Parenting is one of the most challenging duties an individual will undertake in his or her life. It requires a lot of responsibility and energy, as you have to support your child physically, emotionally, financially, and socially. Almost everything you do will affect your child in some way, but you won’t know in what way until years later. What we do know is that a happy childhood is crucial to becoming a healthy adult.
Modern parents often resort to technological devices, such as cell phones and tablets to keep their kids occupied. However, by doing so, they are depriving them of the real joys of the physical world. Children need to spend some quality time outside, with their parents, other kids or just real-world items.
Nowadays, parents undermine the importance of outdoor exposure in their child’s upbringing. In this article, we will talk about the benefits of spending time outdoors and how that makes you a good parent. Stick around to learn more!
Why Does Your Child Prefer Staying Inside?
You might have noticed that your child wants to sit in front of a screen instead of joining you for a picnic or to play outside. While this can be a matter of personal preference, most of the time, it is not and comes down to learned behavior.
Richard Louv proposed a theory called ‘nature deficit disorder,’ which implies that children are lured and fascinated by modern technology and wish to spend more time with these devices. It is the child’s curiosity that keeps it glued to screens, avoiding the outdoors as much as possible. The theory is not recognized as a medical condition, but it does make sense to a certain extent.
The more your child dissociates from society, the more it gets attached to solitude, video games, and virtual connections. According to the Child Mind Institute, children in America spend only 4 to 7 minutes a day outside and over 7 hours in front of a screen.
The parents tend to take an easy way out while their children are infants, as they want to keep them quiet and sitting still. However, as they grow older, these habits stay with them and undermine their social skills.
Some parents wish to keep their child close by and thus try to keep it occupied with modern gadgets. Either way, staying inside too much is not advisable for a child.
Benefits of Spending Time Outside
Spending time outdoors is beneficial for both children and adults. This can be out in nature like the woods, by a lake, etc., or it can be a park in your neighborhood.
The Mind State Institute claims that ”kids who play outside are smarter, happier, more attentive, and less anxious than kids who spend more time indoors.”
Therefore, your child’s mental health is going to benefit considerably from outdoor excursions. Its mood is more likely to improve, as nature has such a positive impact on our minds. Here are seven advantages of spending time outside as a child:
Instead of sitting in a computer chair or on a couch, your child would get the opportunity to move around. Exercise is essential for its long-term health, and if your child does not do it on its own, then spending time outside will be the next best alternative.
Whether it is playing any sports or simply walking around, the child’s body would be on the go. These outdoor sessions are essential for the body and serve as natural cardio but also decompress the spine. Prolonged sitting weakens the back and stomach muscles, leading to a hunched over posture that only gets worse with time.
When you work out, your body releases endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals often related to the perception of pain, but they also trigger positive emotions. Apart from that, after a long day outdoors, your child will most likely fall asleep on time, which will fix its sleep schedule.
When a child is on its phone, the elements on the screen control the child’s mood, making it passive as time goes by. While outdoors, your child would have more energy and the will to control its actions, paths, and activities it participates in. This sense of decision-making power inculcates self-confidence at a very young age.
When children play outside, they get the opportunity to interact with other kids of their age. This helps develop interpersonal and communications skills, which would not be possible while staring at a screen.
It Teaches Responsibility
If you provide your child with the opportunity to interact with the outside world, it will have a lot more to do. As a kid plans its activities, comes back home on time, feeds the pet or waters the plants, it starts feeling like there is a bigger purpose to life. This will help the child understand that taking responsibility for something else is natural and rewarding. This entails developing a work habit, which would not be possible if the kid is stuck with the gadgets all the time.
It Provides Stimulation
As children spend more time indoors, their senses become a lot more passive. People are drawn to nature, and that is where our senses of smell, taste, sight, hear, and touch are the most active.
We listen for different sounds, look at all the different sights, and smell the trees, plants, grass, etc. All of this allows our senses to be more active. These natural stimulations are not possible while sitting in front of a screen.
Nature Makes You Think
Spending time in the woods or by a river comes with its benefits. You are left alone with your thoughts, without any distractions.
Thinking about things and reaching conclusions in your head makes you learn more about yourself. Children also might start thinking about the world, the things happening around them, and the like. This makes their brain more active, which can truly boost their creativity once they get back home.
Helps With Imagination
Nature is an excellent source of inspiration. Many writers, artists, and poets have used nature as their muse. It helped create numerous outstanding works.
When you are not given everything on a plate, when you have to create your own toys and entertainment to avoid boredom, you are more likely to become creative. This can quickly become a habit, and your child might improve its creativity in other fields as well.
Unlike video games that can stress out a child because they are designed to drip-feed the player with positive feelings, nature offers quite the opposite.
When you are in the outside world, walking through the woods, there is not much to worry about. It is just you and green leaves. You get to breathe in the fresh air and think about life. Walking outside can be very therapeutic for a child.
How to Motivate A Child?
Even if you understand how beneficial it is for a child to spend time outdoors, it might be challenging to have it take the first step. We are bringing you a couple of ways to motivate your child to come outside with you:
Start At A Young Age
As soon as your child can walk independently, make sure to reduce your reliance on all of the pacifying gadgets. This will teach it to look out for itself, and the kid will naturally get used to interacting with the real world.
Of course, we are not advising that you leave your child unattended.
Do Not Give Up
Going anywhere with kids requires a lot of work and energy. Whether this is a hike, a vacation, or a simple walk in the park, you would barely have any peace. However, do not give up and stay consistent.
Take your child on outdoor activities without thinking about immediate gains, since they are essential for the child’s long-term growth. They will be outdoorsy and independent when they grow up, and you will eventually have time for yourself too.
Do not immediately take your child on a physically draining activity like hiking. Start by introducing it to nature first. Encourage it to participate in minor activities like walks, bike rides, jogs, and runs.
Don’t do it to the point of exhaustion either. Take breaks often and savor the quality time you spend together. If you push a kid to do too much initially, it will probably find it too difficult and lose interest.
Bribery is never good unless it is in the form of a reward for your child for doing something good. Small things like candy and toys will motivate children to do things they are too lazy to do in general.
You can promise to take them for ice cream after a bit of hike or allow them to play video games for an hour. This is also an excellent way to compromise.
However, never promise a child something that you do not plan on delivering. That would paint you as dishonest, and you would not be able to get it to do similar things in the future.
If you take your child out on a hike, to a lake, or anything like that, make sure to be flexible.
Go with the flow, and do not get upset if something does not go according to the plan. Maybe your child enjoys something else better than the activity you had in mind. Either way, spending time outside together is what counts.
Let your child know that it is free to communicate any inconveniences. Complaining the entire day is not going to benefit anyone. Try to reach a mutual agreement where everybody is going to be happy. Never push the kid to do something it doesn’t want to engage in.
Bring Essentials For Them
Instead of making your child carry around a backpack full of things meant for the activity you had in mind, pack only the essentials to carry.
At some point, the child might want to seem more grown-up and carry its own essentials. Until there is enthusiastic clamoring for that, try not to make the kid’s existence more difficult by making the entire experience exhausting.
Insist On Playing Outside
Apart from hanging out with you in the park, try to get your child to play with its friends or peers. Buy the kid a bicycle or roller skates to help it learn how to move with grace. Suggest safe places where the kid can go instead of staring at the screen for an entire day.
Talk About The Activities
Try to excite your child about a trip or a hike by talking about it and how great it will be! Give plenty of details and all of the fun stuff that can be done there. This would spike the child’s interest, and it should look forward to the day.
Come Up With Games And Activities
You can set up a treasure hunt where a kid would have to find objects based on clues. This would both be a fun and learning activity. You can also reward it afterward with treats, trinkets and praise.
This would be fun for the kid and sharpen its senses. There are numerous other games you can play, so make sure to research a bit or be creative.
Playing Outside Vs. Obesity
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), children should be sitting less and moving around more. Unfortunately, many children nowadays eat too much fast food while sitting around or laying in bed all day. This causes them to gain weight and develop different diseases. WHO stated the following:
”Improving physical activity, reducing sedentary time, and ensuring quality sleep in young children will improve their physical, mental health and wellbeing, and help prevent childhood obesity and associated diseases later in life.”
Therefore, encouraging your child to play outside not only benefits its mental health but also prevents possible diseases like obesity. It sounds tame, but obesity is not only about the excess fat on your child’s body — it leads to health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain cancers in the long run.
Your child is more likely to be physically active outdoors, on a safe hike, swimming in the pool, etc. Even casual physical activity will help the kid burn calories and have a lower blood pressure in adulthood.
Playing outdoors also improves sleep patterns, and getting a good night’s sleep is essential for a child.
Encouraging your child to embrace the outside world instead of their gadgets is of high importance. Studies have shown that playing outdoors is very beneficial for your child in different ways. There are quite a few strategies you can use to convince your child to play outside. Make sure to be a good parent, and teach your child to enjoy nature!