. One question remains: what is the single most powerful and urgent suggestion I offer?

Simple. Grab your kid and go play outdoors!

Happy Kids: Are Your Kids Out of Shape and Stressed Out?

We have a nation of obese, play-starved kids, who are growing up on video games and living life with their eyes glued to their electronic devices. Most of the children I see in my counseling practice are in need of more physical activity - and physical activity is good for body, mind and soul! Our kids need to play more and to play outdoors. What a terrific way to combat childhood obesity!

Play-starved kids want and need more time spent in the great outdoors, especially city kids. I saw an eight year-old girl yesterday. When asked what she wished she could have or do more than anything else in her life she replied, "I want to go to the park more often!"

I'll go over the benefits later in the article, but allow me to say the benefits of more outdoor play are fantastic! Think about your kids' mental health and consider that the average child spends less than 10 minutes a day outside. Allow me to say that our kids absolutely need more unstructured play time outside! Why? Because it is essential for their healthy development and maturation.

Girl in peach tank top and pink shorts tossing a hula hoop toward the camera.Schedule time for unstructured enjoyment of the outdoors.

How to Help Your Child Live a Happier, Healthier Life

  1. You are the key to your kids' mental health, well-being, and success. You can be a great role model. Just turn off the TV or put down your electronic gadget and go outside (with kids in tow) and do something! You can take an early morning walk. Shoot hoops, toss horseshoes, or go for a bike ride. Get your family MOVING! Outdoor play will make your children happy, and it will keep 'em moving. That is the key to raising a healthy, fit and happy child... more outdoor play.
  2. If you want to make a change in a child's life, you have to do something different. Otherwise, you'll keep getting the same results. Visit your local neighborhood, city, state, or national park more often. Outdoor play is very helpful for children with ADHD.
  3. Teach (by doing) your children to enjoy nature in skillful ways. In other words, take them swimming and canoeing, fishing, rowing, bird watching, hiking, skiing, target shooting, and rock climbing. Arrange for them to get quality, safe instruction and supervision, and frequent practice, so they can develop the skill set needed for each outdoor activity. They will learn to love being outside engaging in their favorite sport or activity. You'll find their self-confidence and happiness index growing with each activity they master!
  4. Here's a big key to raising happy kid's: schedule time for unstructured enjoyment of the outdoors, such as sitting on a blanket, watching the clouds, skipping stones, rolling in the grass, listening to waterfalls, and playing tag. Kids really need this kind of stress-busting time in nature. Learning to do nothing in a beautiful outdoor area is a lifelong value and skill you'll be imparting. Nature is healing and restful, challenging and stimulating. Kids who are nature-savvy are healthier and happier than others. So get those play-starved kids up and running in the great outdoors!
  5. Get friends, family and other kids involved, too. You'll add a nice social component and you'll build strength in the group ethic. You can take your group to the park today and your neighbor can take them tomorrow. Draw upon your support system, consisting of relatives and friends, to help you get your children and adolescents out of the house and into the sunshine. You can find creative ways of setting up an environment for fostering health, success, and well-being in your young family members. Outdoor play will fight childhood obesity, too.

Happy Kids: The Benefits of Outdoor Play

Play makes for happy kids. Think of the benefits: greater self-confidence, better attitude, improved mental and physical health, enhanced cooperation and teamwork, opportunities for spiritual growth, a deeper understanding of and respect for wildlife, a healthier brain, improved problem solving skills, and greater happiness, to name a few!

Outdoor play will bring the family together and reinforce all-important family values to guide and protect your child throughout his/her life.

Plus, outdoor play is a wonderful outlet for excess energy for all children and teenagers, especially those high-energy kids or those with ADHD. Outdoor play and time spent in nature can reduce depression, anxiety, and anger. Outdoor play can give those with ADHD an opportunity to blow off some steam and gain valuable experience stretching their legs, building their muscles, and gaining coordination. Also, remember that more outdoor play will help your kids fight childhood obesity.

Get your kids outside doing, playing, exercising, and having fun doing nothing. You'll see happy kids having fun, enjoying life. You'll give them one of the greatest gifts you could ever give. You'll also help them build a foundation for a great life full of meaningful endeavor, happiness, and success! The key? More outdoor play!

African American child with a baseball helmet on and his arms extended with a smile on his face.Want happy kids? Getting them outside will help them to build a foundation for a great life, full of meaningful endeavor, happiness, and success!

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