When the gray skies and chilly, wet weather settle in over the region, it is hard to convince our family members to go outside for fresh air and exercise. But getting a daily dose of nature is one of the best ways to ensure good mental and physical health for kids and adults during this stressful time.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, school-age kids need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, and preschoolers need even more. If that sounds daunting as our days get colder and darker, here are some ideas to encourage your family to get outside.

Get the right gear: If kids are warm and dry, they can stay outside for hours. Our region’s outdoor preschools are proof of this — well-bundled kids in these programs spend three or more hours outside every day in all types of weather. The best gear includes insulated rubber boots or other warm, waterproof shoes, plus a waterproof rain jacket and rain pants. To save money, check used kids clothing stores, online trading networks and swapping with other families. Don’t forget to invest in your own gear, too!

Be willing to play along: Kids are much more willing to go outside if we play with them. Toss a ball back and forth, play hide-and-seek together in the yard or neighborhood park or join in a game of tag. Some other great family games and activities are kickball, bocce ball, tennis, roller blading and hula hooping.

Try a new park or trail: This is a great time of year to explore a new park. Many area parks have trails with dense trees that provide rain protection or even picnic shelters that you can duck under if the rain picks up. A few of my favorite parks in the fall are Kubota Garden and Schmitz Preserve Park in Seattle, Saint Edward State Park in Kenmore and Pioneer Park on Mercer Island. Be sure to wear a mask and avoid crowded areas.

Create a “Stay Healthy Block”: Seattle residents can apply for a permit from the city to temporarily close their non-arterial street to create more space for kids to play during the pandemic. Kids can use the street (that will be marked off-limits to through traffic) to ride bikes or scooters, make chalk drawings or play a sport like soccer, street hockey or badminton.


Tips for teens and tweens: As kids get older, it is harder to entice them to spend time with us outside. You may need to up the fun factor by trying something new. Some ideas that you can do as a family, or socially distanced with a buddy, include disc golf, BMX biking, nature photography and snowshoeing.

Embrace the dark: The evenings are coming earlier, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go outside after dusk. If you have a backyard, invest in a fire pit or build a simple one out of bricks or pavers for family s’mores dates. Take a flashlight walk around the neighborhood or stargaze together from your front stoop.

Spending time outdoors is more important than ever, and it is a great way to stay sane together as a family.