Contributed by September Blogger of the Month, Mae Kiggins
I am an avid outdoors person. Growing up my family didn’t take vacations, we went on camping trips. I dreamed of going to the large national parks; Zions, Arches and Bryce (I lived in Utah at the time). I am still hoping to go on a white water rafter trip someday. When we weren’t in the mountains my friends and I spent our time jumping on the trampoline, climbing trees, roller skating and playing night games.
But times are different. The average American child spends 5-7 hours a day in front of a screen. That doesn’t leave much time for kids to play outdoors and to do all the things we have fond memories of doing when we were kids. Add in school time with their one 30 minute recess a day and the situation is down-right dire. Yet there is abundant research documenting the importance of outdoor play. Most of it is pretty logical. Child obesity rates and diagnosis of ADHD have sky rocketed at the same time as outdoor play time has decrease dramatically. We all want healthy kids but outdoor play does far more than just keep our kids skinny and able to focus!
Forbes released an article that covers what they believe are parental behaviors that cripple their child’s development. The number one crippling behavior they site is parents not letting kids experience risk. Researchers have found that if kids are not allowed to play outdoors and experience a skinned knee, for example, they tend to develop phobias. Kids, like adults, learn through experience. If they don’t have the experience of falling and getting hurt they won’t learn how to get up and keep going even when it is hard. They won’t learn their own limits and how to push them.
But the benefits of playing outdoors doesn’t stop there. The Washington Post reported that lack of play is causing children to have more sensory issues. Our children are not learning to take turns, share or deal with emotions. All of that can be learned through play but when they aren’t getting it there we have to spend a lot of money teaching them. Wouldn’t it be much easier and cheaper if we just let them play?
Scholastic reports that the more confident children are physically the more confident they tend to be socially. It is all interconnected. Kids playing outdoors allows them to feel proud when they master a skill. They are more developed physically which helps them develop more socially and they have more opportunities to practice social skills with other kids when they are playing.
In my, and many others’ opinions, the best thing we can do to help prepare our kids to be successful adults is to let them play and have plenty of free-time outdoors.
Mae is a recovering park ranger spending her days blogging about her family’s outdoor escapades at OutdoorsMom. As an urban outdoor mom, Mae occupies a niche in the outdoor blogger community, offering ideas and encouragement to city dwellers that connects them with the outdoors.