A couple months ago I wrote a post outlining my favourite childhood memories. All of the activities involved being outside, physically active, exposed to nature, and free to explore. There were no alibis from my parents to impede these activities. My mom often encouraged my brothers and I to get outside. (Although with four boys it was probably for her sanity). Today child obesity is on the rise and it is not difficult to see why. As a teacher I observe how parents are adding to this issue. Excuses are made, real and imagined, for children to stay indoors with their video games, iPads, and televisions rather than getting outside. Here is a list of examples used in this day and age:
– Mosquitoes which pester and bite children. They also potentially carry the West Nile virus.
– Ticks living in tall grass or trees. Just like mosquitoes they will suck blood and possibly transmit disease.
– Allergies to grass, animals, or dust.
– Weather related reasons. It is too wet, cold, windy or hot outside to play.
– Sun exposure resulting in sunburns, heat stroke, or heat exhaustion.
– Road safety and traffic concerns.
– Fear of children being injured while playing.
– Fear of strangers and child abduction.
These excuses suppress other aspects of childhood. Children have fewer opportunities to engage with the environment and learn about patterns and cycles in nature. They experience fewer opportunities for free play and use of their imagination. They have less tolerance to our beautiful weather. Being outdoors strengthens the immune system, provides vitamin D, and conditions the lungs. Studies also show that being outside improves behaviour. Furthermore, children’s social relations and skills suffer as they have fewer occasions to make new friends and strengthen friendships. Finally, independence and self awareness skills are hindered.