I am going to start this post by admitting, despite loving my smart phone and laptop, I really do have a strong dislike for gaming devices. Why? Well, I believe they are detrimental to communication within families and over-stimulate young minds. On a more personal level, I really can’t see the point of playing a virtual game of tennis in my lounge when a real game of tennis with racquet and ball in the fresh air is far more enjoyable.
It would seem, despite nearly every child I know owning a Nintendo DS, PlayStation or iPod, I am not alone in my dislike for screen entertainment. The National Trust also warns parents, in it’s recent report, against a ‘sedentary and sheltered’ generation of children who’ve become too used to computer games and television. To put this in perspective apparently 11 -15 year olds in Britain now spend, on average, half their waking day in front of a screen!
So why are so many parents choosing indoor play for their children over outdoor and why is outdoor play so important?
Firstly, it would seem that ‘stranger danger’ is one of the main reasons many parents choose not to let their young children venture outside alone.
Secondly, it would seem that some children have picked up negative messages from parents, believing playing outside is too risky, in as much as they may hurt themselves or ‘catch a cold’ should they want to venture out in inclement weather.
So they are the negatives, ‘what are the positives?’, I hear you ask.
Firstly, outdoor play stimulates imaginative play. Numerous reports concur with this, finding children’s games are more creative in natural spaces, which encourages fantasy, roleplay, reasoning and observation.
Outdoor play also positively impacts on a child’s physical development, with improvements in cardio-respiratory fitness and more surprisingly, a marked reduction in indications of ADHD when play is amongst trees and grass, according to research conducted at the University of Illinois.
Of course it’d be wonderful if we could all send our children off to the woods for a day of free, unstructured outdoor play. But let’s be real, many of us don’t live with an open space on our doorstep and if we did, the volume of traffic on our busy roads is a real danger to our young ones. So what’s answer?
Outdoor garden games.
From climbing frames, swings to play houses, our young children can enjoy all of the benefits outdoor play in the freedom of our own gardens, in preparation for their big adventures further a field when they’re a little older.
With a vast array of sustainably-sourced climbing frames available on the market, even gardens with limited space can accommodate ‘multi-functional’ climbing frames, featuring slides, monkey bars, climbing nets and wooden sandpits.
Or, if your little one wants a ‘place of to call their own’ how about a funky eco-friendly PEFC wooden playhouse (my sister and I enjoyed many a fun time in our playhouse when we were young).
And don’t forget the simply pleasures of an outdoor swing, even better how about a traditional wooden tree-swing, not only are they lots of fun for everyone, they make a timeless addition to any garden.
As already touched upon, outdoor play not only improves a child both mentally and physically, the emotional benefits are also compelling. From reduced aggression and increased happiness, children are also more self-aware. Furthermore, children get to connect more with nature, which will in turn inspire them to protect it as they grow into adulthood.
Finally, did I mention outdoor play is free and it’ll save you money on your energy bills. Enough said!