It is likely that millions of kids play outdoors every day, or at least a few times a week. In a recent survey in England, found that kids play outdoors just a little over 4 hours per week. This is half the time the parents spent playing outdoors.
Reduced outdoor playtime is not just happening in England. It could be a problem in most of the modern cities. A survey in Seattle also found that more than 50% of preschoolers spend only 12.6 minutes per day in vigorous activity. Many preschoolers lacked even one parent-supervised outdoor play session in their daily routine.
Why is it such a big deal to play outdoor? Playing outdoor leads to physically and mentally stronger kids, who are also confident. Giving children the opportunity for outdoor play leads to hugely beneficial gains by fostering the imagination. The outdoors can enhance creativity and support cognitive development. More than ever, the need for outdoor play is urgent in this day and time. A recent survey in England showed that nearly 10 children out of 100 had not even visited or spent time in a natural environment such as beach, park, forest, or beach, for at least a year. Outdoor activities may have significantly reduced due to the parent’s attitudes regarding the need for outdoor activity and the socio-economic status of the families.
As noted in a recent study the residents living in poor neighborhood suffered from double jeopardy. The distance from green spaces to homes were also increased in the poor neighborhoods, further reducing their accessibility. The green spaces in poor neighborhood had fewer amenities such as seating, toilets, and play equipment.
While offering someone a chair to sit is a cultural and social norm, a sedentary lifestyle is neither healthy nor appropriate. The moderate exercise recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of a more vigorous activity every week. Many health professionals suggest that walking approximately 5 miles a day, or about 10,000 steps a day is an ideal goal for improving health. Increased activity also decreases the risk factors and chances of mortality due to inactivity. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 60 to 85% of the population around the world does not engage in enough physical activity. This makes sedentary habit or physical inactivity the fourth leading risk factor for death around the world. This video provides information regarding the risks of sitting.
Recent studies show that the solution to being outdoors and becoming engaged in an active lifestyle can begin at childhood. The study found that playing outdoors or going for walks as young children helps kids to develop positive experiences in nature and about nature. When the children grow older, this experience with outdoors can influence the attitudes and behaviors of adults towards nature. Thus, playing outdoors or providing opportunities to play outdoors as children can provide experiences that leads to greater awareness regarding the connectedness of the environment. This awareness allows them to act appropriately as required in a given situation.
Many schools are now incorporating nature play as a part of their curriculum. Outdoor school clubs, play times, after-school programs or just free time to play in the yard with just sticks and dirt can also provide a unique way of enriching the children. These moments also build connection with the nature and life supporting factors.
Now that the sun is out, it is time to engage in more outdoor activity. Our generation has the information, curiosity, and opportunity to continue and engage in outdoor activity every day. Being outdoors as adults or teenagers will remind us about the beauty of nature and support our decisions to take a personal role in protecting natural resources. Our connection with nature in childhood enables us to connect with things larger and bigger than us. It is never too late to start or renew that association. In a way, we too become connected with nature, just like all beings living in the outdoor are. And that is a deep, life changing experience for anyone to have.