When I was a kid, there was a beautiful hawthorn tree at the end of our garden. That was where I did a lot of tree climbing and where we built a treehouse, of course. I can still remember its beautiful white blossoms in May.
As a bonus, we got to climb trees at our gran’s house in the country most weekends.
Despite the wet Irish climate, we spent a fair amount of time outdoors and it really did us a lot of good.
We regularly cycled the 7 miles there and back to our gran’s house, winter or summer. Rain or shine, we didn’t seem to mind.
Why aren’t our kids outside playing?
Yes, I mean in the open air and close to nature. That would make a healthy change instead of being stuck inside glued to a screen for 7 hours a day!
Guess how long kids spend playing outdoors? One hour, maybe 30 minutes? No, guess again. Yes, it is an astonishing 4–7 minutes a day!
The sad fact is that our kids are no longer in touch with nature. Green time, tree climbing and walking through grass and fields are just a memory for us old folks.
Screen time has taken over and it is no wonder that the author Richard Louv described it as a nature deficit disorder. Yes, as if we really needed another disorder! The book title “Last Child in the Woods” says it all.
Watch the video where he asks and answers the question:
What parent wants their child to be less alive?
How many times have we heard that they have canceled recesses? It is fascinating to look at how many recesses kids have in Finland.
Incredibly, every hour lesson inside has a 15-minute recess and this has to be taken outside, whether it is sunny, raining or snowing!
Is it just a coincidence that Finland has one of the lowest rates of childhood ADHD in the world?
What happened to kids’ play?
As well as keeping kids locked up, we are over-scheduling them and chauffeuring them here, there and everywhere. How many times have you heard parents say:-
“I have to pick up the kids from yoga”. Or the gym or piano lessons?
Have you noticed that kids are no longer walking or cycling from A to B? We cosset them all the way. Driven like little children from noble families. Mom is now the chauffeur or should I say chauffeuse!
Playing in the open air, running, jumping and all the rough and tumble of kids playing is not on our kids’ radar at all these days.
We have forgotten how to teach our kids how to win or accept defeat graciously. They rarely learn about turn-taking or how to control their impulses as they play with other kids.
We no longer care about how and when they should learn to co-ordinate their balance as they play on a bike or a scooter.
This is why kids need to be outside more often
There is so much research available which shows that kids playing outside can have so many health benefits:-
· Less chance of obesity as they burn off more calories
· Their bones and muscles are reinforced
· Less chance of Vitamin D deficiency when and if they can play in the sunshine
· Kids feel less stressed after playing outside
· Toddlers and younger kids get to experience nature and develop their sensory skills
· Boosts good humor and optimism
· Improves their immune systems
Scandinavia leads the way according to OECD
I know about an American family with a kid who had ADHD. They had to move to Norway. They left the ADHD meds at home and they were delighted to find that their child was actually happy at school and no longer struggled to do his homework. They were no fights or quarrels.
The Norwegian school system was so different from the USA. They noticed that there were:-
· Always 3 recesses rather than 1
· Field trip of up to half a day is compulsory once a week
· Each kid was getting at least two hours of playtime and that is 400% more than what they have in the USA
· Lessons finish one hour earlier so more playtime for the kids
They were even more impressed when they learned that the Scandinavian countries are at the top of the list as regards The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) .
Finland is at number 8. It must be all those recesses! Norway is in 18th place. The USA comes in at the 31st for math, science, and reading.
Time for urgent action!
We must get our kids outside and let them play. It is as simple as that.
If we don’t, we are depriving them of the great experiences that only nature can give us.
Time to put away the smartphones and get outside!