By Harshita Mathur
In today’s highly technological society, it has become quite easy to immerse yourself into the life of television, smart phones, videogames, and computers. With new gadgets being released every day, parents find themselves asking their kids, how does this work? What does this do? Countless times, my parents have said to me “In my day, we never had…” The ‘…’ can be filled in by many different things: ipods, ipads, itouches, i…don’t even knows!
While it is usually safe to assume that a healthy balance of most things is the best way to go, let’s not forget the things we tend to leave behind. One thing that has certainly been left behind is the value of the outdoors. Simply spending time in fresh air can make a world of a difference to children’s development. Aside from basic physical activity, there are a number of positive social, psychological and educational impacts that spending time outdoors has.
1) Personality Impacts…Studies have suggested that exposure to excessive violence in certain videogames can create aggressive behavior in children¹ and young adults. On the contrary, physical activity in an outdoor environment instills positive and healthy tendencies, creating happier moods and contributing to cognitive, emotional and social development of children.
Suggestion: Check the videogames’ content. Make sure the specific games are suitable for their age groups! Try to encourage fun videogames which are interactive and less violent, like Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Also encourage as much outdoor activity as possible – physical sports ranging from low impact swimming to high impact football and dodge ball.
2) Environmental Impacts…We have all been exposed to the wide range of environmental problems our planet is currently facing. Younger generations are in a position to learn and change the ways that have led to such environmental destruction. The key to ensuring positive change in the future is to ensure that youngsters build a relationship with nature and the outdoors. In this way they are more likely to understand its value and become protectors of the natural environment in the future.
Suggestion: Try camping in the wilderness to practice building tents, campfires and making some yummy smores! Or for a more creative activity, perhaps painting with watercolors in a scenic garden.
3) Educational Impacts… Young children have a highly inquisitive nature and studies have shown that active, hands-on experiences can be more effective than classroom learning. Outdoor experiences are a source of recreation, but can also have an educational element.
Suggestion: Perhaps engage your children in some educational hikes or outdoor programs whilst visiting a botanical garden. Here you can enjoy the unique ecology and conduct naturalist activities that allow learning-by-doing.
4) Health Impacts…Statistics have shown that children aged between 3 and 12 are likely to be more physically active with increased interactions with the outdoors². Physical activity is important for children in order to adopt a healthier lifestyle and decrease the risk of obesity, diabetes and other conditions. The Wii (yet another form of videogames for entertainment!) is unique as it promotes physical activity. Although this is beneficial, fresh air and interactions with the natural environment are pivotal, health-wise.
Suggestion: Figure out what physical activities your children enjoy, promote them, encourage them. Sports that involve full body workouts are more effective to stay healthy. Try some soothing, relaxing yoga in a heated room to stretch out the tension in your body, or maybe go for a more upbeat experience with aquatic aerobics!
5) Social Impacts…By being outdoors and interacting with nature and other children, kids can grow up with a more sociable nature and learn effective ways to communicate. Whilst videogames and television are fun, allowing your kids to become immersed in them can foster antisocial behavior.
Suggestion: Allow videogames and TV for your young kids, but try to make the experience interactive – maybe play with them! Encourage interactive games as an alternative to videogames. Jenga, card games and trivia can prove to be lots of fun!
The suggestions provided promote healthier and interactive tendencies in children, as well as creating opportunities for bonding and family time. Outdoor activities are important for children from a young age, to develop their hobbies and recreational activities, ensuring that physical outdoor activities are a component.
That being said, experiencing the outdoors is beneficial for everybody. Getting some fresh air, being involved in the natural environment and being physically active all lead to a healthier lifestyle.
So get up, get out and experience the world! Find a new hobby, or perhaps re-live an old hobby – get active!
¹Violent Video Games Cause Aggressive Behavior in Children. American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement. Iowa State University Press Release, March 1, 2010
²Call to Activity: Getting Kids Moving in the Great Outdoors. Published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, February 2008