My daughter said to me the other day “I want to live more like you used to. I want to be less digitalised and not always be on my ipod or on the computer.” Specifially actually she was talking to me about the lost art of letter writing and asked if I could show her one of my letters from when I was younger (I was a prolific letter writer!). Makes you realise doesn’t it, about how differently our children are growing up to how we did. My partner and I often have conversations about how we used to be able to ride out and about on our bikes while still at junior school and as my partner grew up in the countryside he enjoys telling our children stories about being chased by farmers, eating apples from trees, running around in the woods with his friends, etc. The common theme being that they all took place outdoors. Our children won’t have stories like these to tell, they already have less freedom than we did when growing up because the world seems like a much more dangerous place these days. My daughter doesn’t even cross the road by herself when I know I was wandering about all over the place at her age. It is a sad fact of growing up in an urban environment.
However, as a family we really value the “Great Outdoors” and try to get our kids out into the countryside as much as possible to give them the freedom and space to run around, cycle, scoot or whatever they want to do and breathe in some fresh country air. While they might have snatched moments of time outdoors during the week the majority of time will be spent indoors. Now that Spring has finally sprung it is good to make the most of the kinder weather to get out and about with the kids. But don’t just take my word for it, a campaign by the National Wildlife Federation in the US has put together a list of 10 reasons why parents need to help their children get out and about:
1. Stronger bones and lower cancer risk: Today’s “indoor kids” don’t get enough sun and are becoming Vitamin D deficient, causing health risks.
2. Trimmer and more healthy kids: An hour of play a day is what doctors say is a basic tool in the effort to ward off childhood obesity and diabetes.
3. Improved eyesight: Recent studies find that kids who get outdoor time have less nearsightedness and need for eye glasses.
4. Less depression and hyperactivity: Outdoor time in natural setting (even tree-lined streets) soothes kids and lower their need for medications.
5. Longer attention spans: Children who stare at TV and video games all day have less patience and shorter attention spans.
6. Better at making friends: Children playing together outdoors relate directly with one another, create games together, choose sides and improve their “people” skills.
7. More creative: Outdoor kids are more likely to use their own imaginations, inventions and creativity while playing.
8. Less “acting out” at home and school: Getting kids away from TV violence and video games helps them see that violent behavior does not always solve problems.
9. Measurably better grades in school: The healthy bodies and minds that come with outdoor play are better able to do well in school.
10. A longer lifespan and healthier adult life: Doctors estimate that sedentary and obese children lose three to five years from their life expectancy.
All these points make complete sense of course and so the key is to offer them the opportunity to get out whenever possible even if it’s only to play in your garden after school for an hour. With the busy lives we lead, particularly as many families have both parents working or are single-parent families there is a lot to juggle but it’s worth keeping in mind the importance of getting our kids outdoors. At the end of the day they follow our lead and if we encourage outdoor play they will come to enjoy and value nature and develop a respect for the environment. Even though they will never have the same kind of freedoms that we had when growing up at least we can try and provide them with some opportunities to develop their own memories of adventures in the great outdoors…