As adults, most of us have fond memories from childhood: intently watching ants on the march, building a cubby house, collecting tadpoles from the creek, making mud pies or daisy chains, grabbing the rope swing and swinging out over the river and letting go, exploring the neighbourhood and stopping for a Sunny Boy at the milk bar. Whether we realise it or not, those moments in the outdoors helped shape our view on the world around us. As I speak with parents, we all have fond memories of our childhood being one of freedom and exploration and yet these days, we are reluctant to allow our own children have that same experience. Here some worthwhile reading about the ‘Me Generation‘.
Move forward to the next generation and those kind of activities are no longer common place. The statistics are alarming:
- Only 6% percent of children ages 9-13 play outside on their own
- 8 to 18 year olds spend an overwhelming 53 hours a week using entertainment media.
- 1 in 3 students cannot ride a bike.
- 1 in 5 climb trees unlike 20 years ago when it was 3 in 5.
- 57% of primary students cannot hold their own body weight on a monkey bar
- 47% of primary students haven’t climbed a tree
- 33% of students don’t know how to play hopscotch
- 30% play outside unlike 66% 20 years ago.
- In the USA 80% of children don’t do chores.
- 44% of parents wish their children played outdoors more often (UK)
- 43% of parents admit relying on school to ensure children go outside (UK)
- 43% of children say they’d rather watch TV than go outside.
- 42% of children would prefer to play computer games than go outside.
There is a growing disparity between the time kids spend indoors wired to technology and the time they spend outside enjoying nature. The vast majority of today’s kids use a computer, watch TV, or play video games on a daily basis, but only about 10 percent say they are spending time outdoors every day.
Research shows the downsides:
- Increased childhood obesity
- Increased feelings of anxiety and depression.
- Reduction in critical development of motor coordination skills
- Decreased fitness
- Low self-esteem
- Decreased academic achievement
In summary, young people can become progressively physically illiterate as the combination of impaired physical literacy and increased bodyweight decreases their likelihood that they will enjoy physical activity into the adult lives.
Research into the benefits of being outdoors, particularly as young people continues to highlight the valuable contribution they make to personal health and wellbeing of young people. The unique opportunities within the natural and social environments offered at St Michael’s provide a variety of contexts where these positive connections can be made which we often refer to as being with self, others and the natural world. The benefits of these connections are shown to lie in the strength and placement of these connections. Benefits are clearly evident on a program of the psycho-social, psychological, physical and spiritual domains, particularly with regards to developing self efficacy, intellectual flexibility, personal skills and relationship building.
Embrace the outdoors with all its highs and lows knowing that there is no learning and growth without a challenge.
Now it’s your turn. Share you stories of being in the outdoors. Write a comment below.