The demands of modern life, with our ever-increasing reliance on technology and dwindling attention spans, have spilled over from adulthood and slowly crept further and further down the age range. It’s now not uncommon for toddlers to be able to type their first password before they can say their first word – or even when they make their first utterance, it’s to turn their voice-controlled TV on!
Some people may argue that this technological over-stimulation is now part of daily life – our eyes and those of our children are now forever attached to phone and computer screens as we shun the physical world around us for a virtual substitute. At Qured, we take a very different position. In this post, we’ll talk you through the various benefits of increasing your children’s exposure to the great outdoors.
So shut down all electronics, turn off the Wi-Fi and tell the kids to head to the nearest exit. We’re taking this outside…
Outdoor play is the best way for children to keep active and get their daily recommendation of exercise. The sheer space and variety of obstacles provides no shortage of mental stimulation while every part of their body receives a work out. From climbing trees to jumping into puddles, swinging from ropes to running through fields, kids are spoilt for choice when it comes to outdoor activities. The resulting increase in fitness will significantly lower their risk of developing a multitude of health issues, including obesity, arthritis, cancer and heart problems.
Your kids being active outdoors is also infinitely preferable to your kids being active indoors. Just ask any parent who has had their prized ornament smashed as the result of a secret in-door football match. While TVs, tablets and phones are good for keeping your kids quiet and sedentary, they are doing nothing for their bodies and probably damaging their eyes. There’s simply no substitute for the great outdoors when it comes to keeping your children healthy – it’s also great for maintaining a healthy sleep cycle too!
Playing outside gives kids the chance to think for themselves. Away from the supervision of adults, they have to interpret the world around them and make their own decisions. This not only nurtures their executive functions and cognitive abilities but also develops their social skills. When groups of children are given the freedom to interact openly, they have to learn how to talk to each other, make friends, share and cooperate.
Outdoor sports are a great way to allow children this autonomy, as they are thinking for themselves while operating within the safe structure of a game – which prevents things from getting out of hand! They will learn the importance of communication, joint-effort and reward, as well as the just as necessary feelings of struggle, consequence and disappointment. All of these skills are vital for preparing kids for the path ahead of them and are difficult to achieve or even supervise when they’re withdrawn into their electronic worlds.
Being outside increases your children’s exposure to the most natural supply of vitamin D – sunlight. The human body uses this vitamin to absorb calcium, which is vital for healthy bones and even more important when you’re young and your bones are still developing. A study by the American Academy of Paediatrics also suggested that vitamin D helps prevent health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.
Allowing your children to regularly play outdoors will ensure they receive that natural dose of delicious vitamin D (is that what the ‘D’ stands for?). Remember to be mindful of the duration your kids spend in the sunlight. Apply sunscreen whenever possible to protect their skin from harmful UV rays, especially during summer or if they will be in direct sunlight for extended periods of time.
Modern homes are significantly more sterilised than they were even 20 years ago and the effects are clear. Despite parents’ best intentions to keep their children safe from diseases, over-sterilising their homes and basting their kids in anti-bacterial gel has resulted in an increased rate of allergies, asthma and other conditions caused by a hypersensitive immune system.
There is a growing consensus in the scientific community that exposure to germs in the great outdoors will help build a stronger, more resilient immune system, especially in children and younger people. Professor Jack Gilbert, the director of the Microbiome Centre at the University of Chicago, believes that allowing kids to play outside – in the open air and in the sticky mud – is incredibly beneficial to their wellbeing and vital for a healthy immune system. As Professor Gilbert puts it, “dirt is good!”
Helping your kids enjoy the great outdoors could be as easy as heading to the nearest park or even bug hunting in your own back garden. If you’re struggling for ideas, check out our blog post on 6 tips for parents to get children exercising.
If you are concerned about your children’s health and wellbeing, contact a medical professional for advice and help. With the Qured app, you can see a doctor at a time and location of your choice.