There are many ways in which this generation’s childhood is different from that of the last generation, but one of the most abrupt contrasts is the degree to which it is being spent indoors. It’s not just children; adults are spending less time outdoors as well.
Here’s something really simple you can do to improve your child’s chance of future health and success: make sure your child spends plenty of time playing outside.
Here are some crucial ways playing outside helps children:
We need sun exposure to make vitamin D, a vitamin that plays a crucial role in many body processes, from bone development to our immune system. Sun exposure also plays a role our immune system in other ways, as well as in healthy sleep – and in our mood. Our bodies work best when they get some sunshine every day.
Children should be active for an hour every day, and getting outside to play is one way to be sure that happens. They can certainly exercise indoors, but sending them outdoors – especially with something like a ball or a bike – encourages active play, which is really the best exercise for children.
These are the skills that help us plan, prioritize, troubleshoot, negotiate, and multitask; they are crucial for our success. These are skills that must be learned and practiced – and to do this, children need unstructured time. They need time alone and with other children, and to be allowed (perhaps forced) to make up their own games, figure things out, and amuse themselves. Being outside gives them opportunities to practice these important life skills.
Children need to take some risks. As parents, this makes us anxious; we want our children to be safe. But if we keep them in bubbles and never let them take any risks, they won’t know what they can do – and they may not have the confidence and bravery to face life’s inevitable risks. Yes, children can break an arm from climbing a tree – and yes, they can be humiliated when they try to make a friend and get rejected. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try; the lessons we learn from failure are just as important as those we learn from success.
Children need to learn how to work together. They need to learn to make friends, how to share and cooperate, how to treat other people. If they only interact in very structured settings, such as school or sports teams, they won’t – they can’t – learn everything they need to know.
Appreciation of nature
So much of our world is changing, and not for the better. If a child grows up never walking in the nature, digging in soil, seeing animals in their habitat, climbing a mountain, playing in a stream, or staring at the endless horizon of an ocean, they may never really understand what there is to be lost. The future of our planet depends on our children; they need to learn to appreciate it.
So, try it. Do what our parents did: send your children outside. Even better, go with them. And do everything you can to be sure that every child can do the same.
Certified Nutrition and Fitness Coach.
About the Author
I am passionate about health and fitness and believe that fitness isn’t just about going through the motions of a workout, it’s about having a healthy lifestyle and attitude. I set realistic goals for my clients and then help them to achieve them. I create personalized fitness plan for the clients and encourage and motivate them to look at fitness as a positive element in a healthy life. My endeavour is to help others find health and happiness.
Besides a certified fitness trainer, I am a qualified Accessory designer from National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT, New Delhi). My specialisation is jewellery design and handicrafts.