Today, many of us live in a world that’s disconnected from nature and the great outdoors meaning our kids often live an undesirably sedentary lifestyle that can not only be detrimental to their physical health but also their mental and emotional development.
With regard to the physiological effects, the less children engage in outdoor activities that get their heart pumping oxygenated blood around their bodies the more susceptible they will be to disease, and the less they exercise, the more likely they are to become overweight and if coupled with a poor diet, the chance of them developing diabetes skyrockets.
Indeed, today, more and more children are becoming overweight to the point of obesity as a result of poor nutrition and a lack of movement yet we seem to accept this as the new norm.
Since their relaunch Simply Be have updated their product lines and incorporate a variety of plus sized options to accommodate the growing trend, and whilst there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with being overweight it can pose a risk to our emotional and physical wellbeing, which is why in our children, we need to do all we can to keep them as active as possible and encourage outdoor play.
In the modern world kids today spend a lot of time sat in a car, sat in a classroom, and sat in front of their TV, phone, or computer game… meaning they are sat around doing very little in terms of moving their bodies and exercising. I like to motivate my kids with music, we set a playlist of their favourite songs and they each use a set of headphones for workout time, by workout time obviously I don't mean a strict routine but it certainly helps to have music playing whilst we are out on long dog walks.
This makes it challenging for the modern parent because once upon a time, kids didn’t have the temptation of sitting in front of a TV or playing on their playstation all day, instead, they would be out and about playing hide and seek, tag, chasing cops and robbers, or hanging around on a climbing frame.
This active play ensured they were getting plenty of exercise and an abundance of fresh air. Indeed, getting a plentiful supply of fresh air comes with a plethora of benefits in terms of a child’s physical well-being. One of the best ways to encourage spending time outdoors and getting plenty of fresh air is to have a dog as a family pet, see dogs love all things outdoors from camping to swimming, racing around fields, walking through woodland trails and it brings a certain magical warmth to walks that is hard to get without a canine companion.
Spending time outdoors has proven to lower the risk of hyperactivity and depression. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics notes children who spend more time watching TV and playing video games, than playing outdoors, tend to have shorter attention spans.
This is perhaps due to the fact when children play outside, they are engaging in ‘creative play’ that means they having to use their imagination rather than be spoon fed entertainment as a passive activity via their computer console or television.
When engaged in active play, they are in the active position of creating entertainment for themselves rather than the passive position of receiving entertainment where they essentially sit and absorb without much cognitive stimulation.
In the spirit of making sure your child gets plenty of fresh air and activity this here are three basic principles to follow and a few suggestions on what to do this summer.
1. GO WITH THE FLOW
If your child is playing an organised sport one minute but then starts chasing after a butterfly - go with their curiosity and allow them to discover what they wish to discover. They should be free to explore the ‘great outdoors’ on their terms rather than in a regimented or rules based way. Allow them to explore the world on their terms and watch their creativity soar.
2. CHALLENGE THEM
The game of “tag” is a great way to keep your child active without it feeling like exercise. It’s also a great way to tire them out. Tag is both physically and mentally stimulating and it creates an element of warm competitiveness which strengthens the bond between you.
3. MAKE IT FUN
Look for ways to make active play fun and loose, rather than competitive, and your child is much more likely to take to it. A great way to look at this is the comparison of encouraging your child to swim lengths in a swimming pool, which they will get bored of very quickly, versus, playing on the floats and inflatables. Their level of activity might just be as high as when they are swimming, yet they barely notice it, as they are so engaged in the process that it doesn’t feel like exercise, it just feels like fun.
Similarly, exercise doesn’t have to be in a sporting context, you could simply make sure that when you want to enjoy a nice drink on a summer evening in a pub garden that garden has a bouncy castle or an obstacle course. The great thing with bouncing on a bouncy castle is that it doesn’t feel like exercise, but it’s actually a great way to get your kids moving, without them feeling they are being forced to exercise.
4. TURN OFF THE TV
Whilst the TV can be a good tool to use from time to time it’s very easy to become reliant on the TV as an exclusive source of entertainment. It’s sad that watching TV, nowadays, has become so habitual that children often get home and see it as the ‘only option’ or their ‘preferred option’.
Whilst it isn’t necessarily feasible to turn off the TV entirely, it is a good idea to limit how much TV or computer games your children are allowed to consume on a daily or weekly basis in order to encourage them to get out and about, rather than stay stuck inside all the time, particularly in these warm months.
5. GET A DOG
A lot of children long for a pet dog, and this is actually a great way to ensure the whole family get plenty of regular exercise, as it means there is a requirement on you all to go out and walk the dog.
The danger, of course, is that this burden falls on your shoulders and the kids lose interest (particularly in winter months) but having a dog is a great way to teach responsibility and the connection / companionship between a child and a dog is unique, to the point that the family pet is often involved in active play.
If you’re looking for a dog then the RSPCA can be a good place to find one in need of a loving home (www.rspca.org.uk).
In summary, having active kids is important, yet with today’s modern lifestyles it’s not always the easiest thing to implement. Therefore, we need to actively encourage and facilitate an active lifestyle for our children in order to keep them happy and healthy.
*This is a collaborative post*