Backyard Discovery Blog
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From Infant Swings to Forts - Get All Your Kids Outdoors
I remember when I was a young lad, all of those summer days we spent outside playing. My family did not even buy a television until I was six, so they certainly couldn’t use it as a babysitter for me.
Alas. I grew up on a very steep section where it would have been impossible to install a full swing set like you can have now. However, my parents still managed to buy a swing which perched rather precariously on our sloping back lawn. I spent many a happy day swinging out and back in again (with a magnificent view in my case). There are even photos of my father pushing me strapped into in an infant swing - a very long time ago.
There were also many other ways that my friends and I spent our time after school and on weekends, nearly all of which were outside. My personal favorite was when my grandfather built a go-kart for my cousins and me to race down the steep footpath outside my grandparents’ house.
Nowadays it seems to be too rare for kids to play outside. Many parents use the tv set as a de facto babysitter for their young children, although even that is becoming “old hat” nowadays, with the arrival of other electronic entertainment.
In other cases, it is not the parents who encourage their kids to stay inside out of perceived harm’s way. How many of us know kids (boys in particular) who are totally fascinated by video games, and if they are not encouraged to move will happily shoot their electronic enemies (often controlled by their buddies online) for hours on end?
Then, of course, many kids have busy, organised lives. It can be difficult to fit unstructured play into their daily routines. Some schools have even removed recess to increase the time available for learning. There are also helicopter parents who like to organise every second of their child’s waking time, ensuring that their son or daughter lives a completely risk-free life.
However, one thing that most educational and health industry professionals agree on is that there are numerous benefits of encouraging your kids to spend time outdoors. Moreover, kids should be starting outdoor play early - get those little kids onto an infant swing or playing with a ball on the grass, before they get too attached to electronic gadgets!
Benefits of Encouraging Your Kids to Play Outdoors
Kids Can Burn Off Excess Energy and Calm Down
I am always amazed how much energy kids have. My son can run around for hours although he very quickly drops when the energy runs out. It can be challenging when your kids are running around the inside of the house. It makes far more sense for them to be using up that energy outside.
One advantage of a swing set is that the kids can be using up their high spirits on the different parts of it, whether it be hanging from the monkey bars, energetically swinging, or rushing up a ladder to the fort and then sliding back down again.
They can return inside once they have had their fun, calmed down and are ready for quiet time.
Outdoor Play Improves Fitness Levels
Obviously, if kids are running, swinging, sliding, jumping, cycling, skateboarding or any of the other myriad of outdoor play activities that they could be participating in, their fitness levels will improve. Currently, one in three American children is considered to be obese. If more kids had the opportunity to play outdoors, then this would be less of an issue.
Kids Can Improve Their Social Skills
Kids play well together, whether it is with their siblings or their friends. They quickly learn that there are certain ways that they have to behave when they play with other kids.
For instance, they may have to learn to queue to get on the slide. If you have a two-person glider on your swing set, the kids clearly need to learn to work together for it to swing properly.
It is surprising just how many social skills kids learn through play rather than being formally taught to them.
Studies Show Outdoor Play Helps With Many Behavioural and Educational Problems
There have been some scientific studies undertaken in recent years that show that regular outdoor activities can help with many of the problems suffered by modern kids. These include improvements in the behavior of kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as well as improvements in creativity, learning ability, psychological and emotional wellbeing. It is noticeable that most schools have not abandoned recess. They do recognize the improved functioning of active kids, and quite a few promote physical education classes.
Increased Vitamin D
Too many of this indoor-focused current generation suffer from Vitamin D deficiencies. Vitamin D helps protect kids from diabetes, heart disease, bone problems and some other ailments.
The easiest way that we can gain Vitamin D is to be exposed to sunlight.
Of course, this has to be balanced around fears that too much sun can lead to skin cancer. Make certain that your son or daughter is bathed in sunscreen before they go out to play on those hot summer days. As with everything else in life, outdoor play should be done in moderation too.Just as you do not want your child stuck on a gaming console for eight hours solid, you do not want them out in the sunshine for that long either.
So, encourage your kids to go outside and have independent, unstructured play. Even let them take the odd risk. That is part of growing up and learning what you are and are not capable of doing. If you have a swing set, you can decrease the risk of your kids damaging themselves if you position it on a suitable soft surface.
One of the main reasons that modern parents discourage outdoor play is because they are scared of road safety. Well, if you can place a swing set in your backyard you can eliminate that risk. Your kids can play outside, and there is no need to travel, so no need for road safety concerns.
Encourage your kids to become outdoor-play kids from an early age. Strap those little ones into an infant swing and begin their love of the outdoors, fresh air, sunlight and exercise.