Why playing outside is essential to your child’s well-being. Plus: The 3 ways parents influence it

28 March 2017

 

Chris: Chris and Sheri here and we want to talk to you about something we find very important and its basically why kids don’t play outside anymore. You know they really need to there’s a lot of studies that have been done. We’ll talk about them in today’s video. But one statistic that really stands out as kids ages ten to sixteen are inactive ten and a half hours a day. And they’re only getting rigorous activity thirteen minutes a day. And when you look at the stats also from five to nine-year-old it’s really not that much better.

And they’re really missing out because why this video came about I was reading an article and it asked me, it said you know think of it time with your childhood when you had a favorite memory. And it got you really excited and you couldn’t wait to get started with something. So, I started thinking back and what was it and no it wasn’t when I went to Disney as a kid and it wasn’t some sporting event that I was involved in. It was really that Saturdays that I was able to get up and nothing was planned for me by an adult. I opened the door, big blue sky. I knew I was going to be hanging out with my friends in the neighborhood. We were going to be building forts. We were going to be riding big wheels. We’re going to get our bikes out. Play basketball. But none of it was adult-supervised. It was up to us to create and have our own fun. And that’s the memories that I remember.

Sheri:  Same with me Chris. I mean I grew up in a neighborhood, a really great neighborhood. We used to play football. I played play football at a really young age. I learned how to play you know a lot of boy’s games because there were more boys than girls. but it was so much fun. And I had the same experience waking up in the morning on Saturday going out, it was sunny, it was beautiful. My friends, I could hear them outside and I just couldn’t wait. And that was one of my greatest memories as well.

Chris: And you know the kids are missing out on that. And there’s three big reasons why. Sheri is going to talk about them and I’m just going to chime in as we go along. But, I think getting to that now is going to help us out so Sheri why don’t you hit the first one.

 Sheri: Well the first reason why kids are playing less and spending more time on other things is technology, video games. You can play a video game anywhere. On an I-Pad, on the computer, on the smartphone. So, they have access to video games 24 hours a day. And it’s just taking up a lot of their time and less time is being spent outside. Cable TV, back in the 60’s twenty-seven hours a week was dedicated to children’s TV.

Chris: That’s it.

Sheri: That’s it. Now Disney channel, that alone is you know eating up 24 hours a day, exactly, and there’s thirteen other channels that are dedicated to children’s TV. So, you can see why, you know, that’s also taking a lot of kids’ time. The smartphone, kids have access to smartphones at a younger and younger age now and they’re using the smartphone for video games, YouTube, social media. So again, taking up a lot of that time and less time is being spent on physical activity. One other thing that you wouldn’t think of is air conditioning. Most people now have air conditioning. When I was a little kid Chris my house was hot, I couldn’t wait to get outside and get some fresh air. But now kids have air conditioning somewhere, either in their bedroom or throughout the whole house. So, they don’t feel a need to go outside. They’re perfectly comfortable indoors.

Chris: And you know what? There are some positives with technology of course you know kids are learning problem solving skills playing these games. You know they able to concentrate longer on certain things. But there’s a lot of negatives too because within all the games and the TV it’s stimulating different parts of their brain that normally they wouldn’t get stimulated all the time and one of the big one is the fight or flight response. So, these kids are, though we’re not noticing it, because they’re quiet they’re not saying it they’re experiencing that stress level all the time playing these games. And the other is there’s less social interaction. They’re not out with their friends, they’re not out testing their lives out. And you know with this over stimulus on the stress end and not having that social component. It’s a challenge for these kids and it’s really keeping them from going outside.

Sheri: The second reason why kids are playing less outdoors is there’s too much structure, too much adult-directed activities. So first of all, school, of course, takes up a good portion of the day then right from school they’re going to extracurricular activities like music, art, after school homework programs, after school sports. A lot of times both parents are working so they need a structured program for their child to go to. And I know I’m guilty of this you want the best for your child. You want them to have a good start to life and you want to make sure that they get the best programs to help them to get into a good college eventually. And a lot of kids are also in adult-supervised sports. So again, lots of activity that is structured but not enough that’s creative and just letting the kids have time to themselves.

Chris: Yeah. And you know, sure they’re getting skill development that’s a big positive with all the things Sheri mentioned. But on the other side what’s going on with kids if you just take sports today seventy percent of kids are quitting organized sports by the age of thirteen. So, if you’re start your kid in a soccer program at six. Take a look around. Seventy percent of those kids, basically seven out of ten of those kids on the team are not going to be doing it and why? Big one, physical injury from overuse. We’re putting these kids in these environments where they’re doing repetitive things constantly year after year after year and they’re getting hurt. And the other is basically they’re burning out mentally. No different than you would if you were working a seventy hour a week job. These kids are burning out and you know what. They’re smarter than we are because what they are looking for is fun right? We think fun is going to come in retirement. They expect it now and that’s the way it should be. They want fun and things aren’t fun when everything is too organized and too structured and they have to be places. And with all of this structure also affects their sleep patterns too. So, we don’t even talk about that in this video but if they’re not getting enough sleep all this stuff is going to be magnified.

Sheri: And we know we have teenagers and they say they are tired a lot of the times because they’re pretty busy. I mean school goes right into activities and we try to help them to have a balance but no matter what they’re still going to be tired during the week because they’re very busy, just as busy as we are.

Chris: The kids and adults both need downtime.

Sheri: Yes, absolutely. The third reason why kids are playing less is parental fear. Parents are fearful of something happening to their child. And we get it, but you need to know the stats. The actual statistics when it comes down to abduction and children getting into pedestrian accidents is very, very small. And I know as a parent, we’re parents too, we want our children to be safe but the news has really sensationalized that and has capitalized on that parental fear. And really, it’s very minimal. I’m not to downgrade it. But to let you know that you can let your children outside to play. You really can.

Chris: You know we went through it in this house. Sheri was not overprotective because we worked with so many kids. But my kids want to, you know, travel and go cross the neighborhood to visit friends. And I was always like yeah go ahead. You know when they got to the age where I knew we took them through the steps on how to cross streets safely and do all that. And some days Sheri would come home and says, “I can’t believe you let them do that.” But you know what. It’s part of childhood. That’s what they need to learn. And that’s one of the things that happens. Right? They need to feel that you trust them and the other negative is if kids grow up today with a parent that is overprotective they’re finding with studies today that these kids grow up to have issues with anxiety and depression. So, we need to let them kind of experience the world on their own in certain ends.

Sheri: But it’s not always easy.

Chris: It’s a big part of why kids aren’t getting out and getting you know active outside. It is just important because there’s a lot of benefits to it that we haven’t talked about. So, getting outside kids are able to get out with their friends and experience emotions and test those emotions out without adult supervision. So, like fear and anger you know you’re together with your friends and you’re playing a game and you get angry and you have to learn how to deal with that. Others are you going to learn to socialize. Right? You’re going to learn how you fit in with people and what you like and don’t like.

Sheri: Imagination!

Chris: Imagination you can keep that active because gaming that’s one thing that happens with gaming. It takes imagination out because everything is already created for them. And you’re going to challenge your body, and you going to find out activities that you like and things that you did and maybe how you manipulated a game to work for two to three kids that you would never experience in you know in a soccer league. So, the other is you know self-control and you have to learn that when you’re hanging out with your friends and doing things together and you know when you’re by yourself there’s no one to test that with. And within a game you’re not testing that. There is a couple others Sheri is going to talk about.

Sheri: Vitamin D. Every single illness, the common denominator is low vitamin D. And we tend to have low vitamin D throughout the winter because we’re not out in the sun. The more children are spending time indoors the less chance they’re going to be getting the important vitamin D that they need and this helps with all kinds of improving immune support as well as decreasing health issues later down the road. Vitamin D is essential and the best way to get it is from the sun. If your child can get 15 minutes of unprotected, no sunscreen sunshine on their body on their arms and their face they’re going to get enough vitamin D that can store for a period of time.

Chris: Then you can put the sun block on. We’re not saying not to use sun block.

Sheri: Just fifteen minutes. You know this is all you need. It’s really not that much. We have such a big issue with ADHD and with their finding is that when children go outside, the second they go outside their stress levels go down. So being outdoors can really help to manage those ADHD symptoms that we’re seeing in children.

Chris: So, you know there’s a lot of benefit to getting outside and we don’t want to make this video too long for you. So, we’ll do a second video on what you can do, how you can help your kids get outdoors more. Because it really is a challenge. The three things we pointed out, they can curb any kid from going outside. You know you’re going to be challenged to do it, but there are ways to do it. It’s vitally important we get started get these kids moving again and getting them to experience the outdoors kind of like we did when we were kids. So, what I love you to do is share this with anyone that you think would benefit from it. Any of your friends, any other parents get it out there.

Sheri: If you like the video give this a thumbs-up. We really appreciate it.

Chris: Yeah that would be great. And please comment. If you have ideas on how you’ve gotten your kids outside and got them interacting with kids in the neighborhood we’d love to hear it here. Because we’ll add it in. Until next week we thank you again and we will see you soon.

Sheri: Thanks for joining us.

 

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