It’s time to take it outside

That’s precisely the chord that was struck with me after reading about a recent study published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, which found that young kids are sedentary 80% of the time they are in preschool; and that preschool girls are 16% less likely than boys their age to be taken outside by their parents to play.

If that data makes you wince, you’re in good company. As a fitness instructor, Ironman triathlete and former country girl, I see the great outdoors as a vital component to a healthy lifestyle. And I’m not alone.

Pediatrician and researcher at Seattle Children’s Hospital Pooja Tandon agrees. “Children need outdoor time every day, and they need more outdoor opportunities than they’re getting.”

As the lead author of the study, Tandon also revealed that minority children were even less likely to be outside with their parents. Asian mothers were 49% less likely, black mothers 41% less likely, and Hispanic mothers 20% less likely. As TIME Healthland reporter Bonnie Rochman points out in her coverage of the study, “It’s probably not coincidence that minority children have a greater tendency to be overweight.”

So what can brands do about this? I believe they can start to elevate the conversation. It’s time for brands to “take it outside,” and help moms—especially new moms—get into an outdoor routine with their children. (If my time as a triathlon coach and fitness instructor has taught me anything, it’s that people need to develop habits in order to adopt and continue to invest in a healthy lifestyle.)

In part, parents fear the “danger” that lurks beyond the front door. There are child molesters on the prowl; vehicles traveling too fast; and the risk of skin cancer from spending too much time in the sun. What can brands do to help new moms enjoy the great outdoors while minimizing these risk factors?

  • Sponsor a weekend day camp. Go into a community, pitch a big tent, and give moms a day to bring their children to the park for an afternoon of outside fun. If you’re a food brand, make it a picnic. If you’re a toy brand, make it a play date. If you’re a retailer, why not host some of your clearance sales outside as a quirky play on the beloved garage sale? Or why not sponsor a Neighborhood Watch training for residential communities where the crime rate might be higher than average? This would help to ease the minds of protective new moms while tying your brand to the idea of forging a healthy relationship with outdoor playtime
  • Give Mom an Excuse to Get Outside. Brands are already promoting a healthier planet by including information about recycling and helping the environment on packaging, but why not promote a healthier lifestyle by including information about how to get outside more? For example, clothing retailers could put price tags made from seed paper on sweatshirts or jeans, encouraging mom and toddler to get outside and plant flowers.
  • Make it Easier for Mom to Multitask Outside. One of the major challenges for new moms is finding the time to tackle an ever-growing to-do list. When it comes down to meal prep or a walk in the park with her child, chances are the meal prep will win. As mom is becoming more reliant on her smartphone, brands should look for opportunities to arm her with the ability to tackle her needs from the palm of her hand. Apps that help organize shopping lists, set reminders or make it easier for her to connect to the products and services she uses most could help her and her child to get out from under the roof and enjoy a bit of blue sky, even if for only a few minutes each day.

Children are getting increasingly busier, making it harder to find time to go outside. Was the term “play date” even used back in the days of Kevin Arnold and his adventures around the neighborhood after school in the popular TV series, “The Wonder Years”? Today’s children have social calendars that rival that of their parents—with hour by hour booked for one activity or another, usually indoors. As Tandon cautions, there is no substitute for the great outdoors. “Being outdoors is important for motor development, while contact with nature is beneficial for mental health and cognitive development.”

Article contributed by Lisa Dolbear, Account Planner, Eric Mower + Associates