Outdoors is a must for children, and this write-up exclusively pertains to answering the question, how much time should a child spend outside?
Parents often wonder about this question. How much time outside is too much or how much is enough? Experts are divided on the exact number of hours. However, general consensus says anything between one hour to an hour and a half per day is optimum.
With time, the number of hours a child spends outside is reducing at an alarming rate. While screen time keeps on increasing. Research points out that on average a child spends more than two hours sitting in front of the screen. Such a trend can cause serious physical, psychological, and social repercussions.
In this blog, we will discuss how much time should a child spend outside, the benefits of outdoor playing, and creative ideas for outdoor play.
How Much Time Should a Child Spend Outside?
As mentioned earlier, there isn’t an exact time duration for kids to spend outside. However, ideally, 90 minutes of outdoor activity is apt for children. But this is an average figure. It doesn’t mean kids should spend the same amount of time every day. If they have played for a long duration one day and couldn’t go outside the next day, then you needn’t worry.
Some experts and specialists suggest that a child should spend three hours outdoors every day. However, practically speaking this isn’t doable. Considering the fact that children spend time in school, do homework and participate in hobbies like music and sports, taking out three hours a day for outdoor play is next to impossible. Therefore, there isn’t one answer to the question- of how much time should a child spend outside?
Benefits of Playing Outdoors
Pulling kids out of their sedentary lifestyle and getting them to enjoy the outdoors is a herculean task. Screen time and electronic gadgets appear more attractive than spending time outside. Now that we have sufficiently answered the question- of how much time should a child spend outside, let us move on to the next part of the discussion, the benefits of playing outdoors. There is no denying the fact that outdoor activities have their advantages-
1. Physical exercise
Getting kids to play something or anything will pump their blood flow, build muscles, and make their body stronger. Physical activities can be structured or unstructured.
2. Unstructured to structured
When kids engage in unstructured outdoor play, they build skills to structure their chaotic lives once they reach adulthood. By unstructured we mean activities that aren’t bound by rules. For example, running into the woods to discover and observe different lifeforms or building forts and castles to play in. On the other hand, indoor video games are structured that are bound by rules and one must follow them in order to play the game.
3. Creative mind
Playing outdoors ignites the creative spirit of a child. Their imagination is boundless. A stick becomes a sword, a broke log becomes a bridge, and a big rock becomes a dining table to hold dinner parties. If left on their own, kids can be super creative with nature and come up with their own games and rules rather than have a structured game dictate rules to them.
4. Socializing skills
Outdoor play mostly involves a team effort. Seldom do kids play alone outside. They learn to foster new friendships, play as a teammate and develop social skills. Such skills cannot be developed or nurtured if a child spends all their time indoors with video games.
5. Critical and logical mind
Studies claim that children who spend time outdoors are better at critical thinking and logical reasoning. They perform better in reading, writing, listening, and math.
6. Time off from the screen
It is true that technology has many avenues of keeping kids engaged indoors. But too much screen time can make kids dull. It is good to take a break from technology once in a while and enjoy the outdoors.
7. Better Coordination
Kids who play outdoor are better equipped to face challenges in life. They learn to climb a tree, survive in the rain and jump small streams of water. All these challenges make them stronger and better coordinated. They learn how to face and overcome challenges in life. They believe in themselves and their power to beat challenges.
8. Health issues
Sitting on the couch and passing time with technology makes children obese. Obesity is in fact one of the common ailments plaguing children. Plus, there are chances of them becoming myopic (short-sightedness). Kids as young as two years are wearing glasses.
9. Vitamin D intake
Playing out in the sun, although wearing sun protection like sunscreen and a hat, is a great way to get a daily dose of vitamin D.
The above points clearly answer our question- how much time should a child spend outside? Sufficient enough time so that kids are able to build their body and mind strong.
How To Encourage to Play Outdoor?
Getting kids to go out and play can be a difficult task. Every parent thinks about how much time should a child spend outside. Instead of harping on this question, it’s time to get creative and spend sufficient time outside. Here are a few tips on how to encourage your child to leave that video game or phone and play outside-
1. Start from your home
Outdoor doesn’t mean only public parks or the woods. Start from your own backyard. Let your child play in the backyard before taking them to an unfamiliar place like a public park. Let them get comfortable with a small space. It will help them adjust well to the outside world Do remember to keep an eye on them.
2. Add the fun factor
If your child is old enough to go on a treasure hunt if you give them a map is a great way to keep them engaged outdoors. You can also fire their imagination by declaring the backyard as an ocean or a jungle which they have to cross or play pirate ship. There is no end to your or their imagination.
3. Indoor to outdoor
Let your child take any of their toys like Lego blocks or puzzles outside. As long as it isn’t a piece of technology or too cumbersome a toy for you or the child to carry outside, it is fine. At times kids feel more secure if they have a familiar toy with them. They are more open to new things this way.
Outdoors isn’t confined to backyards or public parks. A beach or countryside or national parks or skating parks or sandpits are outdoors too. Depending on your child’s age there are a variety of places where you can take them to enjoy the outdoors.
5. Outdoor toys
Another way to keep your kids engaged outdoors is to introduce some outdoor toys like a bounce house, trampolines, balance bikes, push and pull toys, or pedal bikes. Anything that can help your child overcome their shyness and be more open to the outdoors is a great idea. This will also help them feel more secure.
6. Make them participate in your everyday outdoor activities
Outdoor activities don’t mean only playing. Involve them in your outdoor activities like gardening or weeding. If you are going out to hang the laundry on the clothesline, ask your kids to join you. Washing the dog or cleaning the backyard are other activities that they can join in with you. The idea is to get the kids out in the sun. Additionally, this will inculcate a sense of responsibility in the children.
7. Family time
Not just the kids, even adults need their daily dose of vitamin D. Go out to a park as a family or ride bikes together. You would have spent some quality family time, engaged in physical activity, and reduced your children’s screen time.
8. Summertime activities
Long summer days are perfect to get the kids out and play with water-based activities like water slides, water guns, outdoor inflatable pools, etc. If you own a trampoline, you can place a sprinkler below it in the center and let the kids have fun.
So, this was our list of creative ideas to get your kids out and about to spend time outdoors. Thirty to forty years ago kids weren’t ready to stay indoors no matter what. Now, it’s the other way round. As a parent, you have to come up with creative ideas to ensure your kids spend time outside and get their share of exercise plus vitamin D.
When it comes to answering the question- of how much time should a child spend outside, parents go into deep analysis. It isn’t a timed activity that has to be followed every day. The idea is to make outdoors a fun filled activity. Your basic aim is to get your kids off the couch and indulge in physical exercise.