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Things have certainly changed when it comes to how children spend their free time. Whereas in the past children would spend every waking moment outside, these days a completely different scenario plays itself out.
Modern children are now spending most of their time indoors in front of a screen of some type, be it a television, a computer screen, a mobile phone or a handheld game console.
A recent study conducted in the USA shows that close to half of preschool going children do not play outside at all.
Our children behaviours have changed due to a number of factors. Parents are under enormous pressure to provide for their family. With both parents often having to work, children are left to their own devices during the afternoon. The world is not as safe as it once was, and parents do not encourage their children to play outside without supervision.
Less outdoor activity is associated with a rise in obesity, type 2 diabetes, anxiety disorders and attention deficit disorder amongst children.
Why is playing outdoors important
There are a number of reasons why outdoor play should be encouraged from an early age.
1. Outdoor play helps with physical skills
Playing outdoors is perfect for small children to learn and master many physical skills including running, jumping, balance and physical co-ordination. Children also learn many ball skills while outside including how to throw and catch. Outside play also promotes the development of hand/eye co-ordination.
2.Outdoor play helps to produce fit, healthy children
By playing outdoors, which often includes a lot of physical activity, a child will burn calories and stay within a healthy body weight. Physical activity also helps to maintain healthy bones, joints and muscles.
3. Outdoor play ensures proper mental health
Physical activity can help to improve a child’s self esteem, decrease the symptoms of depression and anxiety and improve a child’s overall mood.
4. Outdoor play helps children learn social skills and contributes to learning
Playing outside with friends has a great impact on social and emotional development as well. It helps with social interaction in various forms, decision making, organisational skills, communication and vocabulary. It also helps children to learn various social customs.
Encouraging your children to play outside
As a parent, you should be encouraging your children to play outside and spend time with them in this environment. Here are a few quick tips on how you can do this.
- Set time aside each day where your younger children play outside under your supervision.
- Teach your younger children road safety and to be aware of strangers in case they do play outside without adult supervision.
- Establish a set of rules when your children are older and go out alone to play. Let them inform you who they are with, where they will be going and what time they will return. If anything changes, instruct them to inform you immediately.
- Start playgroups at the local park with other parents and their children. Include playtime on the park equipment, ball games and other traditional games. Make these weekly occurrences.
- Go for picnics! Picnics are the perfect way to spend time outside with friends and family. Choose a different venue each time for your picnic and encourage your children to explore the surrounding areas.