Phew, these North Carolina summers are hot! They’re muggy too, and in the evenings pesky critters want a piece of you.
So it’s understandable if your child wants to spend free time indoors, and understandable if you want to let them.
But in the long run, too much indoor time isn’t good for your child. According to a slew of reports and research, simple unstructured time outside will help your child be healthier, better socialized, more independent, and to do better in school.
Yet, children are spending more and more time indoors and foregoing the benefits of outdoors.
A new health report published by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) highlights key statistics behind the worrisome trends. According to surveys by researchers at the University of Michigan children spend only four to seven minutes a day in unstructured outdoor play. A study cited in the NWF report found that today, only a quarter of children are playing outside daily, as compared to nearly three quarters a generation ago, even in rural areas.
A Seattle Times article points out that while parents take children to plenty of organized activities, there’s hardly any free time outside — “time for kids just to be kids.” According to the article, playing outside with other children and, yes, without parents or coaches, “Fosters imagination and helps teach youngsters to share, cooperate and solve problems.”
An article in the UK’s Guardian reaches similar conclusions: “Free and unstructured play in the outdoors boosts problem-solving skills, focus and self-discipline. Socially, it improves cooperation, flexibility, and self-awareness. Emotional benefits include reduced aggression and increased happiness.” The article cites a study published by the American Medical Association in 2005. “Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors.”
So yes, it’s hot, and humid but it’s still a beautiful world out there, full of wonder and delight. Your children might benefit from a bit of extra time outside — just doing their thing.
- Download the full NWF report
Whole Child: Developing Mind, Body and Spirit Through Outdoor Play (pdf)
Developing Healthy Kids Through Outdoor Play: Be Out There Parent Tips
- Rhonda Clements (2004) An Investigation of the Status of Outdoor Play, Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 5(1), 68-80.
- Oprah.com Outdoor Ideas for Children
- FamilyEducation Outdoor Activities for Children Ages 6-10
- Education.com Preschool Outdoor Activities