One of the key criticisms aimed towards children nowadays is that they spend too much time indoors. Many parents seem to despair that Nintendo, Playstation and X-Box have replaced trees, balls and skipping ropes as the leading toys of childhood – however, it appears that we are wrong in blaming couch-potato kids for this shift. Recent studies have shown that it is mainly parents who are preventing their children from experiencing the same sort of outdoor fun which they did as youngsters.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) released a statement explaining how parents in the UK are guilty of creating a ‘cotton wool culture,’ in which their worries about children hurting themselves are keeping them from vital outdoor play opportunities. Parents often seem to be too busy to take kids to local parks themselves, yet they don’t want them going out alone either. As a result, today’s children are more reliant on gadgets and other indoor activities, which the HSE says is damaging children’s mental and physical development.
The health benefits of children using outdoor play equipment are vast. Health experts recommend that under-18s should be having at least 60 minutes of exercise each day. Yet, due to more sedentary lifestyles and more deficient diets, childhood obesity has steadily been on the rise for the last decade. Physical activity that is also enjoyable for children is undoubtedly the best way to get them fit, and so incorporating exercise into their playtime is essential. The outdoors is the best place for this exercise to take place because here, children have exposure to sunshine, which delivers Vitamin D, proven to help improve immune systems, strengthen bones, and improve mood.
Outdoor play is also an excellent way to stimulate children’s minds and encourage mental development. Even the simplest outdoor activities are hugely beneficial. Climbing a tree helps kids to develop critical skills, including risk assessment, planning, and problem-solving. Similarly, outdoor sports such as tennis or football help to improve their coordination and teamwork skills.
Finally, one of the main reasons why experts recommend children heading outdoors to play is that this is how they get to experience the real world. This may seem like an obvious point, yet it is much overlooked. Children need to experience the outside world so that they can gain independence and learn how to think for themselves. It is, therefore, every parents’ responsibility to ensure their kids put down the remote controls and experience some outdoor playtime this autumn.