Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Why ( & How) To Get Outside with Kids - Five Things I Learned from "Outdoor Kids in an Inside World" by Steven Rinella

Cover of "Outdoor Kids in an Inside World" by Steven Rinella

I'm not outdoorsy by nature. For a large chunk of my life I really leaned into the "indoors" aesthetic, and then - then I had kids. Sure, there are a lot of easy excuses and a million ways for me to reason my way out of being outside - I'm allergic to everything definitely being at the top of the list! But over the last seven years of parenting,  I have also been surprised by my strong desire for my kids to be outdoors as often as possible. I love seeing them outside and I can clearly see the value in their time spent there. But in a world that feels set to keep you and your kids engaged inside, how do you overcome this conflict?

In an effort to motivate myself, I recently picked up "Outdoor Kids in an Inside World" by Steven Rinella and I learned a lot. Not only was I inspired by Steven Rinella's attitude and the situations he described in the book, but he also sprinkled lots of nuggets of wisdom that I want to share with you. Keep reading for my top five takeaways after reading “Outdoor Kids in an Inside World”

Book Review and Discussion of
"Outdoor Kids in an Inside World"
by Steven Rinella

1. Everyone Struggles to Get Out of The House - 

Right from the start of the book, I was super impressed by how in touch Rinella is with the difficulties of getting kids outside and also getting yourself out there too. Rinella has three children who he discusses frequently throughout the book, and it is obvious that they have hit snags, and regularly do, even as pros. Ultimately though, those excuses truly are just that. Rinella acts as your nature focused subconscious through "Outdoor Kids in an Inside World" - he definitely legitimizes the obstacles and fears but also gently reminds the reader that fear prevents engagement.

One comparison that worked especially well for me was Rinella's Disneyland analogy. Our whole lives, amusement parks as a whole are seen as exciting and fun. Disney is Disney because it is an exciting and interactive place, but Rinella asks you to imagine if things were different and we viewed amusement parks the way we ask children to see the great outdoors - 

"Imagine if Disneyland took the same approach. Imagine that the rides are there to be looked at and never ridden. What would your relationship be with Disney?" - Steven Rinella, Outdoor Kids in an Inside World

Growing up, and also as an adult, I've conditioned myself to imagine the outdoors this way. Unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and dangerous. But truly has so much potential and making sure that I'm framing it correctly is a huge part of getting engaged with the outdoors.

2. It Doesn't Take Much Time and the Benefits are Huge - 

"Two hours a week spent in nature, in whatever increments are available, has been shown to radically improve people's outlook, with adult participants in a large-scale study in England self reporting improvement in physical health and emotional wellbeing. " - Steven Rinella, Outdoor Kids in an Inside World

Another common assumption I had made was that the benefits of nature would require long exposure, but Rinella cited a study that changed my mind. The study he discussed shows that it doesn't take long, in fact, it takes only two hours a week - and it doesn't even have to be all at once. I can do that, and so can you! 

Risky outdoor play - the kind that makes us all cringe a little internally, is also shown to be beneficial. It's easy to get comfortable with not going outside, especially when nature feels like it's working against you - extreme temperatures, inclement weather, etc. However, if you can sneak in ten minutes here and there, the added benefits for mental and physical health can be huge!

3. Think Native -

"...catering to our fears creates a sort of inertia that is hard to overcome. Fear prevents engagement; lack of engagement builds into a habit of avoidance; and pretty soon it's just your family stuck inside four walls, where perhaps the biggest obstacle of all.- technology- abounds" - Steven Rinella, Outdoor Kids in an Inside World

So, we know the benefits, and once you get past your own mental blocks, there truly are so many opportunities to get outside. Throughout "Outdoor Kids in an Inside World" Rinella paints these amazing word pictures of experiences outdoors. He invites you to place yourself and your family there to imagine the resulting wonder and personal growth. At one point Rinella asks you to put down the book and picture yourself in a "dense forest with a grassy floor, sunlight streaming through the treetops. You feel that right? Something happens to your brain when it goes to nature, and the same will be true for your kids." Once you move past that mental block, the benefits are obvious and Rinella encourages you to see yourself as engaging with nature as someone who is of nature, not just visiting - you belong there as much as you belong in an amusement park, and arguably far more so.

4. Become Comfortable with the Uncomfortable -

One of Rinella's most convincing reasons for getting kids outside is ultimately a character building exercise. He discusses the kinds of people he has met as an outdoorsman and how overwhelmingly he is impressed by the character of individuals who can tough things out. And how do you teach that comfort with discomfort inside in a planned environment? The answer might be that you can't, at least not as effectively.

"They can learn to be comfortable with the fact that nothing in life is guaranteed, and take in the truth that we can definitely get by with far less than our culture has convinced us we need" - Steven Rinella, Outdoor Kids in an Inside World

5. Involve Them in the Process - 

"It's a shift that takes turning an outing or activity from a chore for you into an adventure for them" - Steven Rinella, Outdoor Kids in an Inside World

I want to take a moment to discuss what has gotten me outside with my son, Boy Scouts. Scouting has truly taken a tedious activity - camping with children - and helped me reframe it to see all of the immense benefits. Is it a chore, yes. But it's one that we have the opportunity to share with a community and also takes the pressure of us as parents to come up with activities, accommodations, etc. Scouting has truly been a huge blessing to me as a parent and an individual and I'm so glad that we took the leap to join!

Have you read "Outdoor Kids in an Inside World" by Steven Rinella ? What did you learn from the book? Are you outdoors, indoors, or somewhere in the middle? What is your favorite way to get outside? Comment down below so we can keep the conversation about the benefits of being outdoors going!

Click on the below image for another parenting book that you might be interested in after finishing

 "Outdoor Kids in an Inside World"!


  1. Thank you for sharing this! My son is only 10 months old, but I want him to enjoy the outdoors as he gets older. Sometimes it can seem like such a hassle to get him ready to go outside for a walk in his stroller, but I see how important it is to get him out of the house. I'm definitely going to pick up this book in the future!

  2. There are many fun outdoors activities for kids and they will definitely benefit from not being inside all day. Thank you for sharing!


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