Go Outside!

“I understand what you’re saying, and your comments are valuable, but I’m gonna ignore your advice” (R DAHL).

Sound familiar? As a parent I’ve had a few battles over the years against the pull of electronic devices, and it seems that I’m not alone – it has been reported that three quarters of UK children spend less time outside than prison inmates, with a fifth of the children surveyed not playing outside at all on an average day! (D CARRINGTON).

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In America, the preference for sitting in front of a screen rather than playing outside has become so extreme that it has been given a label: Nature Deficit Disorder. In a book on this topic by Richard Louv, he quotes a child who told him he liked playing indoors more than outdoors “cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are”. The author directly links the lack of nature in our lives to worrying childhood trends, such as rising obesity levels, attention deficit disorder and depression, with studies showing that too much screen time spells trouble for the developing mind. (R LOUV).

But don’t worry, there are lots of things we can do to get kids outside. Start by making a summer bucket list - this can include places you visit together as a family, but can also be as simple as inviting friends round to play with the sprinkler in the back garden. Get active with your children, take them on a bike ride or build a den with them. Create a treasure hunt where the kids collect bits and bobs from nature like stones they can paint, something green, a pinecone…. the possibilities are endless! Eating outside can be fun too, whether it’s a picnic in the park or ice cream in the back garden.

And don’t worry about the mess! Sand, mud, water…. yes, things might get mucky but that’s not such a bad thing. A new study shows what those of us who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s already know – it’s ok to let kids get dirty. Studies suggest that the overuse of antiseptics may be harming kids more than helping them. For example, when a child is raised in a relatively sterile environment the lack of germs can store up problems for later life such as asthma or allergies. (R LEWIS).

I remember when I was a child and the summer holidays came around and we just went outside all day… but what did you play with your friends, can you remember? Introduce some of the games you used to play when you were little to your children. Tag, or hide and seek anyone? Kerbie or kick the can? Hopscotch - or “pauldies” as we called it in Fife!

And remember, we don’t have to provide our children with entertainment all day, every day. Take away the constant stimulation that screen time provides, send them outside and let their imaginations take over! As parents and carers we have a responsibility to help sow the seeds of imagination and creativity by giving children the skills to play and evolve – boredom is water for these seeds. (N COLIER).