It comes as no surprise that kids spend less time outdoors these days, mostly as the result of increased screen time. But outdoor activities are essential for healthy development. Research consistently shows that when girls take part in outdoor recreation, they reap many benefits. These include higher levels of self-esteem, self-trust, self-worth, assertiveness, self-sufficiency, independence, confidence, empowerment and body image as well as a greater sense of community and stress relief through interaction with the natural environment.
When kids get outside and move their bodies, they’re learning so much more than the actual activities they’re taking part in. So how do we encourage our girls to pursue more outdoor recreation? Representation matters and so do role models. It’s important that they see other girls and women participating in outdoor activities — and even better if they can join in. That’s why Girl Guides of Canada is a great choice.
Girl Guides connect with nature and themselves
“Getting outdoors, connecting with nature and challenging ourselves are all central to the Girl Guide philosophy and program,” says Suzanne Wolf, Senior Manager of Programming and Outdoor Experiences with Girl Guides of Canada. Girl Guides promotes themes like nature discovery and sharing our planet to help girls connect with wilderness and the great outdoors wherever they are — in the city or in the backcountry. Guiding inspires girls to get to know the plants and animals they share their neighbourhoods with through activities like building animal feeders, planting gardens, identifying animal tracks, using maps and learning how to stay safe on hiking trails.
One of the most fun outdoor activities is camping, and through Girl Guides, girls can learn camping skills and outdoor survival know-how so they can be prepared for anything. This includes packing for camping, pitching a tent, building a campfire and cooking over it, and how to camp comfortably in all four seasons.
Being active outdoors helps build life skills
Practical skills aside, engaging in group outdoor recreation also results in making memories and friends, which goes a long way in encouraging girls to make outdoor pursuits an ongoing part of their lives. Guiding offers girls many outdoor adventures, such as exploring the hidden beauty of an urban park or experiencing their first overnight canoe trip. Outdoor experiences are also a great opportunity for girls to learn new things, challenge themselves and feel enjoyment and confidence in just being outdoors. There’s nothing quite like those moments of singing silly songs around a campfire, giggling in a tent or learning to steer a canoe together.
Plus, doing all of this in a safe supportive environment with other girls builds confidence and camaraderie. Girls may feel more comfortable and emboldened to try an array of outdoor activities that they may not otherwise be exposed to or feel welcome to try. When they see what they can do, they gain a sense of trust and belief in themselves — their capabilities, knowledge and bodies. This also helps with improved body image; the more girls actively use their bodies to accomplish tasks and challenges, the more they see how strong and valuable their bodies are, and that by being active, they can become even stronger. Girl Guides offers a place for girls to feel like they belong — both as part of a community and in the great outdoors.
At the end of the day, we want our girls to be healthy and happy. Being outdoors helps them to get more exercise, which is good for their bodies and minds. Encouraging girls to get outside and feel good about outdoor recreation supports the development of healthy lifelong habits.