Research from the UK’s National Trust shows that children these days only play outside for an average of 4 hours a week, which is shocking compared to their parents who were averaging 8-9 hours a week playing outside. What does this really mean? Well, with these stats, prison inmates are spending more times outside every week than our own kids!
Instead of getting outdoors, kids are in front of screens – TVs, iPads, mobile phones…you name it and most kids are using it, whether that’s for playing games of watching their favorite shows.
As well as getting fresh air and burning off energy, there are many other reasons why you should take your kids to play outside. Being in nature is actually proven to decrease our stress levels and improve our mental health, which is extra important at the moment with all of the uncertainty going on in the world.
Here we look at some of the key benefits of playing in nature. And luckily for us, now is the perfect weather to put these into practice!
It encourages their imagination
One of the best things about getting the kids playing in nature is the fact it’s unstructured play. This opens up their imaginations and lets their creativity really run wild. They invent their own games and stories, all while getting some fresh air!
It builds confidence
There is no right or wrong way to play in nature, which helps build your little one’s confidence! Because they also get to choose how they play they’re more in control over their actions, which also helps them feel more confident.
It helps you teach them about the world
There are so many chances when you’re out in nature to teach your little ones about the environment and how important it is to protect it. You can explain the different trees, plants or flowers and use it as a way to help them learn about how to be more eco-friendly. Plus being in nature lets you teach them about seasons and the changes that happen around us as the months change.
It tires them out
When you take the kids out the fresh air helps tire them out and sleep better at night. They’re also more likely to run and jump around and burn off their energy! When kids sit in front of screens for a large part of the day, their brains are unable to ‘switch off’ well at night, leading to poor quality sleep and can even increase their chances of night terrors or bed wetting.
It enriches their senses
Being inside all day can really dampen your kids’ senses, especially if they choose to spend a lot of time in front of the TV. Being in nature helps enrich their senses – they are so many new things to see, hear, smell and touch when you’re out in nature. Without nature a child’s sense of smell and touch is limited to materialistic things you have at home. Just by spending an hour in a park they’re exposed to hundreds more textures, smells, and noises than they would be sitting at home.
It reduces stress
Being in nature helps reduce stress and improve wellbeing – not just for your kids but for you as well! There’s something so relaxing about walking outside, even if it is just along the beach or in the park, don’t you agree? Whereas sitting at home in front of a screen can actually increase a child’s stress levels. Plus, the blue light that screens emit is extremely harmful to their little eyes which are still vulnerable and developing. Exposure to frequent blue light can cause sore, irritated eyes and even problems focusing.
It boosts our vitamin levels
A large proportion of the UAE are in actual fact vitamin D deficient, even though we live in a sunny country. This is because most people do not like going outside and cover up with clothes or high factor sunscreens when they do. Without vitamin D we are unable to absorb calcium, which can cause damage to our little ones’ bones and teeth. Vitamin D also helps boost our immune system, helping us to fight off common viruses or bacteria. Now more than ever we need to maintain a healthy lifestyle and a boosted immune system, and buy spending just a little time outside every day we will be able to do so.
When playing from the privacy of our own garden I encourage my kids to change into their swimwear so they’re getting extra vitamin D absorption. With the weather being so perfect in Dubai at the moment, we’re in the garden all the hours we’re home!
Yesterday we went round the garden and collected up different things that could be made into potions! From leaves and twigs to acorns and petals, it was all being thrown into our cauldron to ‘cook’ up nicely. The older two then wrote down their magic spells (great writing and spelling practice!) and I included a miniature hunt for things that I knew were in the garden such as sand, pebbles and grass as well as things that we had in the house like Cinnamon and Basil. This was a great sensory activity as we were smelling and touching lots of exciting things! I also picked up some great little bits from UK-based website Playspirations which have friendly, non-toxic things like bio-degradable glitter and bio-degradable fizzy enchantments, which were so much fun to add to our potions! My 7-year-old, 5-year-old and 20-month-old all enjoyed this activity equally, so it’s a fabulous allrounder!
We’re big advocates for getting outside and are following the 1000 hours outside mantra this year. Click here to learn more. What’s the key to success from getting your little ones away from the screen and outside? Start small and make it a part of your routine. Whether that’s a morning or evening walk round the neighbourhood or a trip to your local park or playground every day, once your kids realise that there’s more fun to be had outside than there is inside, they will be more than happy to put down their screens and go!
If you’ve decided to spend more time outside for your littles, there are endless games you can play with them. Here are our favourite printables to help make your nature adventures even more fun!