Oh, this makes for sad reading. According to a survey by Play England almost two-thirds of children in the UK say they would rather be playing on their computers or watching the TV rather than playing outdoors. If you are the same generation as the kids’ parents, you might well be as sad as we are about these findings. Surely kids are meant to go outdoors and get a bit muddy. Aren’t they supposed to love building dens and climbing trees?
Of course, we live in an age where playing outdoors is more restricted by concerns about stranger danger and increased traffic etc, but the more we encourage our children to spend time outdoors, the better it is in all kinds of way.
Benefits of outdoors play
Being outdoors and playing is a great way to burn off energy and calories and stay in shape. With childhood obesity at a high, spending more time in the great outdoors has to be a good thing. It could be as simple as heading to the local play park, kicking a football around with friends, jumping on the trampoline or riding a bike.
Outdoors fitness has also been linked to a boost in people’s self-esteem and confidence. In fact, one study in Glasgow has found that walking or cycling in green and natural places outdoors will cut your risk of depression by 50%. It’s not only adults that suffer with depression, and so your kids will benefit from improved mental health by playing outdoors.
Socialisation skills come from play. Many children, who spend time indoors even when playing with pals, will most often be amused by computer games, consoles or simply watching the TV. Outdoors play requires a great deal more imagination and requires interaction among friends.
How to encourage kids to play outdoors
Family time: If parents lead by example, children are more likely to follow. You could try to send your kids out to play alone but if they are not used to this they might not be too happy. Instead, why not head off for a family walk, bike ride or to try an outdoors activity, such as white water rafting, rock climbing or kayaking? Or how about organising a family treasure hunt or giving orienteering a go. Many children find that if they are busy thinking about where to go and reading a map they do not moan so much about the exercise.
Kids get muddy: Check out the Mud Runner Race Series, which has introduced a Junior Mud Runner race. It’s the UK’s biggest timed junior 5km mud race for children aged between five and 15 years old. The event sees kids running through water-filled pits, up muddy banks and through thick mud.
50 outdoors things to do: A campaign by Young Scot has been launched on Facebook. Young people aged 11 to 26 are encouraged to tick off a list of activities, from easy to challenging, and then share their activities with others on Facebook. The activities include such things as collecting fossils, taking a boat trip to an island, spotting one of Scotland’s Big 5 wild animals, taking a photo of a sunset and many more great ideas. There are prizes to win if you take part.
Do you have any great ideas for encouraging your children to play or spend more time outdoors?