When I think back to my childhood I am overcome with a sense of nostalgia. Not just because our childhood years aren’t yet ruled by the working world, but because I spent so much time having adventures. I grew up with a brother and a cluster of cousins, and we were always running about the garden or visiting our local park. One thing is for sure; we were barely ever indoors.
Nowadays, the world in which children grow up feels very different. Children as young as two can work an iPad much more efficiently than I can at 27, and while the most violence I witnessed as a child was the betrayal of Scar when he killed Mufasa in The Lion King, it seems that kids today don’t even bat an eyelid when their favorite Marvel superhero is fighting (or killing) the bad buys with punches and weapons.
When my cousin birthed the next generation into our world, life for them very quickly became electronics and TV. And who can really be surprised? In a world where people are often connected online more than to the real world, it’s no wonder children reach for our phones. Children are a product of their environment, and in a world that seems to have lost the ability to live in the moment, it comes as no real shock that the future generations are following suit. So when I looked after the two boys and they looked eagerly out towards our garden, I opened up the door and let them run outside. And they didn’t want to come back indoors. Every plant, every flower pot, every insect was like an adventure, and watching them explore it brought me back to my childhood when I spent every spare second outdoors. Here are ten reasons why children (and adults, too) should spend more time outdoors:
1. It builds confidence
It’s natural for parents to want to instill confidence in their children so that they feel able to bravely take on new challenges. One way to build confidence is to allow them to spend time playing outdoors. When playing inside there is often a lot of structure, whereas outside children are given a lot more freedom, and have more power over their own actions and how they choose to play.
It’s almost important to nurture the interests of your children. If they fall in love with nature and the outdoor world, there may be something specific they are keen to learn more about, such as animals or plants. Encourage them to explore their interests, and try to show an interest in learning, too. Provide books and information to help them learn more, and you’ll see their confidence grow when they’re doing something that they’re genuinely interested and passionate about.
Try to avoid choosing something you want them to like; you’ll build confidence by allowing them to find it on their own. It’s also important to take note of what it is your child is interested in, and whether this be animals or plants, and find a way for them to explore this with other like-minded children, perhaps by joining something like Scouts.
2. Nature teaches RESPONSIBILITY
When you allow your children to explore nature you also have the opportunity to teach them responsibility. The world outside is full of life, and you can use this to educate children. Livings things die if they’re mistreated or neglected, so why not entrust your children with a task that will allow them to take care of something? You could plant seeds and watch them grow together. Children will see life growing before their eyes, and the responsibility that goes with nurturing it.
3. It sparks creativity + imagination
As a child, my imagination ran wild, and it’s something that I’ve carried with me into adulthood. Nothing is better than the power of imagination, and when the world outside is opened up to a child, it’s essentially a blank canvas. As opposed to when children spend times playing indoors and know what their toys are, outside everything is new. Suddenly a stick becomes a sword, a jungle gym becomes a place to hide from monsters, and everything feels exciting. Your child will experience creative freedom, and will turn the world around them into whatever they want it to be.
4. Kids will become more active
Naturally, encouraging your children to go outdoors will make them more active than they would be sitting at home on the coach, watching a DVD. Even when they play with toys they’re not burning much energy. Interacting with children in an outdoor setting will have them exercising. They don’t need to be doing anything too strenuous; the simple act of taking a walk through a park will have their blood pumping. Being active is not only great for physical health, it can also help them to focus more, which will benefit other aspects of their lives, such as school.
5. reduces stress + tiredness
Childhood seems to be coming with a lot more stress, and it can at times be easy for children to become frustrated. Spending time outside offers a huge outlet for stress. Why? Being outdoors is relaxing, and it can give children a break from nagging thoughts and other stressors. When we spend time in more natural environments, our attention span becomes an effortless type known as soft fascination, which creates a feeling of pleasure, helping children let go of stresses and feel rejuvenated.
6. Their eyes will be healthier
Living in a modern world we can’t help but stare into screens. So much of ‘life’ is lived online, and while the only piece of technology I owned growing up was an iPod and the computers at my school took fifteen minutes to even log on, schools nowadays are filled with modern technology. And as someone that writes for a living, I know only too well how staring at a screen for hours on end can impact your eyes. But for children, those younger years are their most vulnerable, and scientists have even made claims that children who spend too much time indoors can create irreversible changes in their eyes. In addition, continually staring at a screen increases the chances of dry eye syndrome
Stepping outdoors, and allowing the eyes to focus on something different—and a little more distant—works to exercise different muscles, enabling our eyes to eyes to relax and recover. Take your kids outdoors and make them a chart of things they need to find; they’ll have so much fun finding butterflies and leaves, you’ll be making memories as well as looking after them.
7. it restores their innocence
Children seem to grow up more quickly today.
Girls are growing up in a world where they have access to make-up tutorials; kids can work YouTube better than they can identify plants in their front yard; and every bit of news is blasted in their faces. All of this technology has seemingly created a loss of innocence. Being in nature helps connect children to their youth and also helps restore their innocence.
Encourage your children to go outside more. I know that the world can at times feel scary, and that sending your children outside to play alone plagues you with absolute fear, so try to find the time to go outside with them. Let them ride their bike, or play in the garden; allow them to remain in contact with their imagination.
8. IT CONNECTS KIDS TO NATURE
It goes without saying that a child who spends time in nature will have an appreciation for nature, and what it has to offer. When children spend their time outdoors they connect to nature, and it’s easy to guide them towards being more mindful of the impact their actions have on the world. The future generations are going to face things such as climate change, extreme weather patterns and more . . . so it’s really great to watch your children fall in love with nature so that you can teach them how to care for the planet.
9. They’ll have a better sleep pattern
The trouble with technology is that we don’t know when to switch it off, and many children are now falling asleep watching iPads. Not only will this keep them awake for longer, it won’t allow them to wind down before sleeping, and they may suffer disturbed and broken sleep.
Another way your sleep can be affected is by not getting enough natural light. Sun exposure helps set our bodies natural body clock, and studies show that by getting just 30-60 minutes of exposure to direct sunlight daily, one can drastically improve their sleep.
10. Boosts their immune-system
If you think back to your own childhood, you probably remember making mud pies and at some stage or other eating something questionable, y’know, like a ladybug or some bird poop. (Yes, these are experiences from my own childhood—don’t judge). Parents today often try to prevent their little ones from getting dirty. There are always baby wipes and sanitary spray being pulled out from some magical pocket of their jeans. But you know what kids need? Dirt! And lots of it.
Although we tend to believe that things such as dirt, animals and bacteria are doing more harm than good to our children, the opposite is actually true. When our children come into contact with these things in a completely natural environment and on a regular basis, they’re less likely to develop autoimmune disorders and allergies.
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