As family’s daily routines have been turned upside down due to the COVID19 Virus and stay at home mandates, it may be a great time to rethink some of your child’s daily schedule and play habits. It’s pretty obvious that todays technology has had a significant impact on children’s lifestyle, one of which is the amount of time spent outdoors. However, there is also evidence that shows the lack of time spent outdoors may be adversely impacting children’s physical and mental health.
Benefits of Going Outdoors
Exercise: National Center for Health Statistics reports a dramatic increase in obesity in children. With 1 out of every 5 kids being classified as obese, it is crucial that changes are made in children’s lifestyles that make it easier for kids to maintain proper weights. Although proper dieting is important, it is much easier to encourage kids to get more exercise in outdoor fun and activities.
Vitamin D deficiency: The primary source for vitamin D is sunlight. With the amount of time children spend indoors, it should come to no surprise that Vitamin D deficiency is on the rise. Pediatricians say that although Vitamin D is available in food and vitamins supplements, it is not absorbed though the intestine as well. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with increased risk of cancer, hypertension, and other diseases. (https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/87/4/1080S/4633477)
Socialization: Prior to the COVID19 outbreak, children spend most of their day in a structured atmosphere. For a child to develop life and socialization skills, it’s important that they have time to interact with other kids and learn to resolve conflict on their own. Sand boxes, swing sets and sprinklers make a great setting for kids to naturally learn sharing, playing together as well as consequences of our actions. Afterall, only one person can go down a slide at once and children love to share the opportunity to push a friend swinging while waiting their turn. As communities get ready to reenter a world of interaction socialization, use this time to develop healthy habits that encourage your child time with his or her peers.
Mental health: In recent years there has been a significant increase in depression among youth. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/psychological-medicine/article/trends-in-depression-prevalence-in-the-usa-from-2005-to-2015-widening-disparities-in-vulnerable-groups/8A2904A85BB1F4436102DB78E3854E35
It’s More than Just Fresh Air
It’s difficult to deny that this trend is rising as kids are spending less time doing outdoor activities and are spending more time indoors. Recent studies have shown that spending time outdoors helps reduce the side effect of depression and spending time outside should even be used to supplement depression and anxiety medications.
Thinking skills are greatly improved with outdoor activities. Finding ways to entertain one’s self, watching animals, digging in the soil helps to improve kid’s executive functioning and cognitive ability. This is crucial in raising children that can plan, prioritize, multi-task and solve problems.Make it a Routine
Children spending more time outside should be enjoyable, but like anything else, it must become part of a routine. Set aside time for your child to be outside. Part of this may include time to do outdoor chores, playing with siblings and friends or even with family. You may want to contact your local extension office to find out what opportunities are available for your child to join 4-H club that encourage numerous outdoor activities and responsibilities through projects such at gardening and raising animals.