Developing Healthy Kids Through Outdoor Play: Healthcare Provider Tips

Mother lifting baby

By recommending that patients establish healthy behaviors early such as daily time outdoors, medical doctors and mental health practitioners can help reduce negative impacts on kids’ health. By taking the following actions, healthcare providers can lead the charge toward whole child wellness:

  • Add three to five questions about outdoor time and media habits to intake forms/risk assessments. Plus, inform parents of the link between outdoor time and better healthSee below for examples!
  • Write a prescription for regular outdoor time.
  • Include links to outdoor activities on their websites.
  • Instruct parents to create a nature journal that catalogs outdoor activities with their kids and the effect it has on their children’s mood.
  • Remind parents to limit plugged-in time.

Write A Prescription for Healthy Lifestyles

Patients view their health care providers as the authoritative source for key health care information. One way providers can emphasize the need for a healthy lifestyle is to give their patients a written prescription as a follow-up to the office visit.

The questions listed below could be a used to assess and prescribe a healthy family lifestyle:
  • How much time does your child spend outdoors each day?
    • at daycare or school:____________________
    • in the afternoons/after school: ____________
    • in the evenings: _______________________
    • What types of physical exercise does your child get each day? How many minutes each day, on average?
    • How much time does your child spend in front of a screen each day?
      • Watching television: ______________
      • Playing video games: _____________
      • Using a computer: _______________
      • What types of “unstructured” play does your child get? How often? Note: unstructured play can range from playing “make believe” or other games with friends to going on a nature walk.
      • Do you have a family herb or vegetable garden – either in the yard or on window sill or balcony? If so, what do you grow and do you use it in food preparations? Does your child willingly eat vegetables?
      • What types of activities do you do together as a family? How often?
      Use these recommendations on your prescription:
      • Walk outdoors for at least ____ minutes daily
      • Walk or bike to a local destination (school, store, park, etc.) ___ times/week
      • Hike ___ times/month
      • Schedule active outdoor play for at least ___ minutes daily
      • Limit TV & screen time to no more than ____ minutes daily
      • Play outdoor games ___ times/week
      • Expand your mind by cloud gazing ___ times/month

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