Getting Kids Outdoors Makes Them Happier, Healthier – and Smarter

Getting Kids Outdoors Makes Them Happier, Healthier – and Smarter
To Liza Sullivan, a mother of two, the Earth is more than the grass beneath her feet. It’s a place where her children foster creativity and confidence, develop character traits like empathy and resilience and learn the importance of taking risks.

The quality of her twins’ growth is rooted in their time outdoors, she said.

So much so that two years ago, Sullivan decided against her kids’ last year of preschool, quit her job as the associate vice president of education at the Chicago Children’s Museum, and decided to use that time to teach the then-3 1/2 year olds on her own through free play and time in Chicago’s natural environment.

After visiting 50 parks in 50 days and returning to favorite forest preserves, nature centers, farms, museums, beaches and playgrounds throughout Chicago, Sullivan said her children have started kindergarten with an amazing foundation. Now she is committed to helping other parents who might not be professional, full-time educators through co-chairing the Let's Play initiative at the Alliance for Early Childhood and writing informative blogs.

Sullivan’s efforts come at a time when the outdoor, free play movement has become increasingly popular. Research has shown that time in nature not only helps children be healthier and happier, but is also essential to their cognitive development. As a result, more people have participated in grassroots initiatives, such as Chicago Wilderness’s Leave No Child Inside program, aimed at getting kids outdoors.

During the time the Wilmette mom spent…
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