With constant access to digital screens, today’s kids are growing up in a world that is unlike the world their parents were familiar with in their youth. When used in moderation, these tablets, computers, and televisions offer significant entertainment and educational value, but too many children exceed the recommended one to two hours of daily screen time. Without dedicated outdoor activities, kids may spend all their time indoors.
Get Outside and Get Healthy
Like other parents, you probably worry that the countless hours your child spends staring at digital screens will affect his or her health and well-being. In fact, much of the data collected by doctors and researchers supports this concern.
Studies have shown, for example, that children who spend excessive time watching television may exhibit delayed language development. Meanwhile, other researchers have found that excessive screen time can lead to behavioral problems and sleeping disturbances, and it may reduce their ability to read the emotions of other people.
Screen time also appears to be strongly correlated with childhood obesity. For example, children typically consume 167 additional calories for every hour they spend in front of the television, and the physical inactivity associated with television time often results in obesity.
An Abundance of Educational Opportunities
Fortunately, some research suggests that outdoor recreational opportunities may reverse several of the problems associated with excessive screen time.
The benefits of outdoor time are not limited to improving your child’s physical health; the great outdoors also provide a litany of benefits for your child’s mental and emotional health as well. In fact, outdoor recreation can provide considerable educational value for your child.
Deciding that you want to encourage your child to spend more time outdoors is one thing, but devising activities to keep them outside and entertained can be a challenge. The allure of air conditioning, gaming systems, and other interior creature comforts is strong among modern youngsters, so you must offer equally appealing outdoor activities to reach your goals.
Some constructive things your children can do outside include the following:
Painting is an activity that can be accomplished indoors, but by moving your little Rembrandt’s easel outdoors, your child will get to pursue his or her passion while deriving all of the benefits of outdoor time. You will also enjoy easier cleanup time outdoors, which is always helpful for busy parents. You can take this artistic endeavor further by painting rocks found outside and making temporary outdoor murals with sidewalk chalk.
Gardening is a fun and educational activity and is especially well suited for youngsters who love “hands-on” projects that allow them to get a little dirty. Because the growth of plants and trees provides tangible reinforcement, gardening is also a pursuit that maintains the interest level of most children. Additionally, many children demonstrate an increased interest in healthy eating when they grow their own food, and it can be educational for students.
3. Night Activities
Nocturnal adventures of nearly any variety will interest your children and get them excited about learning. Try to tailor the specifics to match your child’s interest. For example, budding biologists may enjoy listening for owls or catching lightning bugs, while young students intent on becoming astronauts are sure to enjoy learning to identify the constellations.
4. Create a Clubhouse
Constructing a clubhouse with your child will help lure even the most indoor-oriented kids to venture outdoors. With sufficient creativity and effort, you can construct a modest clubhouse without the need for expensive materials or dangerous tools. Once constructed, the clubhouse can become your child’s favorite place to read, draw, or watch wildlife.
Sports provide one of the easiest ways to ensure your child spends time outside and benefits from exercise at the same time. Keep your child’s personality and preferences in mind when deciding on a particular sport or activity. Introverts may prefer solitary sports such as running, golf, or bicycling, while extroverts will likely prefer team sports such as baseball or soccer.
You might also consider visiting parks and nature reserves with your kids, swimming, finding nearby walking trails, playing with sprinklers and squirt toys, and outdoor games like water balloons. Getting the kids to play outside is worth the effort!