I read a brilliant report the other day highlighting the many benefits of getting kids outside – like learning new skills, boosting confidence and making friends. Just an hour a day makes a huge difference!
You’ve probably heard a lot of the depressing stats relating to children and nature before. Such as… kids in Britain spend less time outdoors than prison inmates, on average our offspring spend 17 hours a week watching TV, and many of them are so disconnected from nature that they’ve lost basic everyday abilities like how to cross roads safely.
They’re attention-grabbing headlines that hopefully shock a few parents into action, but rather than ponder those negatives sometimes it’s more powerful to focus on the amazing positives of spending time outside with your kids. Those wonderful people at the Wildlife Trusts have done just that by commissioning a new study by the Institute of Education at UCL, which evaluates the impact of kids spending time out in nature.
The overall finding was that children’s wellbeing increases the more they go outside, with a rise in personal wellbeing and health, plus an increased connection with nature and higher levels of enjoyment.
Why kids should get outside more…
- 90% of children felt they learned something new about the natural world
- 79% felt that their experience could help their school work
- After their activities 84% of children felt that they were capable of doing new things when they tried
- 79% of children reported feeling more confident in themselves
- 81% agreed that they had better relationships with their teachers
- 79% reported better relationships with their classmates
So how do we get kids outside?
I hate sounding preachy about this stuff. The fact I’ve made my own website and go around calling myself ‘The Outdoor Dad’ doesn’t make me any better at getting kids outdoors than anyone else. If anything, I probably just shout slightly louder about all the really basic stuff we do with our two young boys to inject a bit more nature into their lives.
Our 3-year-old Sonny is an adventurous little chap. He likes to run, swim, cycle, climb, paddle, kick footballs, jump in puddles, kick leaves, pick flowers, feed ducks – all the same stuff everyone else’s kids love doing. But he also loves sitting on his backside watching TV.
Last Saturday (thanks to our delightful 4-month-old Dougie) we were all woken up before 5am and still sitting comatose on the sofa in front of the TV a few hours later, and Sonny would quite happily have stayed there all day (to be honest, so would I). But we forced ourselves up, grabbed the dog, wrapped ourselves up warm, went for a walk and took Sonny to toddler football practice.
Later in the day we took Sonny to the park on his scooter for an hour, then kicked a ball around in the garden for a bit, rolled over a few logs to look for creepy crawlies, played hide and seek in the trees and bushes, and generally just did very simple things that cost nothing and had us all breathing fresh air and burning energy.
We got cold, we got muddy, we got tired, but we all loved it.
Simple outdoor activities for families
With all the stresses of everyday life (work, nursery drop-offs, bath times, school runs, housework, DIY jobs, Netflix, Instagram) it feels more difficult than ever to find time to get outside as a family, but there are still simple ways to do it.
I’ll get off my soapbox now, but if you’ve read this far hopefully you’ll also read through some of the really simple tips for getting kids outdoors I’ve put together in this ‘101 outdoor activities for families’ series. Everything from playing fun games in the garden and riding bikes to walking up hills and paddling canoes.
I hope you find something in there that works for you. It doesn’t need to be epic, it doesn’t need to be expensive, and it can be as simple as walking to school or collecting conkers. The most important thing is just opening the door and stepping outside!