by Taylor H.
I want you to think back to when you were a kid. What did you do for fun? Where did you play? Where were your parents while you were playing? If your childhood was anything like mine, it was similar to this – as a child I, would play outside until the street lights turned on, playing in the woods making forts, or running up to my neighbor’s house to play in our pretend kitchen making mud cakes. Parents were not glued to our hips while we were playing; they simply wanted us to be back in time for dinner.
So, what happened to the sense of wonder and imaginations kids these days seem to have lost?
First, we need to understand why youth are no longer participating in leisure and recreational activities that take place outside. It should be no surprise when I say kids now spend an average of seven hours a day plugged in to a device (Salo, 2009, p. 28). Kids are so concentrated with being involved in these non-active activities that they seem to be losing interest in all outside play. Only 40% of children between the ages of 2-11 and 8% of adolescents between the ages of 12-17 achieve the proper amount of 60 minutes a day of physical activity (Blanton, 2013, p. 325).
Right now, on your desk or in your pocket, you hold a little device that allows you to “stay up to date” with the latest news of your friends, family, celebrities. Basically, you can receive news from anywhere in the world. Social media is an incredibly powerful tool that can influence anyone. Another reason youth are no longer participating in the environment is because of the effects social media has on the society. Society has created this image that the outside world is a dangerous area to play. Parents now see the only safe place for their children to play and be active is inside or at a scheduled event such as a play date or sport event. This provides the parents with the comfort they need knowing that their child is in the presence of an adult. The world of play has turned into a well-structured environment where we set times for play dates and have strict rules that control when and where youth play.
Playing outside has been proven to have amazing benefits for the physical and mental health of a youth. During these developmental stages, it is beneficial for youth to explore and recreate that sense of wonder and imagination. Playing outside allows your body to absorbed vitamin D, it can lower the rate of heart disease, osteoporosis, MS and some cancers, lower the rate of obesity, create positive moods, lower anxiety, stress, and depression as well as create a better developed focus (Klasky, 2014). Its been said that youth that are involved in Forest schools, or school that provided natural playgrounds that are surrounded by flowers and trees are more likely to develop a sense of care for mother nature (Johnstone, 2017). In this positive environment children are challenged with understanding concepts such as where their fruits and vegetables come from, instead of just assuming they come from the store. They learn how delicate and time consuming it is to grow a tomato from a seed. When children are confronted with these new learning experiences, they are more likely to enjoy eating fruits and vegetables and develop a sense of respect for nature. Children that are more hands on with the environment tend to grow an interest in the field of science. This can provide them with a sense of purpose and a way to see their future.
Social media is something we will never beat, so we need to learn how to work with it. Schools need to push youth to be active outside by making more field trips in provincial parks, local lakes, nearby trails to help encouraging youth to participate in nature. Make hands-on projects that involve going outside and studying nature. Create day trips or camps that involve learning and exploring the different opportunities involved in the wilderness. Challenge different apps that are available such a Geocaching, TeleStory and Wild Time. We want to try to encourage youth to use what’s offered in their backyards to help them develop to their fullest potential.
Blanton, Jedediah. (2013). The Feasibility of Using Nature-Based Settings for Physical Activity Programming: Views from Urban Youth and Program Providers. American Journal of Health Education, 44(6), pp. 324-334
Johnstone, Lori. (2017). Health and Wellness 2. RSS 4083
Klasky, Ben. (2014). Get hooked on nature. TedxTalks, Retrieved from
Kelly (2014). Nature Inspired Playgrounds. Be a fun mom, Retrieved from http://www.beafunmum.com/2014/09/nature-inspired-playgrounds/
Kenny, Erin. (2014). Flow Learning in a Forest Kindergarten. Natural Start Alliance, Retrieved from http://naturalstart.org/feature-stories/flow-learning-forest-kindergarten
Salo, Jennifer. (2009). Screen time replacing physical activity time. Physical & Health Education Journal, 74(4), pp. 28-29