I believe there may well be a silent movement afoot. Parents are again starting to realise how important it is to replace large slabs of their kids’ screen time with a healthy dose of green time each day and we would also appear to be understanding that it doesn’t need to be hard…It’s not that we’re trying to turn our children into outdoor warriors overnight (and nor should we).
Instead I am seeing over and over, parents re-introducing their kids to the concept of finding a balance in all they do. A return to mindfulness, if you will. Living in the moment and striving to find contentment with a simpler, more active way of life. Not in the meditation/yoga sense (personally they just send me to sleep). No, simply by encouraging our children to look up and out and recognising that the best place for this is outdoors.
I’d also suggest that many parents are sensing that our kids’ contact with their greater community (or village) is slipping and that getting outside and re-engaging with their neighbourhood is a good thing. All this fills me with joy. Not only because it’s such fun for kids to be out and about and exploring, but also because there are some very important reasons to turf our kids outside.
- A little bit of sunshine each day ensures our children receive an essential dose of Vitamin D. Amongst other things; Vitamin D regulates the absorption of calcium, which is critical for building healthy, strong bones. Just 10 minutes a day (pre-sunscreen) is enough. After that it’s time to ‘Slip, slop, slap‘.
- Spending time outdoors reduces the likelihood of obesity, as children are more likely to be moving, running, kicking, jumping when outside.
- It reduces the risk of children developing myopia (shortsightedness). Simply put, if devices are put down and children are forced to focus at different or varying lengths for regular periods of time outdoors, in natural light, it keeps their eyes strong. Research shows that Myopia has increased markedly in children since the advent of handheld devices, computer games and too much screen time in general.
- There are many studies that show by spending time connecting with the wonder of nature and outdoors, the chances of depression is minimized and/or alleviated. A June 29 study by the National Academy of Sciences found that a small group of subjects who strolled through nature for just an hour and a half reported a significant reduction in negative thoughts.
- According to a study published in Psychological Science, spending (unstructured) time in nature gives the brain a break from everyday overstimulation. They suggest that this can also have a positive effect on subsequent attention levels.
- Studies (U.S.) have shown spending time formally learning outdoors can actually increase a child’s ability to learn. It may well improve academic results as a consequence.
- Studies have also shown that for children with ADHD or on the Autism spectrum, spending regular time outdoors boosted focus and afforded higher scores in concentration. Interestingly, studies are currently underway to see if spending time outdoors diminishes sensory issues amongst autistic children.
It boosts immunity. Spending time playing/digging in the soil, running through the bush, swimming in the ocean and so on, naturally exposes children to germs. But in so doing, their immunity to potential disease is actually boosted. (Obviously observing good hygiene is still important). Some studies suggest that the incidence of colds and flu are also diminished if we spend regular time outside. Vitamin D is also accepted as a cold/flu preventer…
- Giving children the opportunity to enjoy unstructured play outside innately creates periods of self-discovery and can lead to moments of wonder. When we experience wonder, we release dopamine and endorphins. These lead to moments of intense happiness and contentment. The molecule (and neurotransmitter) Dopamine, along with Serotonin and Oxytocin are known as the happy endorphins.
- When children are outside exploring, playing and discovering, it innately builds resilience and affords lessons about consequence and responsible risk-taking.
- Fine and gross motor skills are improved and refined when children are outside.
- Spending time outside fosters creativity and imagination. It affords a child the opportunity to question their immediate and greater environment and their place within it. Mother Nature has the most wonderful props-box from which children can borrow to create the most fantastic games and scenarios with nothing other than what they can find outside.
Are you part of the movement? Do you turf your kids outside to enjoy the wonders to be found there? I’d love to hear about it.
For more tips, advice and ideas on how to find wonder in all you do, look out for my book “Caro & Co ~ Helping Kids find Wonder in the Everyday”, published by Sally Milner Publishing. You can preorder via the link in my sidebar above or it’s available from 01 December at all good bookstores and online. For interview opportunities please contact Jackie Evans on 0407 776 222 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time…