Before handheld gadgets and computer games, children went out to parks, creeks, or even just played in the neighbour’s garden for entertainment. However, the majority of UK children now spend less time outdoors than prisoners do, as kids across the country spend most of their waking hours in front of screens. On an average day, one out of five children do not play outside at all.
This means many families are missing out on the many benefits of going outside. For parents, it can be tempting to let mobile devices entertain children and keep them behaved for long stretches of time, but by doing this it can have plenty of detrimental effects on your child’s health and development over time. That said, here are five compelling reasons why you should head outdoors with your children:
Get Some Exercise
Instead of playing real sports outside, children have dozens of simulation games to choose from. It’s crazy when the real thing is just outside your front door! According to the NHS, people aged 5 to 18 need at least an hour of physical activity a day. This can be in the form of running or biking, as well as swinging on monkey bars, playing sports like pickleball or taking a walk. Furthermore, parents who spend all day indoors can also benefit from the physical activity of taking their child out to activities like these.
Help Kids Socialise
Outdoor play provides plenty of opportunities for kids to harness social skills. Not only do they get to meet other children in parks or at playgrounds, but research published on the Porto Biomedical Journal also argues that open spaces allow children to learn how to cooperate through play, as they exchange roles as teachers and learners and understand the different emotions exhibited by their peers. The researchers add that adults are also more “available to support children outside” because of the relaxing setting.
Reduce Mental Fatigue
Spending time outdoors can also improve your family’s mental wellbeing. Research on Science Daily points out that walks in the country have the ability to relieve stress and even restore working memory. What’s incredible is that the study’s participants were mothers and daughters who actually bonded more during their walk out in the fresh air. Being constantly stressed can put a strain on familial relationships – and if you’re raising teenagers, then you know what we mean! A simple walk might help remedy that.
Enhance Creativity And Exploration
As kids are still developing their knowledge of the world, spending some time outdoors can help enhance their creativity and sense of exploration. It’s a multi-sensory experience compared to virtual environments. Even small babies can benefit a lot from the outdoors in this way, as everything from the light of the sun and the sway of tree branches down to the smell of leaves and the sounds of people talking promote learning. Children are born natural scientists, after all, and the outdoors is a great place for them to begin learning.
Children who get a lot of screen time have a lot of energy left to burn, and that’s one reason they just can’t seem to sleep on time. If that’s the case, exposure to sunlight is a good way to establish a sleeping pattern. It promotes daytime alertness and brings on sleepiness at night for the entire household.
Babies, too, receive sleep-related benefits when exposed to the sunshine, which might be a more compelling reason to take them outside considering that they’re the hardest to get to sleep regularly. Because of these benefits, it’s actually a common practice in Scandinavian countries to let babies and toddlers take their nap outdoors, as it establishes better sleep patterns in very young children. To do so, take them for a stroll in a pram that can facilitate sleep. If you don’t have the time, you can take them out to the garden and watch as their little eyelids get heavy. The added bonus to this, of course, is that parents also get better sleep at night and will need to get up and tend to their babies less.
Due to the above reasons, it’s worth considering spending some quality hours outside with your kids. Whether it is walking or biking, both are good choices. If you take your child to a park or a playground, they will socialise with others. Just be sure to go out prepared with water and maybe an extra shirt for if your child is active. Those with smaller children should pack a nappy bag as well as trusty baby gear that can be taken anywhere.
If you have a lawn or a garden, however, make it a point to play outdoors with no electronics! Try a simple scavenger hunt in your own garden or play hide and seek. We also previously recommended gardening as another great family activity, as it teaches kids where their food comes from and how to be responsible stewards of the earth.
As parents, it’s our job to strike a balance between spending time indoors and outdoors. It’s best not to think of it as a burden, as you can also gain many benefits along the way.
Last Updated on June 25, 2023 by Lucy Clarke