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Five Ways to Opt Outside with Family This Weekend


This Friday, after the food and family and friends—and instead of spending time indoors or online—consider joining the national movement to take time for personal wellness and community through connection to nature. We know that time outdoors has all kinds of health benefits like stronger bones, better eyesight, reduced risk of obesity and diabetes, longer attention span, increased creativity, and better relationship skills, to name a few—and the focus on “green time” instead of “screen time” might be just what we need.

My kids and I came up with a list of our favorite things to do when we Opt Outside—join us and post your photo (your one tech moment!) online to celebrate with the hashtags: #OptOutside #YWeOptOutside #HealthyLiving #ymcasf #NatureRx


Sign the REI #OptOutside pledge to get outdoors - pack a picnic, take a walk in your neighborhood, or head to a local park for the day. 


Sometimes it’s hard to motivate, and my suggestion of a hike can be met with groans if the kiddos are sleepy or lazy.  But suggest a scavenger hunt using a Polaroid camera, or bring a notebook to document your findings (bonus points for a waterproof notebook like “Rite in the Rain” and sharpies)… and suddenly this hike sounds like loads of fun. 
We’ve also spiced up our hikes with camp songs and the Yelling Game (someone says go and the players can yell for as long as they can run- great silly fun and a little extra lung workout!). For the artistic, use the hike as inspiration to sketch or doodle along the way. The Presidio’s Andy Goldsworthy installations are a great way to enjoy large scale nature art while hiking.


Hike to a nearby labyrinth or make one! If you are in the Bay Area, our favorite is the Labyrinth at Land’s End in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Or find one near you! But you can also make your own anywhere out of rope, stones, sand or leaves (in your backyard, in a park, or maybe even on your own sidewalk). Labyrinths have been used for hundreds of years for relaxation, meditation and for fun.


Feeling like some good old-fashioned casual outdoor fun? Invite some friends (and friends of friends!) to a nearby park for a play date with Kickball, Capture the Flag, Ultimate Frisbee, and Sardines. (Sardines is our current favorite- it’s the opposite of Hide and Seek. 

The “It” player hides while the group members (seekers) close their eyes and count to 30.  Each seeker player then tries to find “It” and quietly join him or her in the hiding spot. Pretty soon everyone is packed in like sardines, and the last player to find “It” becomes the new “It.” Playing this game in the old military bunkers at Fort Barry was a huge hit with my 8 year-old son and his friends- you can park at the Point Bonita YMCA and walk southwest to Battery Mendell or northeast past the Rodeo Beach overlook to Battery O’Rourke for some great Sardine-quality bunkers.


Challenge your family to experience a number of the activities on the San Francisco Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights this Friday, or complete the entire list throughout the weekend. Next on our list for achieving #1 (“exploring wild places”) is the Wave Organ along the Marina Boat Harbor in San Francisco. The Bill of Rights is also a great way to appreciate the nearby nature in your own neighborhood even if you only have an hour or two.

Will you opt outside on Black Friday? #OutdoorsForAll #OptOutside #NatureRx #HealthyLiving #FreeRangeHumans #WildGeneration #YWeOptOutside