Get outside and enjoy natureDo you remember the time you spent outdoors when you were a child? I lived on a farm, with many opportunities to get outside and run through the fields, garden, make mud-pies, build forts and more. Parents don’t often turn their children loose and tell them to “go out and play” like my parents used to tell me.
Do you remember the time you spent outdoors when you were a child? I lived on a farm, with many opportunities to get outside and run through the fields, garden, make mud-pies, build forts and more.
Parents don’t often turn their children loose and tell them to “go out and play” like my parents used to tell me.
Few children experience the outdoor unstructured play that has been shown to promote imagination, cognitive learning and healthful activity. Too often, children are sitting in front of a television or computer. In fact, children are about three times more likely to play video games than to ride a bike today.
Many parents, family, environmental and health professionals are concerned with the growing disconnect between children and nature. This disconnect from nature along with a sedentary lifestyle has serious implications for long-term health and well-being of children.
What is keeping kids inside? Parents often mention safety.
To counteract this, parents can set clear limits and rules for their children that reflect heir age, your neighborhood and available supervisors. Determine if they are allowed in front yards on your block only, or if a local park is safe.
Ask parents in your neighborhood to share times for your children to go outside. This will take away one of the major complaints kids have about going outdoors - that there isn’t anyone else to play with.
Also, enlist the help of other parents to watch out for the children and join the children outside yourself.
What can parents do when inside activities may seem more fun to kids, with technology available?
Parents can limit screen time to a couple hours a day. Make your outside area interesting and ask your child to participate in gardening, feeding birds or building a fort with you.
If you get outdoors yourself, you can make it family time.
You can set an example by spending time in nature too. It has many benefits such as a greater sense of calm and reduced stress, which is positive for adults and kids alike.
For children, physical activity helps improve concentration, memory and classroom behavior as well as help curb childhood obesity.
We are blessed to live in an area where we have many opportunities for experiencing the outdoors. Children love nature, and they learn by experiencing it firsthand.
While it may be challenging to balance safety and supervision with exploration, creativity and wonder, it’s too important for children to jump, spin, climb, build, and learn about the natural world. Get outside and enjoy nature!
Kathleen Olson has spent her career focusing on parenting issues and believes that most issues we face in life go back to parenting. She is an Extension Educator in family relations for the University of Minnesota and has two children.