Encouraging outdoor play has never been more important than now. In this digital age, we explore why it’s so important children should switch off the screen and head outdoors.
Children rapidly become experts at navigating electronic gadgets. Youngsters who have yet to learn their ABC are now responding to technology with almost effortless ease. A study found, on average, children ages 8-12 spend 4-6 hours a day watching or using screens, and teens spend up to 9 hours. But why is it important to encourage children to ditch their gadgets for a while and go play outside?
Why do we need to encourage outdoor play?
Undeniably, technology has its benefits for children. Everyday, new children’s apps are created and can be downloaded on various devices. Often these are educational, helping children to read or do basic arithmetic. In fact, learning this way can be part of a healthy mix of education channels. However, overexposure to this type of medium barely leaves room for a growing child to experience the many benefits of outdoor play. Below are some shocking stats revealed from a survey of 2,000 parents of 5 to 12-year-olds. The survey – part of Persil’s Dirt is Good campaign – revealed the following:
- Children spend twice as long playing on screens as they do playing outside.
- 3-in-4 children spend less than 60 minutes playing outside each day.
- 1-in-5 children don’t play outside at all on a typical day.
- 3-in-4 parents said their children often refuse to play games without some form of technology.
- 2-in-3 parents say their children spend less time outside than they did when they were young.
What’s the attraction?
It’s not hard to understand the appeal of technology to a child. Apps and games are designed specifically to appeal to children and regularly updated to keep the content fresh. Young children have short attention spans, and digital apps allow them to easily switch games once they grow tired.
But it’s not just the youngsters – we adults are to blame too. The convenience of not having to tidy up after a messy playtime session and being able to attend to other things whilst children are completely absorbed with what’s on the screen mean digital entertainment is an easy thing to let them do.
Outdoor play keeps bodies active
One thing about sitting in front of a screen is that you are doing just that – sitting. Children need to be physically active to ensure they grow up into strong, healthy adults. Playing outdoors strengthens the immune system and helps children become less vulnerable to disease. Outside, children are likely to run, jump and skip, allowing them to get their daily dose of exercise. This reduces the risk of obesity, which is a heart disease factor that was found to have doubled in the past decade.
Playing together develops social intelligence
When playing with peers, children learn to overcome their shyness, partake in conversations, and learn teamwork. They become aware of the many varied personalities around them and how to deal with each one accordingly. This promotes several social skills such as cooperation, leadership, and sensitivity to the needs of others. These are qualities you cannot realistically learn behind a screen and are very important skills to take into adulthood and their working lives.
Outdoor play encourages creativity
Without instant entertainment at the click of a button, children are more likely to rely on their imaginations to make playtime fun and interesting. With a little creativity, children can turn the simplest space into a zone worthy of hours of attention. Imaginative play is hugely important in our formative years.
Encouraging outdoor play
Encouraging outdoor play is unlikely to be successful without a play space that inspires children. Whether you’re looking for a themed play area or an activity frame, one thing is clear – when schools create these spaces for children, they are making a positive investment in their social education and personal development.