Here is Why Children Playing Outdoors is Essential in the 21st Century!
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Globally, and especially in urban settings, children spend more than 5 hours a day bingeing on television sets and computers. They love the habit and are nudged to do so by parents. The total time they spend playing outdoors is minimal because they are prohibited from venturing outside, or are limited by space. Meanwhile, children in rural settings in the developing world spend upwards of 7 hours outdoors, just like their counterparts, everywhere, 30 years ago.
Why Children Need to Get Outside!
Life in the 21st Century is an exciting experience but also worrisome because of technology and urbanization. Tech devices are now necessary tools at home, while urbanization is squeezing every inch of space out of people’s homesteads.
This should be of concern to parents – and many surely are – especially those that care about the wellbeing of their children when they grow up. The sedentary lifestyle and exposure to man-made electromagnetic fields are bound to create multiple health complications when the current generation of kids reach maturity.
Here are a few reasons you may want to take your child outdoors, to play with the gift of nature.
1. Children Should Play Outdoors ‘for the Love of Living Systems’
Children, just like adults, are naturally drawn to explore the natural world because it offers them opportunities to blend with nature, and indulge in their physical and mental faculties. The outdoors provides them with wonderful opportunities to interact with the environment and learn from it.
The concept of human attraction towards nature (outdoors) was hypothesized by the American ecologist Edward O. Wilson in the 1980s, and translated into a book he named Biophilia. He defined biophilia as,
the connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life.
He argued that the need by humanity to bond with the rest of the life-forms and eco-system has its foundations deep in human biology.
It is undeniable that co-existence with other species such as plants (flora), and other animals (fauna) is a gift that children should get to harness in its entirety.
Nature is beautiful and vibrant and will remain so despite the overwhelming threat posed by humanity. As long as it is still available, children should be allowed to indulge in all its glory.
Below are a few reasons for children to embrace nature. Nature:
- stimulates their brains beyond the confines of the house
- makes them think and grow intellectually
- makes them happy
- allows them to discover life and plant forms
- stimulates their sensory senses
- gives them opportunities to catch fresh air devoid of EMF pollution
- promotes their physical wellbeing through extensive exploration
2. Outdoor Play Enhances Executive Function Skills
Executive function skills are brain-based skills that help both adults and children to accomplish tasks correctly. They involve efficient use of working memory, self-control and multitasking skills to get the job done. If executed correctly, the skills are enablers for children to form and achieve planned goals and success in school.
Children are not necessarily born with executive functioning skills but have the ability to master them based on the environment and experience they are exposed to.
Typically, executive functions will enable children to do the following, according to webmd:
- manage time
- pay attention
- switch focus
- plan and organize tasks
- remember important details
- avoid doing the wrong things
- avoid saying the wrong things
- use experience in accomplishing tasks
By taking children outdoors they experiment with a lot of possibilities which challenges them to become better at thinking large and out of the box.
Just by organizing to go outdoors and planning the tasks to be accomplished you are getting the children to memories tasks and hopefully fulfill them correctly. You can make this easy by letting them partake in planning for trips and related activities.
Elsewhere, while playing soccer, doing athletics, riding bicycles, or even playing hide and seek, children progressively learn to use memory, self-control and multitasking functions in the brain, in order to score a goal, ride a bike, or seek out a friend hiding behind a bush.
3. They Absorb Vitamin D Through Sunshine
The human body needs the sun almost daily, to help create the much needed Vitamin D which is vital for body growth and development. The exposure is particularly important in the morning and should average anything between 15 and 60 minutes, depending on the skin complexion. Dark-skinned persons need more minutes than light-skinned persons to absorb the right amount of the vitamin.
Humanity gets 90 -95 percent of Vitamin D through type B Ultraviolet (UVB) exposure to the sun. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphate from the food we eat. The two are necessary for the body to develop stronger bones and teeth, and enable correct muscle contraction.
In addition, the hormone called serotonin is released during sunshine exposure to boost the mood and positivity during the day. It is just like the melatonin hormone which is released during the night to facilitate better sleep and body growth.
Without sufficient exposure to the sun, children may be prone to complications such as soft and week bones, rickets, and type I and II diabetes in later years.
4. Outdoors is Great for All-Round Health
There is no better assurance for physical wellness than children playing outdoors. The expansive space outdoors is a catalyst for kids to run, jump, ride and swing, and execute all kinds of motor skills that are impossible indoors.
The more time kids play outdoors, the more they
- develop stronger bones
- they burn more calories and avoid obesity
- have better brain functionality
- become creative and imaginative
- eat better
- are psychologically efficient
- avoid boredom
- have better immunity
Outdoor physical activities also help young children figure out special skills and talents, which they can build on to professional levels. These skills include riding, soccer, athletics, etc. which apart from becoming a source of income when they grow up, will ensure they remain physically alert throughout their lives.
5. Outdoor Playtime Stimulates Sensory Skills
Children use their senses to explore and understand the world around them. At birth, everything is new and the sensory nerves are almost empty and waiting to be filled up. These spaces are filled up by what they do, see, eat, touch and what happens to their bodies. This is extremely important for brain development.
Sensory skills involve the exploration of touch, smell, vision, hearing, taste, balance/movement, and body awareness, which are enhanced with the vast resources available outside the house.
When outdoors children will naturally interact with the vastness of plants, animals, and environment to explore the senses listed above. In what is commonly known as sensory play, they will engage in fun activities to discover touch, smell, sight, voices, taste, movement, and awareness of themselves and everything around them.
Sensory play will satisfy their curiosity, enhance memory, sharpen the brain and learn sensory attributes such as sweet, bitter, sticky, cold, muddy, insect sounds, good and foul smell, etc.
6. Outdoor Play for Social Well-Being
Nothing is as painful when children are rejected socially for one reason or another. While one child may develop better social skills early in life, others will falter, and this will have to be addressed through a handful of hacks and by taking children outdoors.
This can be done through group play where children learn to interact naturally. Caution should be exercised early on, as kids tend to gang up against each other, and this may impair their ability to see the good in the others. This is especially true if measures such as anger management are not put in place.
You can also train children to participate in volunteerism to enhance their social skills. They can volunteer in the homes of the elderly, retirement homes, or Sunday schools. In these and other places, they can read for others, and help with small chores here and there. Of course, the need to go out and volunteer makes more sense in slightly older kids than the very young ones.
Besides games and volunteering, other activities that can foster social skills include,
- music classes
- dance classes
- live events for kids
- educational trips
- afternoon camping for kids
- treasure hunt
7. The Value of Risky Play Outdoors
Risky play can be defined as an unstructured form of physical activity which is thrilling and adventurous for children, and yet carries a degree of uncertainty over the outcomes. Whereas the word ‘risk’ has not been used to mean ‘danger’ in the past, the implication has changed in the last few decades. Risky play is now viewed as a negative and dangerous form of play. Parents are jittery over the consequences, especially if they lead to serious physical injury or death!
Children are naturally drawn towards risky play because their bodies are expending the immense energy they possess, and are out to discover new things. They also have little understanding of the underlying dangers. The likelihood of an object causing serious harm to a fellow child does not arise until it actually happens.
While risky play was a common thing in the last Centuries, parental concern over the safety of child play and societal emphasis on injury prevention has meant that children play under supervision or in safe playgrounds. Statistics show that adult supervision has actually contributed to reducing injury in children worldwide.
In order to minimize dangers arising from unsupervised play, parents now choose to keep children indoors to play computer games and watch movies.
Increasing research shows that placing too many restrictions on child play is known to hamper their physical and cognitive development. Children need to take risks to prepare for real-life challenges. For example, they
- overcome fears of failure by trying over and over again
- become self-awareness by learning about how they react to dangerous encounters
- learn to deal with environmental dangers such as sharp objects, snakes, electrical shock, etc
- become more confident after successes in various challenges
- learn independence in instances where they disappear and have to find their way home
- become versatile by falling from high heights
- learn to deal with dangers such as fire, water
Risky play outdoors may involve more than just physical play. It may include encounters which expose them to cognitive and social risks.
8. Children Get to Escape from Tech and EMF
Yes, let the children venture outdoors and you will surely get them to escape the addictive television and computers in the house – at least for a few hours. If done consistently, the bingeing instances will go down and they will ask for even more hours outdoors. Of course it depends on the nature of the outdoor activities and whether they enjoy them or not.
Besides TV and Smartphones, your children will actually escape the invisible electromagnetic field (EMF) waves that roam the house at all times. The increasing number of electronic devices and electrical wiring and installations in the house usually mean more EMF waves circulating in the air.
The Wi-Fi devices, smartphones, laptops, just to mention a few should be left behind when the children venture outdoor.
Get Children to Play Outdoors!
It is no mean feat to get the kids outdoors to play. Of course, they are always eager to, but the problem usually is the readiness of parents to let them live the moment.
As a parent,
- give them the freedom to explore
- become an outdoor role model
- deliberately create time for outdoor activities
- control screen time at home
- create child-friendly backyard
- encourage them to participate in communal activities
Here is Why Children Playing Outdoors is Essential in the 21st Century!
Children who play outdoors are naturally drawn towards nature because it lets them blend with plant and animal forms, and learn new things.