Top 10 Reasons Your Child Should Be Outside

Only a mere generation ago, children woke up and could not wait to go down to the creek, hang out in their tree fort, or ransack the playground. The thought of being cooped up inside the house would have been torture.

Now, the first line of defense for an unruly child is to take away one of the child’s multiple entertainment devices. Life without the favorite video game console seems like cruel and unfair treatment to a child.

It probably does not even cross the child’s mind they have an unlimited entertainment source right outside their door.

Children have an innate attraction towards nature. The wonder and beauty of it keeps curious minds longing for more. This natural inclination can be fostered with loving encouragement from family, friends, and educational providers.

Amy Novotney wrote an article for the American Psychiatric Association(APA) titled “Getting Back To The Great Outdoors”. This article explored the countless benefits, physical and psychological, that are associated with increased outdoor time in children.

Here are the top 10 takeaways that show why your child should be outside.

1. Increased physical and psychological health

The APA reported:

Increasing evidence demonstrates the many benefits of nature on children’s psychological and physical well-being, including reduced stress, greater physical health, more creativity and improved concentration.”

When your child is outside it forces them to focus on objects far away. This helps them prevent myopia (nearsightedness) caused by staring at a screen or objects within close proximity.

Let’s not forget about Vitamin D! This essential vitamin strengthens bones and helps prevent heart disease. Your kids can get a nice healthy, and free, dose of it from sunshine.

2. Reduced rate of obesity

With the increase of technology, children are spending longer and longer hours indoors. Indoor play gives less space to move and burn calories. It, also, encourages spending time on devices while you sit rather than using nature to stimulate your senses.

A 2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveyreported:

“One-third of children and teens, ages 2 to 19, were overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. By 2010, about half of school-age children in North and South America will be overweight or obese, predicts an article in the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity(Vol. 1, No. 1).”

Caring for our youth is intricately related with encouraging them to spend more time climbing trees and finding bugs. Obesity gives kids a reduced quality of life. That is not what we hope for in our children.

3. Reduced Stress

Cornell University environmental psychologist Nancy M. Wells, Ph.D., has found:

“In a study of 337 school-age children in rural upstate New York, the presence of nearby nature bolsters a child’s resilience against stress and adversity, particularly among those children who experience a high level of stress (Environment and Behavior, Vol. 35, No. 3).”

School over the years has put increased stress on children with heavier homework loads and social pressures.

Getting out of the confines of high-pressure environments gives children a chance to reset their frame of reference.

4. Create a sense of wonder and responsibility

Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit-Disorder” writes:

“Beyond the health and cognitive benefits children may gain from free and unstructured play outdoors, nature also provides them with a sense of wonder and a deeper understanding of our responsibility to take care of the Earth”.

If you don’t spend any time outside, you won’t get the opportunity to discover all the wonders in every flower stalk and hustling ant mound.

Discovering the complex design of nature gives an appreciation that sprouts responsibility. Knowing first hand how long a garden takes to grow, or how much work a bird does to make a nest, makes you want to protect it.

5. Allow kids to be considerate of their environment

Littering is an epidemic of these times. Most people don’t even think twice if they drop a napkin on the ground or see someone throw a cigarette butt out the window.

Visual.ly reported75% of people admitted to littering in the past 5 years. That’s an overwhelming majority.

One of the consequences of littering is 9 billion tons of litter being dumped into the ocean, according to visual.ly.

Kids must be connected to nature in order for them to be conscious of the effect they have with every neglected piece of trash. Connections are established with time. Give your kids an opportunity to know the great outdoors.

6. Become more independent

Independence for children is not just trusting them to play out of sight from you, but having them not be dependent on electronic devices.

APA reported:

“Many factors have come together to push children indoors, he says, including land development and more people living in cities, additional demands on children’s time-such as more homework and structured activities-video games and the Internet, and parental fear, particularly of strangers.”

The outdoors should not be feared. Parents should take the time to teach outdoor safety to their kids; do not go into the street, tell an adult immediately if someone you don’t know approaches you, and creatures are for admiring not touching.

7. Increase academic performance

Martha Erickson, Ph.D., stated:

Creative exploration and firsthand experience discovering nature appear to be the best ways for children to learn about a host of subjects-particularly science- according to research”.

Kids do well with active learning; especially when what they are learning is a living organism and grows as they learn about it.

Teach kids their colors with different plants; show them greater and lesser with different seed sizes. You can have them watch a caterpillar turn into a butterfly while learning about metamorphosis. Live action learning helps children retain the information learned better.

8. Be adventurous

A study by University of Maryland sociologist Sandra Hofferth, Ph.D., revealed:

“Between 1997 and 2003, the amount of time children ages 9 to 12 spent participating in outdoor activities such as hiking, horseback riding, fishing, camping and gardening declined by 50 percent.”

Adventure can be fun, and more pure, than Grand Theft Auto. Children naturally crave a sense of excitement and stimulation. Give them wholesome adventures by building tree houses and going on bug hunts.

This will not only give you invaluable time with your kids, but it will help keep them from finding adventure in unhealthy ways.

9. Increased attention spans

Erickson said:

If we had kids moving around and burning off energy, I think we would have much less difficulty with kids having trouble paying attention in the classroom,”

With ADD getting so much attention, many mothers wonder if they should get medical helpfor their active son or daughter.See our in-depth report on ADD/ADHD:

http://mommyunderground.com/adhd-an-american-epidemic-a-european-afterthought-a-glimpse-at-both-worlds/

The problem could be more that children innately want to be outdoors and burning energy, not sitting in a stuffy classroom for hours at a time without moving.

Allow your child to get frequent breaks when home to run around outside. If you do this before homework you will find concentration and productivity increase. Educators should work together to get kids fresh air throughout a school day, and Erickson is helping them do just that.

10. Be a more environmentally conscience adult

A 2006 study-led by Wells and published in Children, Youth and Environments (Vol. 16, No. 1) reported:

childhood participation with nature may set individuals on a trajectory toward adult environmentalism.”

Making memories building forts with siblings or spending a week at nature camp is not something you just forget as adults.

Martha Erickson, Ph.D., wrote:

“As many young people were spending increasing amounts of time watching television or playing video games, my kids were much more likely to head off on their bikes, canoe down the creek that flows through our city or rally some friends to create an outdoor adventure. Now, as young adults, they are fit, creative, adventurous and striving to protect the environment.”

You don’t have to wait until the yearly camping trip to go into the backyard and make bird calls. Nature is all around you and readily available for endless hours of entertainment.

Be a force for change in this generation by raising children aware of the world around them.

Facilitate a love of nature by spending time outdoors with them, pointing out all of God’s great design.

The many benefits of getting kids off the couch is obvious. Now get outside!

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