Children Outdoors …
Now that summer is on it’s way out, we need to understand how important it is for children to
spent healthy amounts of time in the outdoors. Children don’t play outdoors enough. With the
advancement of technology, kids are spending a great deal of time inside on devices that just
entertain them. This has become typical of today’s children. What is missing from this scenario
is how important it is for children to explore and play outdoors.
Seventy percent of toddlers met early years guidelines for daily physical activity but the older
children fared much worse. Only seven percent of five to eleven year olds and five percent of
twelve to seventeen year olds met recommended guidelines of sixty minutes of moderate to
vigorous activity daily.
Additionally, it is in the outdoors that children are likely to burn the most calories, which helps
prevent obesity, a heart disease risk factor that has doubled in the past decade. With studies
showing that as many as half of North American children are not getting enough exercise–and
that risk factors like hypertension and arteriosclerosis are showing up at age 5. Parents and
teachers need to give serious consideration to ways in which to prevent such health problems.
The outside is also important because the outdoor light stimulates the pineal gland, the part of
the brain that regulates the “biological clock,” is vital to the immune system, and makes us feel
The outside is the very best place for preschoolers to practice and master emerging physical
skills. It is in the outdoors that children can fully and freely experience motor skills like running,
leaping, and jumping. It is also the most appropriate area for the practice of ball-handling skills,
like throwing, catching, and striking. And children can perform other such manipulative skills as
pushing a swing, pulling a wagon, and lifting and carrying movable objects.
The outdoors has something more to offer than just physical benefits. Cognitive and social/
emotional development are impacted, too. Outside, children are more likely to invent games. As
they do, they’re able to express themselves and learn about the world in their own way. They
feel safe and in control, which promotes autonomy, decision-making, and organizational skills.
Inventing rules for games (as preschoolers like to do) promotes an understanding of why rules
What has also contributed to the change from outdoor to indoor playing is the “protection
paradox”. We are stifling our children’s ability to be more active and resilient by keeping them
indoors. We have become a society that is overly protective and controlling and our kids are
suffering from this. I am not advocating a careless disregard for safety but we need to recognize
the difference between danger and risk. Our society and our environments have gone to the
extreme when each parent needs to walk or drive their child to school. As a child, I can
remember a group of us walking to school together. Maybe, we have become isolated in our
neighbourhoods.? Maybe we need to work together and look at street proofing and boundaries.
Another adverse effect of children spending too little time outdoors is the lack of vitamin D. Our
body makes Vitamin D when it is exposed to the sun. Vitamin D is crucial for children’s good
health and development. It helps the body to absorb minerals like calcium and builds strong
teeth and bones. Some researchers say spending five to thirty minutes outside between 10am
and 3pm at least twice a week should do it. Our overprotective mindset has even stopped the
sun from hitting our bodies.
Children need to be outside discovering the wonders of nature. It is beneficial for our kids to
engage in hands-on-activity in nature. Nature walks, hikes and bike rides are a great way to
enhance children’s appreciation of nature. Let’s get them back learning about trees, tadpoles,
frogs and identifying birds in season and animal tracks in the winter. Dress them up in warm
clothes in the winter and join them in tramping through the snow or splashing in the rain.
Weather is what we have. Let’s enjoy it! It builds a connection to nature to grow up caring for the
Earth and helping conserve biodiversity. It instills gentleness and respect for all of life. All
research shows that kids who spend regular time in nature are happier and healthier.
by Janet Robinson