A culture of video games, binge TV and the internet is influencing children and young adults to stay home rather than play in nature. The Washington Post reports the average child in America spent between five to eight hours staring into a screen.
Digital screens are not good for a number of reasons. Spending long hours in front of computers, smartphones, tablets and HD TV’s causes a physical strain to your eyes and body, disrupts sleep and can impair cognitive ability.
The knock-on effect can creep into other areas of life. Studies have shown that too much screen time delays learning in young children by 50% for every 30 minutes of watching TV. Research also shows children have weaker emotional judgement and fewer social skills.
The sedentary nature of using digital devices also promotes obesity – which in turn makes children more susceptible to other chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, depression and anxiety.
Developing healthy habits whilst your children are young will stay with them for the rest of their lives. It may be more difficult for parents with independent and moody teenagers to contend with, but encouraging children of all ages to embrace nature will have health benefits long-term.
How to Encourage Your Kids To Play In Nature
The health benefits of nature are not fully understood by scientists. However, what we do know is that a mountain of scientific studies all point to nature being a boon for mental, physical and emotional health.
Being in nature obviously involves an element of physical exercise – and there is no dispute that exercise is good. Even 30-60 minutes a day of moderate exercise like walking has been shown to be beneficial.
Whilst some kids will leap at the opportunity to go on an adventure walk in the woods or a picnic on the plains, others will need bribing. Chocolate bars are an energy booster anyway, but you could always promise to stop by for pizza or an ice-cream parlour on the return journey.
Asking your children to invite their friends is an effective strategy. Day trips are always more fun when you share the experience with friends. You could also create fun games or interesting hunts to help pass the time and stave off boredom. This article has loads of great ideas for entertaining kids on nature walks.
If your children are resistant to heading out into nature, try booking a weekend away in a nature reserve that offers all types of fun activities such as abseiling, kayaking, mountain biking and zip-lining.
Showing, as opposed to telling, teenagers the benefits of playing outdoors helps them come to an understanding for themselves. Hopefully, they will find a hobby they are keen to participate in more often and leave the house more often once the adventure is over.
With fears around Covid-19 dragging on, it’s important for everyone to build a healthy immune system. And exercising in nature is one of the best healers on the planet.