The Bountiful Benefits of Nature

Fall in Central Texas is a perfect opportunity for nature enthusiasts and families looking to create more meaningful outdoor experiences.

Doctors and educators are recognizing the benefits of time spent outdoors, particularly for children. Research has shown that children who play outside and spend time in nature are more physically active, which helps prevent obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other health issues. Other benefits of nature include:

  • More advanced motor skills, such as agility, balance and coordination
  • Higher levels of vitamin D, which in turn strengthens their bones and immune systems
  • Stronger awareness, reasoning and observation skills
  • Greater likelihood of developing a lifelong love for nature and care to preserve it
  • Fewer incidences of illness
  • Significantly fewer symptoms of ADHD 

As a result, parents may be looking for simple steps to keep their families active outside during the cooler months. From backyard games to excursions at the 85-acre YMCA Camp Moody along Onion Creek, there are a range of options to help everyone stay in touch with their natural environment. According to YMCA Facilities Director Rick Stephan, who oversees Camp Moody, several examples include:

  • Creating your own backyard outdoor space – Kids don’t need acres of woods to experience the benefits of nature. An outdoor craft table, sandbox, slackline, swing or even a treehouse can do the trick.
  • Getting back to the garden – Kids love digging in the dirt, and fall gardening projects can become a family activity.
  • Preparing ahead of time – Have a dedicated “outdoor” backpack filled with all the things you need for your outdoor adventures (sunscreen, bug spray, hats, gloves, binoculars, magnifying glass). Keep it stocked and by the door ready to go when you are.

Some of the more intriguing opportunities are Family Exploration Days, Campfire Sessions and Sunrise or Twilight Hikes at YMCA Camp Moody. Activities take place on Saturdays and Sundays and range from nature walks, canoeing, and archery to bird-watching and s’mores by the campfire. More information is available at https://www.austinymca.org/programs/family-exploration or by calling (512) 523-9640.

The Camp Moody property was donated to the YMCA of Austin by George Yonge in 1999 with the desire to establish a camp for kids to explore the great outdoors. Features include dramatic limestone outcrops along with beautiful Bald Cypress trees lining the creek banks. Native flora and fauna create a living laboratory for exploration and discovery.

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