* Dropping Technology and Returning to the Great Outdoors

By Kelsey Weber, LSW, March 20, 2018 –

“Dinner’s ready, it’s time to come in.”  “But Mom, just five more minutes!”

Do you remember playing outside until dark, hearing your parents call for you to come home and not wanting to go inside?

Fast forward 20 years.  Does it seem as though your child is always inside watching TV, playing video games or accessing social media on their phone?

In the last two decades, childhood outdoor play has decreased while indoor play has increased. This has taken a toll mentally and physically on today’s youth.

Spending less time outdoors has contributed to a rise in childhood obesity and the decline of creativity, concentration and social skills.

The National Wildlife Federation states the average American child spends as little as 30 minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day and more than seven hours each day in front of a screen, compared to three hours a day in 1995.  In our expanding world of technology, it is extremely difficult for children to get away from electronics.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents monitor screen time for children ages 1-18 and never allow it to replace healthy activities – particularly sleep, social interaction and physical activity.

Too much screen time affects children in the following ways:

  • Children who consistently spend more than four hours per day on a screen are more likely to be overweight.
  • Children who watch violent TV shows or play violent video games are more likely to display aggressive behaviors or fear the world around them.
  • Children can be influenced by TV and video game characters that often display risky behaviors such as smoking and drinking.

So, what are the benefits of dropping technology and heading outside?

Evidence demonstrates the many benefits nature has on children’s psychological and physical well-being. Recent studies have shown the necessity of spending time outdoors to reduce stress, increase creativity, and improve physical health and concentration.

Children who play outside are smarter, happier, more attentive, and less anxious than children who spend more time indoors.  Play in nature includes, but is not limited to, these benefits:

  • Children build confidence by having less structure than most types of indoor play. Interacting in outdoor enivronments is limitless and allows children to choose how they treat and play in nature.
  • Nature promotes creativity and imagination by allowing children to interact meaningfully with their surroundings, which develops free thinking, creation of new activities, and viewing the world in different ways.
  • Children learn responsibility by taking care of living things and the environment that surrounds them.
  • Nature provides more stimulation than TV or video games due to the activation of more senses by being able to see, hear, smell, and touch the outdoors.
  • Nature helps increase physical activity.
  • Nature increases children’s ability to focus, which decreases the negative effects associated with ADHD.
  • Nature creates a sense of wonder. For example, a child can watch animals interacting and ask questions to learn and understand.
  • Nature reduces stress and fatigue. Having wide open spaces enables children to run and play while ignoring distractions, burning energy, and decreasing daily stressors that exhaust their brains.

Although your child may want screen time and it may sometimes be the easier approach, the benefits of nature outweigh any possible benefits of screen time.

So, what can parents do to help get their children off the couch and outside? Parents can take their kids on walks, encourage outdoor games with friends, limit screen time per day, plan regular times for outdoor play, create activities with family members, and much more.

“It’s not so much what children know about nature that’s important, as what happens to them when they are in nature.”- Unknown

Kids Benefit From Playing Outside

Kids playing outside

By Diane Braun, Courier & Press, May 3, 2016 –

Spring and summer brings blue skies, warm breezes and the sound of children playing outdoors. Most parents have no problem sending their children outside to play.

Why? Because we all know there are quite a few real benefits to playing outdoors.

Children who play outside learn how to solve real-life problems better than children who are always in their rooms playing video games in seclusion. Examples of problem solving include learning to get along with friends or trying to figure out the best way to build a fort.

Playing outside provides children with exercise, something many children don’t get enough of anymore. Outdoor play combines exercise with having fun. Riding bikes, playing tag with friends and throwing or hitting a ball all get our children’s bodies moving, something playing most video games can’t accomplish.

It may be hard to accept that children could experience stress or suffer from conditions such as depression or anxiety, but these issues are becoming more common with today’s kids who have busy schedules with long school days and extracurricular activities.

Physical activity in the form of outdoor play can help kids reduce their stress. The Children & Nature Network says contact with nature can help reduce stress levels and positively impact conditions such as anxiety or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

One of the qualities many children are lacking is imagination. In today’s age of technology, children are provided with images for everything.

Why go outside and play astronaut in outer space when we can watch a movie about it or play a video game? Playing outside helps children develop their imagination, which is something television, video games and computers can’t do.

Free play and discretionary time has declined more than nine hours a week over the last 25 years. A new Nielson Company report indicates children 2-5 now spend more than 32 hours a week on average in front of a TV screen.

According to the Keiser Family Foundation, the amount of screen time only increases with age with school-aged children spending 7.5 hours a day on electronic media.

Finally, it’s important that children get vitamin D, and the best source is the sun. Vitamin D helps promote better moods, energy levels, memory and overall health. Just 10-15 minutes out in the sun will give our children their daily dose of vitamin D.

Encouraging children to go outside, get moving and connect with the natural world are all ways to reverse childhood obesity rates. But the benefits don’t stop there. Kids who play outside are happier, healthier and stronger!