Today, most of us live in a world which is far from being connected with nature and the great outdoors, meaning our children today are often sat in a car, an air-conditioned classroom, and stay indoors on their gaming devices - rather than be exposed to nature and get the abundance of fresh air they need to develop.
Getting fresh air has measurable benefits for children in terms of their physical health, especially in terms of receiving their daily dose of Vitamin D, which is provided from exposure to sunlight and assists in them growing strong bones and also lowers their risk of cancer. Some studies have even shown children who play outdoors are less likely to have visual issues, later in life, such as nearsightedness.
Exposure to fresh air helps your child to get a good night’s sleep and is instrumental in regulating sleeping patterns. Of course, the term “fresh air” doesn’t relate purely to the air that your child is breathing into his or her lungs, it captures an essence of physical activity, play, and social interaction - though there are certainly health benefits associated with your child breathing in an abundance of replenishing oxygenated air.
Time outdoors has proven to lower the risk of hyperactivity and depression. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that children spending more time watching TV and playing video games than playing outdoors, tend to have shorter attention spans - which is, perhaps, because children that play outside in places like PDPlay areas are more likely to engage in ‘creative play’ and use their imagination… they are in the active position of creating entertainment rather than the passive position of receiving entertainment (e.g. watching TV or playing video games).
There are three basic principles to follow in terms of encouraging your children to be more active and spend more time outdoors.
GO WITH THE FLOW
There’s no need for things to be too rules-based, as an example, if your child is playing an organized sport one minute but then starts chasing after a butterfly - go with their curiosity and allow them to discover what they want to discover.
The age-old game of “tag” is a great way to keep your children active. It is a mental and physically stimulating game that creates an element of competitiveness which allows you to bond… without it being too rigid and formal. Often, children love to embrace challenges, but they don’t want to feel the pressure of competitive sport - make it fun, keep it loose, and you’ll encourage them to participate much more.
TURN OFF THE TV
Kids aren’t born lazy. They are conditioned to be lazy, because as human beings, we all look for the path of least resistance, and for many of us, the easiest way to be entertained and quasi-stimulated is through sitting staring at the TV. Whilst the TV can certainly be a good tool to use from time to time, particularly when you are too busy to engage, it shouldn’t become habitual to the point that children get home and see it as the ‘only option’ or ‘preferred option’. There’s a whole world to explore but children need to be encouraged to get up and explore the world, rather than watch it, from the comfort of their arm chair.