Most adults have fond memories of their childhood spent climbing trees, fishing for frogs, jumping in puddles and playing sport. But in the last few decades, children have started spending more and more time indoors, missing out on vital outdoor activities.
What is the impact of more screens, fewer trees?
Although they may be fun, indoor activities can be detrimental to children’s wellbeing as they do not promote adequate physical and mental growth.
- Obesity – childhood obesity has more than doubled in the last 25 years, part of which can be attributed to less outdoor play that leads to less physical activity.
- Vitamin D deficiency – lack of exposure to the sun increases the chances of a child becoming Vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D helps protect against diabetes, bone problems and heart disease. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends about 10 minutes of sun exposure per day for a sufficient dose of Vitamin D.
- Poor vision – kids who spend more time outside tend to have better distance vision than those who choose indoor activities.
- Mental health issues – children who spend time outdoors have lower stress levels than those cooped up indoors. Read more about the topic on this blog post.
- ADHD – more time spent outdoors may improve ADHD symptoms.
- Skill development – children who create and explore the world around them develop more competencies that enhance their confidence and abilities to meet future challenges.
Exposure to nature
Kids who play outside will naturally get more exposure to the natural world, which has been shown to have multiple mental and physical health benefits.
Being in nature provides an outlet to get away from the stress of everyday life, and kids who don’t get time in nature miss out on the myriad benefits it has to offer,
What about active indoor games?
Of course, there are active indoor games (like Wii Fit, Just Dance, and Dance-Dance Revolution) that many kids enjoy. Children who play these games get about the same levels of physical activity as children who walk for an hour. However, they are still missing out on connecting with nature, the freedom to invent games themselves and the ability to interact freely with others.
What are the benefits of playing outdoors?
Children playing outdoors use their imaginations to conjure up different lands, creatures and characters. With this kind of creative play, children’s brains develop at a much faster rate than those who play indoors.
Kids who play outside:
- Become better learners
- Do better at school
- Are more fun to be around and remember how to laugh!
- Develop better physically and are less likely to be overweight.
All in all, children who play outside are happier children who turn into more well-adjusted adults.
What prevents parents from letting their kids play outside?
- Safety concerns (when parents aren’t able to watch their children playing and make sure they are safe from harm)
- Picking up germs and diseases (even though spending time outside has been shown to bolster immunity)
Big city life solutions
Even if you live in a big city without lots of space for outdoor entertainment, there are still ways to get your kids out and about:
- Even if you have a small garden, take the time to play outside with your kids. Kids learn by example, and by seeing you outside, they’ll be encouraged to choose to spend time there themselves.
- Get active and build your children’s gross motor skills by throwing and kicking a ball around or installing a basketball or netball net. You don’t need an entire court to have fun shooting the hoop.
- If it’s safe and convenient to do so, allow your child to ride their bike or walk to school with friends.
- Chat to your neighbours about keeping an eye on kids playing outside. If the whole community allows their kids out and about, it creates a safer environment to do so.
The outdoor adventure of a lifetime
At Tugela Trails, kids have the chance to get out and explore the great outdoors. Get in touch to find out more about our outdoor adventures that help kids learn and grow through nature: https://www.tugelatrails.co.za/contact/.