You probably have happy memories of playing outside as a child. Exploring wherever you could, learning to ride a bike, getting grass stains , it’s hard to imagine a happy childhood without these experiences. But worryingly, more and more children aren’t being given the same opportunities to spend time outdoors as previous generations. Of course, the world may not seem as safe for children as it used to, but as a result of busier lifestyles and electronic entertainment, kids are only spending around an hour a day outdoors during the week and 5 at the weekend. Everyone wants what is best for their kids, here’s what they could be missing out on if they’re not regularly enjoying time spent outdoors.
Physical benefits of time spent outdoors
Spending time outdoors is the most effective way of getting your child used to exercise and helping to build a strong and active body. Even the most basic playing outside can bring about a huge range of physical benefits including improved flexibility, fine and gross motor skills, coordination, spatial awareness and muscle strength, as well as improving all-round fitness, preventing conditions like obesity and diabetes which are tragically common amongst children deprived of the chance to exercise.
Not only does exercise itself help to improve children’s health, spending time outdoors provides fresh and and vitamin D which are both vital to maintaining good health, particularly in young, growing children. Fresh air helps to promote healthier eyes, skin and immune system, while getting a sufficient dose of vitamin D each day protects bone health and helps to prevent the development of diabetes and heart disease later in life.
Most of us remember learning to ride a bike at a young age. Not only was this a fun activity for us, (after the initial bumps and scrapes!) it also helped us to develop the balance and coordination that we’ve gone on to use ever since, whilst bringing us another form of excercise to keep us active and build strong bones and muscles.
Mental benefits of time spent outdoors
Children seem to be born with a natural instinct to explore, learning through their discoveries as they go. Giving your kids the chance to play outdoors gives them this opportunity whilst stimulating their imagination and building confidence and character. Skills like learning to ride a bike improve balance and coordination, but also have the important role of building self confidence, helping children to persevere with challenges and work to overcome problems in the future. In a world where conditions such as ADHD are booming, scientists are seeing a link between a child’s state of mental health and their time spent outside, with activities such as playing amongst greenery being linked to relieving some of the symptoms of ADHD.
Playing outside has been shown to aleviate symptoms of stress in children, which in turns makes them happier and more likely to concentrate in school. For shy children, it can also play a large role in helping them to integrate and socialize with others their age, with group games being far more fun and efficient to play outdoors than inside. A simple game of hide-and-seek can help promote social activity, build confidence as well as teaching logic and problem solving, building all-round character.
How to get your child spending time outdoors
When it comes to encouraging your child outside, the possibilities are endless! It’s always easier to raise a child enjoying the outdoors than to promote lazy, indoor habits which are difficult to shift once your child has grown older. To get your child enjoying the outdoors you can try:
Making your garden more fun with a climbing frame or rope swing
Arranging a trip to the park with other parents and their children
Taking the time to play with your child yourself- teach them the basics of football or tennis and encourage them to play against you
Try visiting a National Trust site with unique and beautiful grounds which often hold a historical interest. The National Trust has some interesting resources on helping kids to experience the outdoors during childhood
Make a scavenger hunt, encouraging kids to really explore their environment, getting them out and about whilst also learning about nature
It’s a sad reality that some children aren’t getting the same opportunities to play outside as it impacts both their physical and mental development. By encouraging outside play, you can help them to learn and grow in a natural environment whilst providing them experiences which will one day become happy memories, as well as sparking an interest in helping to preserve the environment in which they live and increasing their environmental awareness which will hopefully last a lifetime.tagschildrenexcercisehealthoutdoors