When I was a kid it was hard to get me inside. Rain or shine or even snow; it didn’t matter I was usually outside. Nowadays it’s different. Kids are inside way more than they’re outside.
- American childhood has moved indoors during the last two decades This takes both a mental and physical toll on today’s kids. Some general negative impacts of decreased outside play time diminished creativity, concentration and social skills.
- The prevalence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 more than doubled in the past 20 years, to 17 percent of children in this age group. The rate of clinically obese adolescents (aged 12-19) more than tripled, to 17.6 percent. The rising childhood obesity rates also comes with an incremental hundred billion dollar cost to our health care system. The Centers for Disease Control says that a major reason for the obesity rise is that an hour per day of moderate physical activity is woefully lacking in our kids’ lives.
- By the time most U.S. children enter kindergarten, they have spent more than 5,000 hours in front of a television – which insanely is more than enough time to earn a college degree.
- Children are spending half as much time outdoors as they did 20 years ago. (Juster et al 2004); (Burdette & Whitaker 2005); (Kuo & Sullivan 2001).
- In a typical week, only 6% of children ages 9-13 play outside on their own. (Children & Nature Network, 2008).
- Sixty minutes of daily unstructured free play is essential to children’s physical and mental health. (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2008).
- 8-18 year-old kids nowadays manage to spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media in ONE day. That’s 58 hours a week. (Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds.)
- AND there’s much more. Visit Be Out There to get more research on kids and their total lack of playtime.
The National Wildlife Federation also gathered some health benefits of more outdoor time…
- The American Academy of Pediatrics says that just 60 minutes a day of physical activity will improve physical and mental health and that the obesity risk will decline.
One study found that kids who have outside time have better distance vision.
- Children with attention-deficit symptoms have been found to show improvement when they are exposed to natural settings.
- Being outdoors provides lessons in socializing and other life skills.
- Nature makes for smarter kids – girls in particular.
How to make outside time happen
Parents need to make it a priority according to Mizejewski (and me). Despite my belief that kids deserve as much respect as adults, I’m not willing to budge on the outside issue. I’ve met kids who have parents who allow them to sit inside all summer long. “They need a break during the summer!” is what I commonly hear. I also hear, “But my kids whine when I take them outside.” Thinking this way is wrong and considering the obesity epidemic, deadly. Buck up and be a responsible parent already; you know?!
Kids belong with other kids during the summer. Kids should be playing outside, hanging out, running, climbing trees and more. If your neighborhood is not kid-outside friendly than it’s your job as a parent to get your child outside either by you taking them or by enrolling them in a summer camp.
According to Mizejewski, “Taking back control can make it easier… Kids don’t control how they spend their time. Adults do.” When it comes to outside time I 100% agree.
I think that kids today need some parent help. I don’t believe in arbitrary rules but I do think it’s your job as a parent to force, yes force outside time (nicely of course). You have to set an example not just preach, “Hey get outside.” However, kids also need unstructured play time, outside in nature, sans parents. This is where summer camp comes in handy, especially if your current neighborhood is not the best.
- Hold a family hike each Sunday.
- Check out a green summer camp for your child.
- Plan games and activities daily that encourage outdoor time such as bird watching, rock collecting, plant identification, nature scavenger hunts and more.
- Get involved in your local community garden, or if you have the means, planting a garden at home.
- Plan green summer travel – i.e. for family vacations, plan a camping trip vs. a trip to a resort.
- Get some inexpensive nature toys.
- Get the kids involved in nature minded art projects and crafts that require them to get outside.
- Check out books from the library on nature topics that may peak your child’s interest.
- Do a monthly family community clean-up day in a local park or other outdoor area.
If the above is too hard to do at first try some outdoor activities that any family can make time for.
What do you think? Do kids need more outside time?
Image 1 ©Leo Rivas-Micoud via Unsplash / Image 2 ©Luke Brugger via Unsplash