In an age of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, the internet especially Google, television and YouTube, is it actually important to be able to physically know what bugs or worms look like, or the fact that butterflies come from caterpillars? In my opinion, it does. If we are not careful, the only way our children will view these is via a computer, TV or mobile and not have the experience.
A lot of children spend more time indoors watching television than outdoors playing and this sort of behaviour has been defined as a “nature-deficit disorder”. Does it matter if children retreat indoors or is it best that they partake in fun outdoor activities, go to parks or just enjoy some fresh air? According to research, nature boosts physical, social, psychological and even academic development in children, and has the power to transform children’s lives and prospects.
Some parents find the concept of engaging their children in outdoor activities as challenging however I think its because (some of them) are lazy. They believe children prefer television and technology these days and would gladly have them sit at the front of the television all day whilst they get on with their work or daily routine. Meanwhile, all it takes is a little field trip; a little preparation and excitement and the children are glad to go. However, there is also the fear that stems more from anxiety than squeamishness. “Stranger danger” is the fear of abduction by an unknown adult, which is why most parents won’t allow kids out unsupervised.
Obesity is perhaps the most visible symptom of the lack of such play, but literally dozens of studies from around the world show regular time outdoors produces significant improvements in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning ability, creativity and mental, psychological and emotional wellbeing.
According to one authoritative study published by the American Medical Association in 2005, free and unstructured play in the outdoors boosts problem-solving skills, focus and self-discipline. Socially, it improves cooperation, flexibility, and self-awareness. Emotional benefits include reduced aggression and increased happiness. “Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors”.
Nature is a tool to get children to experience not just the wider world, but to also discover themselves. Getting involved in outdoor activities such as climbing a tree is about learning how to take responsibility for yourself, and how to measure risk for yourself, so falling out of a tree is a very good lesson in risk and reward, as is getting muddy… so necessary in my opinion.
I have spent hours outdoors supervising my son in all his different pursuits. Here he is…
Worth mentioning, some of the great outdoors cannot be seen easily, that’s why we have amazing people like David Attenborough transmitting life in the jungle and the wild to us via our TV screens so I am not knocking TV totally, I just think some children spend far too much time indoors.