A group of teens walks around the block laughing and talking.
Photo by Eliott Reyna on Unsplash

Getting your teen outside every day for just 20 minutes can make a huge impact on their health and happiness (and yours, if we’re being honest)!

Sunshine is known to be a crucial element in health and well-being; from activating necessary vitamins that keep us physically healthy to impacting mood and emotional regulation. And even though so many kids seem to have an aversion for the outdoors, the reality is, a few minutes can be the difference between positive well-being and, well not so positive.

A lot of parents aren’t sure how to get their kids out the door, so I made a list of ideas on how to get your teen outside for 20 minutes a day. Here are some examples of 20 minute outdoor activities for teen health and fitness:

TAKE A 20 MINUTE WALK EACH DAY

A teen walks home from school on a scenic road
Photo by Dmitry Schemelev on Unsplash

A 20 minute walk is a perfect way to get both exercise and sunshine everyday. And you don’t just have to tell your kid to “take a walk” and kick me out of the house for 20 minutes(although I’m totally guilty of doing this!). Here are some ideas for getting your teen to go for a 20 minute walk without the why argument!

  • If you have a dog, make walking the dog for 20 minutes a part of their weekly chore list (or if you’re weird like us, walk the cat)
  • Make it your teens job to get the mail each day. This is especially helpful if you have a community mailbox or your mailbox is located at the end of a long driveway
  • A walk to a coffee shop- you could offer this as a reward for taking a walk, or if your homeschooling, have them walk to a shop or restaurant with WiFi where they can do schoolwork and get a treat
  • Have them get a part time job within walking distance and let them walk at least one day to or from work
  • Make it a part of your morning or evening routine to take a walk together with your teen. This is also a great way to open the door for communication
  • If you have a job in a safe area, let your teen come to your workplace after school to check in and let them walk around the area (when I worked multiple jobs, one of my secondary jobs was working in a shoe store in a big shopping plaza. My kids would come there after school on days I worked instead of going home. My boss allowed them to do homework in the back room and then I would let get walk around and get tropical smoothie or ice cream or even go see a movie sometimes. They were occupied, got 20 minutes of exercise and sunshine, and got to see me much more.) 

SHOOT BASKETBALL HOOPS

A group of teens plays basketball on an outdoor court at a community center
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Shooting hoops is fun whether you’re teen is on their own or with friends. It can be a great way to vent out excess energy and anxiety, and of course, use those muscles, hand eye coordination skills, and get a bit of sunshine. If you don’t have a hoop at home

  • See if your neighborhood has one within a few blocks(and make sure it’s safe)
  • Look for community and recreation centers within walking distance that have a gym
  • Find a (safe) empty parking lot or driveway in n your neighborhood where your teen can practice dribbling and shooting, even if there’s no hoop available
  • Get a hoop for your driveway if possible

JUMP ROPE 

A teen girl practices jumping rope outside
Photo by Chichi Onyekanne on Unsplash

Jumping rope may seem a bit childish for. A teen, but it’s actually a really great core and whole body workout that is very grown up. If you have a patio, backyard or driveway, your teen can jump rope and maybe even practice a few cool tricks, like these:

RIDE BIKE, SCOOTER OR SKATEBOARD

A skateboard lies upside down against a blue sky.
Photo by Lukas Bato on Unsplash

This may seem obvious, but too many teens actually have one or more of these items and rarely ever use it! If your teen has a bike, scooter, skateboard or even skates or rollerblades, encourage them to use it more often! Like every day, for say 20 minutes! 

They can use these to:

  • Get back and forth to a job, friends houses, or school
  • Learn cool tricks
  • Hang out at a skate park (check for safety)

GO SWIMMING

A teen girl smiles while floating in crystal clear water.
Photo by Drew Dau on Unsplash

If your lucky enough to have a pool live in an area where there is a beach and/or outdoor pools available, have your teen go swimming or chill by the water. Some places where you might find access to a pool or beach area:

  • Housing communities (only in your community)
  • Community centers
  • Recreation centers
  • National parks
  • Outdoor centers
  • Water parks
  • Beaches (including lakes and rivers)
  • A friends house

PLAY CATCH

Two teen girls practice hitting a volleyball on a chilly day at the beach.
Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

This doesn’t have to be throwing a ball back and forth, although if your teen likes it and it gets them outside, more power to em! But if baseball or football isn’t their thing try these ideas:

  • Play frisbee
  • Kick a soccer ball around, alone or with friends
  • Practice hitting a volleyball back and forth with a friend or against a wall
  • Throw a boomerang
  • Have a water balloon party
  • A friendly game of dodgeball. Emphasis on friendly
  • Toss around a beach ball
  • Play four square 

DO YOGA, THAI CHI OR MEDITATE OUTSIDE

A teen girl practices yoga on a pink mat in her backyard.
Photo by Vishal Bhutani on Unsplash

This can be something you do with your teen or that they can do on their own. My daughter and I do yoga together on the patio twice a week usually, and it’s just really nice and relaxing. 

If you don’t really have a good outdoor space for this, consider doing it at a park or at the beach. Or join a class that practices outdoors together. 

This is a great way to not just soak up some rays, but to practice mindfulness and spiritual self care as well.

JOG, RUN OR SWEEDWALK

A teen girl jogs on a boardwalk on a sunny morning.
Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

If you have a teen who has a lot of energy (don’t roll your eyes, they exist), running, jogging or speed walking may be a good outdoor activity. Whether your teen is a morning person or a night owl, a ten minute jog is good way to release stress and endorphins. 

If your teen is too embarrassed to be seen by the neighbors (like my daughter), try these ideas:

  • Run on the beach or boardwalk
  • Run on a hiking trail
  • Use a track at a nearby school
  • Run towards a reward: run a mile to Starbucks, get a treat, then run back

This is also another activity you can do with your teen, if you want!

EAT MEALS OUTSIDE

Three teen siblings sit at a table on the porch eating dinner.
Photo by Ryan Jacobson on Unsplash

It doesn’t have to be every meal, but choose one and make it a special thing to eat outside.

 I adopted this idea when I started working from home and my kids started unschooling. My son hates most outdoor activities and my daughter has a hyper mobility disorder that makes it hard for her to walk, run or play sports. Since they are both vitamin d deficient, I had to come up with creative ways to get them out of the house and into the light! 

Every day at lunch time  we all stop working and have lunch on the patio by the pool. On super hot days, we sit on the edge with our feet dangling in the water and eat our sandwiches or smoothies. 

If lunchtime doesn’t work for you, try having coffee with your teen on the porch (even if they are having cocoa or something else). You could also have a picnic, grill out, or just serve an afternoon snack on the porch. Whatever works for you and your family!

PLAY GOLF

A golf ball sits on the edge of a hole on a bright green field.
Photo by Martin Magnemyr on Unsplash

I know this is a stretch, as most single moms aren’t going to be able to afford golf lessons. And that’s ok. There are a few ways you can get your teen to enjoy golf – and the outdoors for little to no money.

  • Use a free community golf course. This isn’t a thing everywhere, I know, but I was surprised to find out how many state parks and community outdoor centers have golf courses open to the public. If you have one nearby, pick up a second hand set of golf clubs and enjoy the sunshine!
  • Become a caddy. This is a high paying job for a teen and if they can handle being outside for hours and talking it up with rich assholes, they can make some real money and get exercise and sunshine.  Triple win! 
  • Play mini golf. If you have a mini golf course nearby, see how much it is to play. It’s usually not too expensive, and while it’s probably not an everyday activity, if your teen enjoys it, maybe it could be a reward once or twice a month. 

GET A JOB THAT’S OUTSIDE

A brightly colored life guard station sits in  front of a sand dune at the beach.
Photo by Enrique Ortega Miranda on Unsplash

I don’t mean they have to spend 8 hours outside. My kids would never! 

But there are lots of jobs that require being outdoors for at least part of the time.

  • Golf caddy: as mentioned above, golf caddies make bank and spend a lot of time outside and walking or carrying golf clubs. They are also exposed to all kinds of interesting people and a different side of life, which really can be a good thing!
  • Valet: if your teen has their license, valets also make a lot of money and end up being outside more often than other types of work
  • Wait tables at a restaurant with outdoor seating: it can be good money, and while they may not be directly in the sun, they see a whole lot more of it than sitting on the couch!
  • Camp counselors: if your teen is good with kids and fairly responsible, they could get a job as a counselor at a summer camp or even at a day camp
  • Walking dogs: this is a great way to get outside, enjoy the company of fluffy friends and earn a bit of extra spending money 
  • Mow lawns: have your teen ask neighbors if they’d like help with lawn chores.
  • Lifeguard: a fun way to hang out at the pool during summer and makes some spending cash

I hope this helps get the ideas rolling on how to get your teen to spend at least 20 minutes a day outside! If you have any other tips, shoot me a quick email or add it to the comments below!

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