By Fredrica Syren:
These days, so many kids spend less and less time outdoors, and use less of their imaginations to make up games and play. A study by the Outdoor Foundation showed that outdoor activity among children ages 6 to 17 is declining, with the sharpest fall taking place among 6- to 12-year-olds. Kids nowadays like to spend more time indoors where there are electronic devices. It’s a sad fact that spending too much time indoors and being still is not good for anyone, especially children. Indoor children tend to have reduced physical activity, which raises the risk of obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, mental health problems and heart disease. Plus it also limits their creativity and natural curiosity.
I firmly believe that kids who spend a great amount of time outdoors become not only very good at using their own imaginations, inventiveness and creativity while playing but that they also learn to use their bodies in different ways: jumping, running, pushing, pulling, sliding, bending, crawling, balancing, turning, twisting, yelling, climbing, dancing, stretching, curling, squeezing and squatting. Spending time in nature also boosts children’s immune system. Good, clean dirt from a garden or forest helps strengthen our immune systems and can even make children happier.
Spending time outdoors is a wonderful memory for many of us. I have so many fond memories of learning from and playing in nature with my parents and friends — even on cold or rainy winter days. Today, I swear my kids would live outside if I would let them. We’re talking rain, shine, the dead of winter or a painfully hot summer — they just love spending time in nature. Getting them back inside usually ends with a lot of “why?” and teeth grinding. My older son loves the beach and especially loves going to watch the waves during a rain storm. When we do that, ours for sure are the only kids there.
Children need fresh air, time in the sun (with sunblock, of course) and daily physical activity for their well-being.
There are so many studies demonstrating nature’s therapeutic effects on children. One study from the University of Illinois’ Landscape and Human Health Laboratory found that time outdoors reduces symptoms in children with ADHD, and found a link between exposure to nature and increased self-discipline in girls.
Too many kids don’t get to play outside because parents don’t have the time or are worried about dangers in nature. Parents need to encourage outdoor, self-directed play for their kids. Maybe — if they are very lucky — they will join their children, and explore with them.