Getting Children Outside
On our property we have cows, chickens, dogs, a bounce house, little motorized tractors and playground for the kids, 2 gardens, quads, and plenty of open space. My kids could spend hours just coming up with their own ideas for games and entertainment, or just running.
We love going to the beach as often as we can to inhale the fresh ocean breeze. My husband and I make it a high priority to give our kids opportunities to immerse themselves in nature and enjoy all the benefits it has to offer. In an age when so many children are hooked to their screens, and thus spending prolonged periods of time sedentary and indoors, we know that raising them in this way is crucial to their health and happiness.
The daunting reality is that the average American child spends 4 to 7 minutes a day in unstructured play outdoors and over 7 hours a day in front of a screen, according to the Child Mind Institute.
This is an alarming national health issue, earning the term Nature Deficit Disorder, which was first coined by Richard Louv, author of the book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, in which he sheds light on the causes driving this problem in our society. In the book, he interviews a child who says the reason he would rather be inside than outside is because “that’s where all the electrical outlets are.”
In the book, he proposes letting kids spend more time immersed in the outdoors as the antidote to their spending too much time in front of a screen.
The instant benefits of going outside provide the rewarding feedback that will inspire them to want to spend more time outdoors.
Going outside builds confidence, promotes creativity and imagination, teaches responsibility, activates and stimulates the senses, gets kids moving, makes them think and reduces stress and fatigue.
According to Claire McCarthy, MD, Editor at Harvard Health Publishing, one of the six major reasons why children need to spend time outdoors is that the unstructured nature of simply letting them roam free builds executive skills. The same skills they will develop when given a platform to come up with their own ideas and figure out how to entertain themselves rather than being told what to do or being passively entertained, are the skills they will need to use in order to plan, prioritize, troubleshoot, negotiate and multitask, she says.
Playing outdoors also fosters an inclination to take risks, which parents often try to protect their kids against, but keeping them in a protective bubble won’t serve them when they face the inevitable fact that life is full of moments where it is better to be bold. When they are outdoors, they may feel inclined to try something new. They could break an arm or try to make a friend and get rejected. Being outside in an unstructured environment encourages them to develop interpersonal skills like cooperation, which will benefit them in all that they do in life.