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The Best Places in America to Raise an Outdoor Kid Are the Sunniest

This map identifies the states with the most sunshine, where kids can spend the majority of the year playing outdoors.

You want your kids to play outside. But as summer gives way to autumn, sunny days are giving way to cloud cover, and the sun is setting earlier and earlier. No state gets year-round sunshine, but there are locations across the United States that boast a significant number of sunny days.

The data for the map below comes from The National Climatic Data Center. “Clear days” are the average number of days each year when cloud covers no more than 30 percent of the sky during daylight hours. The percent of sunshine, on the other hand, indicates the percentage of time that the sun shines between sunrise and sunset. The notoriously dry and hot Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada are the top three in both categories. But Hawaii for instance, ranks #4 when it comes to percent of sunshine, and #37 when it comes to clear days — which means Hawaii gets a lot of clouds, but also a lot of daylight.

Here’s where you should live, if you want your kids to bask in the sun:

This is not merely an academic exercise. Studies have shown that children who spend time outdoors have muted stress responses and lower blood pressure. They are better able to pay attention in class, and they score higher on standardized tests. One week of outdoor education may be enough to increase classroom behavior and mastery of course material. So living in a place that gives children the maximum amount of time outdoors could increase their mental and physical health.

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If you happen to live in a frozen tundra, or a damp northern state, fret not. Although children may prefer to play outside when it is sunny, they can enjoy all of the benefits of communing with nature even when nature is soggy and dark. This just means that parents in less sunny locations need to make it a priority to get their children outdoors on less pleasant days. The same advice applies to parents who are raising children in big cities, far away from deserts and forests.

“Green space and ‘nature’ could and should be everywhere,”  Cassy Aoyagi, who studies how local environments can benefit kids and designs gardens for schools, previously told Fatherly. “In our built environments, particularly our urban spaces, we tend to see only the buildings. We miss the spaces where nature could be: between buildings, in medians and parkways, and of course parks and other municipal grounds. Each of these spaces presents opportunities to connect kids with nature.”

Fatherly IQ
  1. If you're flying, how many hours are you willing to travel with your kids?
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