What's so great about kids being outside?
Children now spend less time outdoors than many previous generations. Just how much less might surprise you. According to several studies, children spend half as much time outdoors as children did 20 years ago.
The free, active outside time of childhood has, in many cases, been replaced with passive entertainment such as technology and media. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, children age 8–18 spend more than seven and a half hours consuming media in an average day.
Busy parents who are concerned for their child’s safety may unwittingly limit their child’s experiences and learning by favoring indoor play over outdoor play. Television and computers tap only into the senses of hearing and sight. Learning that doesn’t engage the other senses as well often compromises children’s perceptual abilities.
Here’s how outside time helps children grow smarter and stronger:
- Practicing and developing motor skills like running and jumping
- Learning to throw, catch, push, pull and carry items
- Exercising for healthy lungs and a healthy heart and burning calories
- Keeping the body’s natural clock in sync
- Experiencing full sensory learning with touch, smell and, yes, sometimes taste
- Developing and using imagination and creativity
- Learning to create and abide by group rules
- Supporting the ability to concentrate without pent up energy
- Learning ways to self-entertain
- Developing and building communication skills
- Learning and practicing cooperation with peers
- Limiting aggressive behavior without pent up energy
Children are expected to be attentive and mindful in indoor settings ranging from home to child care to school. Being outside is a chance to let loose. Children can be as loud and messy as they’d like to be. In fact, being able to run, jump and yell releases the very youthful energy many adults crave.
Encourage children to play outside and play with them. Be sure that they wear appropriate clothing for the weather and have adequate supervision.
Learn more about healthy childhoods at abcquality.org.
Raising healthy children is a full time job for parents. ABC Quality supports parents with reliable information about child care, child development and more. The program is administered by the SC Department of Social Services’ Division of Early Care and Education.
By ABC Quality Team on April 4, 2017