Outside Playin’ is What I’m Sayin’!

by Hannah V.

When we think of health services we often imagine doctors, nurses, medications, and hospitals. What if there was a remedy to some of todays most common health issues that is not a new magical medical advancement? I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Stand up. Walk to the door. Open it. Ladies and gentlemen, breathe it in. The antidote is known as the “Great Outdoors”!

Research supports that outdoor recreation addresses social, emotional, physical, and cognitive well-being (Godbey, 2009). In fact, simply seeing green spaces has proven to reduce a child’s stress. It seems like common sense that playing outdoors is good for our health. Unfortunately, youth are not taking advantage of the power of nature. The David Suzuki Foundation found that 70 percent of 13- to 20-year-olds spend an hour or less outside each day. Moreover, I had to lift my jaw off the floor when I read that chickens and prisoners get more outdoor time than children (Klasky, 2014). This has major implications for the positive and healthy development of youth.

Arguably, society fails to stress the importance of outdoor recreation for children. Today’s children are more inclined to glue their eyes to a screen than step outside. One article supports that in some instances children would rather do homework or chores than play outside (Winter, 2013). This is disturbing to me! Playing outdoors is an opportunity for learning and asset development. The Search Institutes 40 developmental assets focus on the critical dimensions of adolescents’ lives that support optimal youth development. The more assets a youth can develop the more likely they are to thrive and have a healthy transition into adulthood. The great outdoors facilitates development of a variety of assets. Children have the opportunity to build positive peer relationships and experience a caring neighbourhood. Moreover, outdoor play is conducive to establishing positive values, social competencies, resiliency and personal power.

As noted, technology has had major implications for the outdoor play of children. Ben Klasky presents an interesting way to harness the power of technology, for ‘good’ not ‘evil’. Klasky brilliantly states “there’s an app for that”, suggesting that there are numerous apps that focus on exploring the outdoors- from identifying creatures to geocaching.

In the article Let ‘Em Out! The Many Benefits of Outdoor Play In Kindergarten Holley Korbey introduces the Swiss Walderkindergartens. Rain or shine, these children ages 4-7 spend the entire school day playing outdoors. The core of the program revolves around physical literacy, social interaction, and emotional well-being; as opposed to a strict schedule including math or reading. The documentary “School’s Out: Lessons From a Forest Kindergarten” compares the Walderkindergartens to a typical American kindergarten. I encourage you to watch the 36-minute film to see how this outdoor play positively contributes to development.

All of my favourite childhood memories involve playing outdoors. As a youngster, my parents would have to beg me to come inside for dinner. Playing outside gave me the opportunity to use my imagination and problem solve with my neighborhood pals. I think that my free play outside enabled me to take risks, build my physical literacy, and develop social competencies. Furthermore, exploring the environment provided me with opportunities to build both bonding and bridging social capital as well as interpersonal skills. Research supports that youth developing social capital and social capacities is linked to decreased engagement in risky behaviours and increased academic success. Playing kick the can, scaling trees, and making mud pies has without a doubt shaped the person I have grown to be.

The lack of outdoor-based play has resulted in increases in emotional and psychological disorders, decreased resiliency, and increased obesity. Society as a whole can benefit from promoting outdoor play. The screen of an ipad cannot replace the exploration, discovery, and growth that a child experiences in the great outdoors. Simply put, some fresh air everyday keeps the doctor away!

Referenced Articles

Godbey, G. (2009). Outdoor recreation, health, and wellness: Understanding and enhancing the relationship. Retrieved from https://recpro.memberclicks.net/assets/Library/Public_Health/outdoor_recreation_health_and_wellness.pdf

Gardner, S. (2012). Survey: Young Canadians spend an hour or less outside each day. Retrieved from http://www.outdoorcanada.ca/survey-young-canadians-spend-an-hour-or-less-outside-each-day

Korbey, H. (2013). Let ‘em out! The many benefits of outdoor play in kindergarten. Retrieved from http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/07/let-em-out-the-many-benefits-of-outdoor-play-in-kindergarten/

Klasky, B. (2014). Our children deserve as much outdoor time as inmates and chickens. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ben-klasky/our-children-deserve-as-m_b_4791244.html

Winter, K. (2013). Children today would rather read, do chores or even do HOMEWORK than play outside – and they get out half as much as their parents did. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2307431/Children-today-read-chores-HOMEWORK-play-outside.html

Search Institute. (2009). Developmental assets: A profile of your youth. Retrieved from http://www.mission.ca/wp-content/uploads/Mission-Community-results-40-assets-3.pdf

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArhjLa4xbNk

http://frankieflowers.com/childrens-mental-health-great-outdoors/

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6 Responses to Outside Playin’ is What I’m Sayin’!

  1. blpye says:

    Great Post Hannah!
    The idea of outside play is one that I feel really passionate about. Being out in nature can provide healing and health for people of any age. I was recently reading a book based on a charity in the United States who use fly fishing retreats for emotional and spiritual healing for women after breast cancer recovery. There are so many examples of this, camps for terminal illnesses, PTSD outdoor recovery sessions and so on. This is partly why I feel forest schools are so beneficial. Having come from a more or less rural area, I didn’t understand as a child what it meant to stay inside all day.We had 3 channels on our TV until I was 12 and we didn’t have our first computer until after I stared school, and even then it was good ole dial up internet, so I didn’t spend much time online. As a contrast I was talking to a friend from Ottawa the other day, and she thought outdoor schools were ludicrous. She did not understand why kids would want to be outside all day, especially if it was raining. She explained that she spent most of her time playing in a playroom in the basement of her house, or the houses of her friends. They went outside rarely, and it was usually only a trip to the local playground or tourist attractions for a few hours. Outdoor schools can expose people, like my friend, who do not have the opportunities to go outside and explore nature. They can help instill an appreciation of nature and, in theory, when those kids are faced with the choice to stay in or go out they will choose the latter. They will appreciate the fun one can have outside and will likely suffer less mental health issues, be less obese and have the coping skills (and resiliency) to combat issues they face in life!

  2. b834z says:

    Awesome post Hannah!
    This is all so true. It seems that every time I turn around, youth are diagnosed with some sort of psychological disorder, or are overweight and have reduced resiliency. I think the outdoors has a true impact on reducing these states. It is unfortunate that so many youth are dependent on what is happening on the screen in front of them for entertainment and enjoyment. Many children do not even take the opportunities to enjoy green spaces when they are available.
    It is sad to know that children are becoming so stressed, and that the lack of outdoor play is to blame. I also seemed to only be inside when I was sleeping when I was younger. My friends and I would scheme an excuse together such as, one of our bikes broke on the way home so we all had to help fix it, in order to stay out later than our curfew without punishment. Nobody wanted to be inside because there was so much to do outside. It was more fun being with each other physically as opposed to electronically. Realistically, there is still so much more to do outside for youth. Nothing really has changed, except for our culture. It is sad watching the results of it in our youth as they are becoming more overweight, lack of creativity and a great amount of dependence on others for their entertainment.
    One article I read talks about how important outdoor play is for children in terms of developing motor control (Strickland, 2002). It worries me that the increase in psychological and physical disorders will only continue to grow with the attitude towards outdoor play remains non existent with youth.

    Meggie

    Strickland, E. (2002). Eric Strickland, Ph.D. On Exploring the Benefit of Outdoor Play. Early Childhood Today, 16(7), 44.

  3. mbell14 says:

    I agree with your post Hannah because in my childhood I was always playing outside with friends that enjoyed the outdoors more then the screen. We would always find a way to do something outside when we all got bored of playing soccer or baseball because we would just make up a game to play or just go for a walk to the beach, just to kill time before we ate dinner. This was a normal environment in our community because at that time technology was just basic compared to now and the other children were always helping doing chores outside with their parents or playing little games with friends. Today when I’m outside helping my father with a little job, I notice that there is not as many children playing outside anymore and it’s weird because I feel like it’s just my dad and I are the only one’s outside making noise. It’s sad that you don’t hear as much laughter from children when you are taking a walk outside or even working outside because I was use to hearing children laugh all the time, but now the children today are more interested in what video game their friends are playing and what TV series that they have to watch.
    I hope sometime in the future we will see more children interacting with the outdoors, instead of interacting with a screen in front of them.

    Matt

  4. gregsteele17 says:

    Great Post and topic Hannah!

    Like a few of you posted, I also grew up in a rural setting on my dad’s dairy farm. I was surrounded by the beautiful outdoors including a river , farm animals, sand piles, forest, camp on the lake and our own family golf course that consisted of all natural hazards and holes! My daily outdoor experiences taught me many valuable things in life and contributed to my positive youth development. I truly believe the great outdoors contributes to social, emotional, physical and cognitive well being. It is a perfect venue for exploration, using one’s imagination, development of physical skills, learning about nature, taking risks and opportunities to form life long positive relationships with family & friends.

    It is sad that our society today is so caught up with a digital world mind- set. Not enough people are taking the time to enjoy all the positive advantages fresh air has to provide. Too many children and adults are glued to their screens and spending time outdoors has become more of a chore or a special event that happens all to infrequently. This is very unfortunate because the Great Outdoors is a great remedy for common health issues such as obesity, stress, etc. Ideas such as the Forest Kindergartens are great and definitely promote positive values and a healthy lifestyle that will be instilled into adulthood. by Greg S

  5. erikaermen says:

    I strongly believe that the youth of today lack the ability to use their imagination when it comes to play. This may be in direct link with this topic, I think that our generation has a hard time believe that children do not want to be outside all the time. As everyone has mentioned, we all stayed outside until the street lights came on at night and had to be dragged in by our parents. Simply looking at my two younger cousins (10 and 16 years old), when they were younger they did play outside, but they only stayed outside for an hour then came back inside to play on their PlayStation. We are able to see this across Generation Z, and i think as future recreations and sport leaders we need to find a way to positively link technology and outdoor recreation. This is not something that I would normally encourage but it does seem to be the only way to get children interested and involved.
    As you mentioned in your post Hannah, I think it is a good idea to have an app that will allow children to explore the outside and maybe for the to share with their friends what they have found. In regards to this post we are not as worried about physical activity as we are about getting children outside. In this context I think that even if children are using their technology they will still be getting the many health benefits that the great outdoors has to offer. I think that if a app of this sort could be linked with the Girl Guides or the Cubs, it would be an encouraging activity for the whole family. Perhaps incorporate virtual activities and allow the children to gain virtual badges.
    The possibilities are endless when we allow ourselves to go outside and just let our imagination go. Without having the stress of our everyday lives, the outdoors is beneficial for everyone and families should really be encouraging everyone to go outside and explore our natural resources together. There are numerous health benefits but it will also allow families to be closer and allow parents to gain trust in their child, if the parents know the child can take care of themselves in their neighborhood.

  6. jesseunderhill says:

    I totally agree with your view and the points you have made on the importance of getting youth outside. I think because of the era which we all grew up in that it is much easier for us to see and understand the importance of playing outside since we were once kids with much less technology and then grew up alongside its innovation. I think this let us (or at least me) witness and experience both sides of leisure, where my friends and I would always be outside playing and then where we were on computers or a cell phone and then communicating through MSN or Facebook. I find it pretty evident through my own experiences that when youth get outdoors and away from technology that they are forced to create their own experiences and actively learn how to deal and interact with peers, others, and environments first hand. I see this as being much more rewarding and will contribute to more potential assets then being inside behind a screen of some sort would.
    As you mentioned “Ben Klasky presented an interesting way to harness the power of technology, for ‘good’ not ‘evil’ ” and he suggested that there are numerous apps that focus on exploring the outdoors- from identifying creatures to geocaching. I think recognizing this is very important, because we need to find the right balance between nature and technology and use the benefits of technology to help boost the experiences that we create, and not solely rely on screens to provide our experiences.
    I think we need to get youth back to creating their own experiences and just like all the points you have made- it is very important and simple to do this by getting them out outdoors and then let nature and their imagination do the work.

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