Is excessive time indoors harming your child? How to spend more time outdoors

If you think back to your childhood, chances are that you remember among other things, lots of playing outdoors. 

For the overall growth and well-being of the child, a healthy dose of Outdoor Play in the fresh air and some sun is highly recommended. 

Playing outdoors has been linked positively to the overall growth of the child as it provides a wide range of opportunities to learn and explore new things in life. But, it seems easier said than done. 

Kids nowadays seem tied up with activities one after the other and they are not getting adequate time out in nature. While they juggle between school, finishing homework, and other activities, getting outside for free play has become next to impossible.

This reduction in outdoor play for children is becoming a growing concern among childcare experts. We keep meeting pediatricians for designing our toys and many of them have spoken about an alarming trend of problems that can be traced back to a lack of time spent outdoors.

Problems due to lack of outdoor activities:

There are many reasons for kids not playing outdoors or not taking interest in outdoor games and recent studies have revealed that they are generally linked to limited space, oversight, and safety concerns. 

With smaller families and diminishing spaces, it has become difficult for parents to carve out opportunities for outdoor play. This has led to an increase in multiple issues among children in recnt years.

1. Obesity in children

Lack of spending time in nature and playing outdoors has resulted in increased cases of Obesity in children. With irregular sleep patterns and an increase in unhealthy food choices, Obesity in kids has increased drastically leading to serious medical conditions. Overweight children are more prone to having low- self-esteem and body image issues.

For our body to remain healthy, it has to burn the extra fat that has been consumed through food and Physical activity is very important to shed those extra pounds and stay fit. 

2. Diabetes in kids

As disturbing as it sounds, India is among the nations with the highest number of children and adolescents (<20 years) living with type 1 diabetes. With increasing levels of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents in many countries, type 2 diabetes in this age group has the potential to become a global public health issue leading to serious health outcomes.

Exercising is one of the most common and crucial parts of treating diabetes and with children having the capacity and energy to spare, Playing outdoor games and spending sufficient time in nature is sure to heal many ailments.

3. Vitamin D deficiency:

In a recent conversation with a pediatrician, we heard her concern about increasing cases of Vitamin D deficiency. The funny thing, she said, is how easily it can be remedied. Just 10-15 minutes of sun exposure every day can give sufficient vitamin D, not only for skin health but overall health. But nowadays parents are relying on medicinal supplements for filling up the gap in nutrition rather than utilizing the boon that nature has given us in full abundance. 

4. Screen Addiction:

A study recommends exposure should be limited to a maximum of one hour of supervised screen time per day for children 2-5 years old children, and less than two hours per day for children 5-10 years of age. But the reality is different, prolonged use of gadgets and other screens could become a habit and lead to many physical and mental issues. Typically screens are given to engage the child as a substitute for outdoor play. By re-introducing physical activities, preferably outdoors, exposure to screens could be minimized.

5. Impatience in kids

The lack of opportunities to play outdoor games can cause a decrease in a child's ability to regulate their emotions and deal with stress. This can result in increased impatience and impulsiveness. Outdoor games often involve teamwork and physical activities including sports, teaching kids problem-solving abilities, patience, and self-control. In addition, exposure to nature has been shown to have a calming effect, so a lack of outdoor play can indirectly contribute to an increase in impatience in kids.

Benefits of Playing Outdoors

Playing outdoors is important for several reasons:

  1. Physical Health: Outdoor activities provide opportunities for physical exercise, improving physical fitness, and reducing the risk of obesity and other health problems.
  2. Mental Health: Spending time in nature and participating in outdoor activities can reduce stress and improve overall mood and mental well-being.
  3. Cognitive Development: Outdoor play and exploration can enhance creativity, problem-solving skills, and cognitive development.
  4. Social Skills: Outdoor activities often involve social interaction and cooperation, helping children to develop social skills and improve relationships with others.
  5. Connection to Nature: Spending time outdoors can foster a greater appreciation and understanding of the natural world, and promote a more sustainable and environmentally conscious lifestyle.
  6. Patience: Kids who are used to playing outside or outdoor games as a routine, tend to develop many skills such as fine motor skills, and social behavioral skills such as being patient, sharing and negotiating, and so on. Playing outside not only helps in physical growth and fitness but also improves communication and emotional intelligence too.
  7. Stamina: Kids who regularly play outside their house build good stamina that retains their energy even for other activities. In these times of fast-paced life, developing the quality of patience and physical stamina assures a healthy and energetic life.
  8. Learning from Peers: Younger kids always look up to the elder ones and follow in their footsteps involuntarily. When these little ones watch other kids playing different sports, they too eventually develop an interest in the sport and try to practice and excel in it.

Tips to encourage your child to play outside

Many studies suggest that younger kids like toddlers and preschoolers should at least get 4-5 hours of play. Although it includes indoor play, considering in many cases the time for indoor play gets distributed with screen time, You could start with 3-4 hours of Outdoor playing. Playing outside regularly will enable them to build stamina, learn social skills, improve their decision-making skills, and get a new perspective every day.

1. Follow your child:

Every child is different. Some enjoy playing in the sand and making sand castles. On the other hand, some kids love to run all over the place, climbing and jumping throughout the day. Give them the freedom to choose their sport and play. Join them as much as possible(to get your dose of Vit D) and make going to the playground a part of your daily routine that you do not skip. 

2. Active Toys:

Get them toys that encourage free play and outdoor play. Kids always love a game of football or you could simply play catch with them. You could start with simple outdoor toys like a Wanda or a Hand Kite, or Superscapes for your superheroes. If you have a toddler or a preschooler at home, get them a cycle with a set of training wheels, a Hula hoop, or a beginner's skateboard.

3. Weekend activities:

Plan your free time to make up for the weekdays indoors. Ditch the activity center at the mall for a walk in the park. Choose a nature trail instead of another hobby class indoors. Or, try a picnic outdoors instead of lunch at a fast food restaurant. 

4. Prop less games:

Nature is such that you don't really need toys or materials to play with every time. Remember your childhood and teach them games like Dog N the Bone or a game of Hide and Seek. These classic games never fail to impress and are loved by kids of every generation. 

5. Training:

Make going to the playground a day-to-day affair and let them explore different sports and games and make friends. Once they find interest in any particular game, try to keep the spirit alive and get them professionally trained. This will shape their future and also make fitness a routine in their life.

Overall, try to take your kids outdoors as much as possible. Kids when younger have immense energy and are non-stop learners. Try different activities with them and explore the world.

If you have a backyard, convert that into a play area, take them to nature trails, and learn about different species of birds, animals, and other life forms. Take them to Farms, Waterfalls, Beaches, Treks, the list is never-ending.

The learning that they get outside the classrooms is endless. No moment of outside play is ever a waste of time when it comes to child development.

So who’s up for an adventure?

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