Do you remember climbing trees and scraping your knees as a child? Running from one side of a park to another felt like a marathon and reaching the top of a tree felt like you had climbed Everest! I know many of us have fond memories of this time, and I am sure more than a few of us have our scars to prove it. But interestingly, research carried out by Planet Ark shows that there has been a dramatic shift in children’s play, from outdoor activities to indoor play within the space of one generation.
In fact, a survey carried out by Planet Ark in 2011 revealed that 1 in 10 children today play outside once a week or less, and 86% of respondents agreed that kids are not spending enough time in nature.
This is not because our kids don’t want to play; it’s just where they play that has changed. Perception of crime and safety plays a big part in where we allow our children to play; coupled with time poor lifestyles, outdoor play can take a back seat. On top of that, access to digital devices, computers, tablets and games consoles has increased, suggesting that modern pastimes are filling the space left by outdoor games.
The great news is that we are all aware of the importance of outdoor play for our children and for many of us spending time outdoors forms part of daily activites. According to a report Planet Ark published this year, Australians would be willing to pay an average of $35,000 more to live in a home in a ‘green’ neighbourhood, and in fact, even in schools, natural grounds can be as important as academic reputation when we choose our child’s place of education.
International expert Dr Mardie Townsend of Deakin University believes contact with nature is vital to child development: “Just 30 minutes of green time daily can level the playing field for children who aren’t naturally good at book learning by having a positive impact on their higher order cognitive skills.”
The health benefits of getting our families outside are also priceless. At a physical level, spending time outdoors is essential for the body’s synthesis of vitamin D and development of our children’s healthy eyesight. Emotionally, getting closer to nature has been shown to lower stress levels in children and be restorative after mental effort. At Life Education, in our school program, we also encourage children to be active rather than sedentary and we recognise the benefits of fresh air not only to physical health but also mental and emotional wellbeing.
But it is not only our children who can benefit from getting more Green Time! As adults, natural environments help us to deal with stress, they make us feel better and can help to restore our concentration – so that lunch time walk was worth it after all!
There are so many ways you can get outside as a family, even if it’s just to the local park or a week’s camping in the bush. Why not try:
You can get many more tips by visiting Planet Ark and exploring all their tips for a greener lifestyle.