10 reasons for kids to spend time outside

The National Wildlife Federation’s Be Out There Campaign wants you to know why it’s so important to make sure you kids get plenty of outdoor time.

Here are five reasons that might surprise you from their list (Click here to see the whole list):

“Stronger bones and lower cancer risk: Today’s “indoor kids” don’t get enough sun and are becoming Vitamin D deficient, causing health risks.

Improved eyesight: Recent studies find that kids who get outdoor time have less nearsightedness and need for eye glasses.

Longer attention spans: Children who stare at TV and video games all day have less patience and shorter attention spans.

Better at making friends: Children playing together outdoors relate directly with one another, create games together, choose sides and improve their “people” skills.

Measurably better grades in school: The healthy bodies and minds that come with outdoor play are better able to do well in school.”

What are your challenges to getting your kids outside more? Are there ways to get around those challenges? How much time do your kids get to play outside? What are alternatives when it’s too hot or too cold?

35 comments Add your comment

Father Jane Goose

August 29th, 2011
1:19 pm

You know your parenting skills stink is when you read an article on “Why it’s important to have your kids outside” and actually ponder the thesis.

You actually get paid for writing stuff like this? Are you kidding me?

JJ

August 29th, 2011
1:33 pm

Father Jane Goose – why are you here? You do nothing but insult Theresa and as far as I know you have contributed NOTHING to this blog. Why don’t you go play somewhere else…..preferably outside and away from the computer.

jmb

August 29th, 2011
1:41 pm

I’m with JJ. This world has enough negative attitudes and I believe the majority here would prefer for FJG to just zip it and crawl back under his rock.

Father Jane Goose

August 29th, 2011
1:50 pm

Well, Miss JJ I actually commented on the subject matter for this blog and you did not. Hmmmm… Freud would love to analyze your comments, especially the capitalization of words which is not necessary if one has proper command of the King’s English.

The current topic is silly and quite frankly rather stupid. I guess JJ you my lady would like to comment of the topic at hand – after all I certainly did.

Now lets hear from the size 12 Mother Jane Goose…..

jarvis

August 29th, 2011
2:12 pm

Queen’s English….She’s been ruling for right at 60 years oh learned one.

Can we just ignore...

August 29th, 2011
2:17 pm

…the trolls and stick to the topic…after all, his first sentence was topic related…

mom2alex&max

August 29th, 2011
3:07 pm

My only challenge in getting the boys outside is the heat. I have talked to some old timer dads that say that kids today just aren’t conditioned for the heat as they used to be back in the days of no A/C. That may be, but when the heat index is over 100 and the air quality index is through the floor, I feel a bit bad sending mine outside. They come back after 10 mins drenched in sweat and red as beets. I hate being outside on days like that, so I can’t really blame them from not wanting to either. We make do with being at the pool most afternoons (before school started).

After it cools a bit, they are outside all the time biking, running, playing football with the neighbors, shooting hoops, etc. But not right now. Sorry. I’m sure several will pipe in here calling my sons sissies for not wanting to be outside when it’s hot.

Jack McFarland

August 29th, 2011
3:08 pm

And being outside helps to foster children’s creativity. Not to mention that they are less likely to be obese.

Techmom

August 29th, 2011
3:19 pm

I love being outside- playing, working in the yard, eating dinner on the deck, even just driving with the windows down! I think my son just learned to like it from an early age b/c he’s definitely an outdoor kid and loves camping. BUT one of the 10 reasons I have to laugh at is “Measurably better grades in school”- if that were the case, I would have a straight-A student and he is FAR from that.

catlady

August 29th, 2011
3:21 pm

It takes sun, dirt, and water to raise a child, just like raising a crop in the garden. Let them be out early in the morning (before 10), then after 6 in the evening. They don’t have to run non-stop; let them sit under a tree and read a book, make paperdolls, play marbles, or build a fort out of scrap lumber.

JJ

August 29th, 2011
3:32 pm

Sending kids outside to play, in hot or cold weather, builds social skills, problem solving, and forces them to use their imaginations in general.

MomsRule

August 29th, 2011
3:33 pm

The only difficulty we have with outdoor play is that none of the other kids in our neighhood (except 1) actually play outdoors so my youngest gets frustrated that no one will play outside. They are all more than happy to play indoors – ie video games :( It is the one thing I hate about our neighborhood.

In Georgia it is never too cold to play outside. Re the heat. Go out in the morning or evening if you must. But, it is entirely possible to play in the heat of the day as well. Just ask all the kids playing sports who play in these hot temps daily and sometimes all weekend too if they are playing in tournaments.

Sage

August 29th, 2011
5:08 pm

You can send your kids out to play – but they’ll be right back indoors when they learn the other kids in the hood are at an activity or indoors. You can’t build social skills with kids that are not around.

Diversity isn’t all that is cracked up to be and we are not a melting pot! Most of our neighbors are not even from GA. The only time you ever see them is when they are in their car.

catlady

August 29th, 2011
5:22 pm

My kids didn’t have neighborhood playmates, but they spent much of their free time outside in the yard. There were no kids their ages for at least a half a mile around. Kids don’t have to have playmates to play outside!

BTW, I was an only child. My parents expected me to play outside –in Florida!–by myself if my 2 friends within the neighborhood couldn’t come over.

HB

August 29th, 2011
5:33 pm

I agree, catlady. As an only child, I spent hours outside entertaining myself in our yard.

penguinmom

August 29th, 2011
5:40 pm

@mom2 – I have the same problem. We are headed out to the park right now to walk and play because we have finally hit some cooler temps. We don’t live in a neighborhood with a pool so that isnt’ an option when it is blistering hot. I’m sure my kids could get acclimated to the heat eventually but I don’t force the issue because I am certainly not going to go outside when it is stinkin’ hot so it seems unfair to force them to.

My middle child is very heat sensitive. She wears capris and sandals most of the winter and is comfortable. She doesn’t even own a really thick winter jacket because she thinks they are too hot. So, the summer is excruciating for her even if she is wearing a tank top and shorts. Her current plan is to move north when she gets older to avoid these summers. She is looking forward to actually getting cold enough to want a jacket.

We also don’t currently have any kids on our street who are my kids ages (or even close). When my eldest was younger, we spent a lot more time outside because he had a friend across the street.

cofthenight

August 29th, 2011
5:41 pm

Our problem is the mosquitoes thriving in our half dried up, slimy creek! Yuck! (Yes, we spray ourselves with Off, but I sure don’t like to do that every single day…) Come on, Fall! And some rain! :)

MomsRule

August 29th, 2011
6:24 pm

@Catlady 5:22 – I agree that outdoor playmates aren’t required but it sure makes it nice :)

I simply get frustrated at other parents that don’t encourage/force their kids outside! Stop making excuses. Send them out!

djs_NC

August 29th, 2011
7:23 pm

a lot of parents dont want to send their kids out because it takes more time to watch them and keep up with them. send them to their rooms with their tv’s and other electronic stuff and then they wont bother you. i actually had a friend of mine tell me today-in the middle of an im so broke conversation- that his kids tv broke so he had to go buy a new one. none of my kids ever had a tv in their rooms. half the year we never even had the dtv on…i doubt i coulda kept my kids inside if i had wanted to. we all pretty much live(d) out side as much as possible.

ha

August 29th, 2011
11:22 pm

You just wanted them outside so you can deedle yourself to Wolf Blitzer on CNN.

ha

August 29th, 2011
11:23 pm

I wanted them outside so we could have a clicker licking contest.

Cathy D. Wright

August 30th, 2011
2:39 am

I always stressed outsides for my daughter to optimize and maximize her fitness. If only I could do it to.

iRun

August 30th, 2011
5:11 am

They do get heat acclimated. My son is 10. All summer my son was at tennis camp. It’s 4 miles away and on my way to work and I am a bike commuter. So, we biked to camp, locked his bike, I went on to work, and he played tennis in the sun all day. Now he’s playing football. They practice starting at 6:30 but their games are at noon. They do okay.

1. Keep them well-hydrated.

2. If they’re not heat acclimated then you have to do it slowly. Start out by having them play outside in the morning and evening when it’s not so hot. Eventually they will build up heat tolerance and will be able to play outside during the hot parts of the day.

3. If there are no neighborhood kids who play outside on their own…have your kid go and ask if a neighbor kid wants to go ride bikes, or have a watergun fight, or dig a hole…whatever.

LG

August 30th, 2011
6:27 am

Just last week, one of my neighbors critized me for letting my kids play outside all day long when they were younger (they’re college students now). I even let them go out a few minutes during a tropical storm. They came in drenched but happy.

Carla

August 30th, 2011
6:51 am

Lol..@LG….Last good rain we had I had my kids and their friends playing out in it and they LOVED it. My MIL thought I was crazy. Otherwise, I try to send mine out at least once per day. As an only child I love to watch JUST how creative he can get out there….sticks become swords and our dogs are the villians…or helpers…or horses…or whatever. When it’s really hot I’m lucky if I can keep him out there for long but I do try to get him out. We spent most of the summer at the lake and once it cools off we are gonna work on teaching the dogs fetch and well…anything else I can come up with to get us all outside as a family. Frisbee anyone?

catlady

August 30th, 2011
7:43 am

My first principal was from SD, so we went out no matter what the weather, unless it was lightning. He said if the kid was well enough to come to school, he was well enough to be outside a bit.

JJ

August 30th, 2011
8:05 am

We played in the snow….

Spacey

August 30th, 2011
8:23 am

Mosquitoes! They drive us crazy.
I hate spraying the little ones with deet so I tried the all natural route.
They would come in with bites everywhere.
Choices, choices…
Outside and covered in deet, inside, or take our chances with the mosquitoes.
The first choice works for me and they love it so much!
We walk almost every night after dinner pulling the baby in a wagon. The 3 year old runs and examines every stick and acorn along the way.
My husband wants to get a Wii, but I’m holding off for as long as I can get away with it!

ha

August 30th, 2011
8:27 am

The new majority doesn’t want their kids to go out and play. They do not encourage it at all.

oneofeach4me

August 30th, 2011
10:05 am

My kids LOVE to be outside. They dig holes, climb trees, ride bikes, and dig for bugs in the neighbors flower bed (opps did I just say that out loud?). There were days during the summer where they would just be too hot, but they would go out and play well up til 9:30. My neighborhood is a lot like MomsRule in that most people don’t let their kids play outside. It does get frustrating because it would be nice for the kids to have someone else to play with. But hey, it is what it is. Think what you want about me.. but I refuse to have coach potatoes for kids!!

homeschooler

August 30th, 2011
10:33 am

@Spacey. Definitely hold off on the Wii until your kids are old enough to have developed very good skills at entertaining themselves. We did not get one until my kids were 9 and 6. (If my 6 yr old had been a boy, I would have waited longer).
My kids have fun on it but it is far from their primary means of entertainment.
I will admit that the Wii is way better than your average video game as the kids interact so much with eachother when they play it. (I won’t even say anything about the physical activity b/c it does not compare to actually “playing”).
The younger you start your kids on video games, the more they will rely on them for entertainment. If you do get one, play it one day a week as a family. I knew that whenever I broke down and got one, I would use it as a babysitter (and I totally do) which is why I waited.

Mary Burnette

August 30th, 2011
10:47 am

Father Jane Goose calls this topic stupid and silly but I must disagree. The fact that kids are spending an average of 7-8 hours a day inside plugged into some form of electronic media is a real wake-up call for parents. This statistic is from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Not silly or stupid but a real cause for concern. Check out the National Wildlife Federation’s Whole Child report which details this issue more fully — http://www.nwf.org/~/media/PDFs/Be%20Out%20There/BeOutThere_WholeChild_V2.ashx

oneofeach4me

August 30th, 2011
12:00 pm

Funny… we haven’t even touched our Wii all summer. We tend to use the Wii during the winter when it gets of course colder and darker earlier. They still play outside in the winter, but being that we don’t get home until 6 or so in the evening they only get about 1 more hour of light. I also agree with homeschooler on waiting to buy one. We just bought ours last Christmas and our kids were 9 and 5. I also agree that the Wii is great for interacting as a family. We all love to do the bowling together and to be honest, the boxing wears me and my son out!!

Kelly

September 1st, 2011
3:30 pm

Rather than “sending” them out, go out with them! If there are no playmates in the neighborhood, go for a walk together, have them help with yardwork, etc. Regardless of their age or what they might say, kids enjoy spending time with their parents even if they are not “playing”. The best way to get them outside is to be their role model.

@Father Jane Goose – You are apparently oblivious to the number one health crisis facing our children which is obesity. Some of this is due to helicopter parents who won’t even let their children play outside without them. If more kids walked or rode their bikes to school or lived in neighborhoods with sidewalks rather than cul-de-sacs, there would be a great improvement in the gloomy statistics regarding our nation’s children. I am a parent, but my interest in this article is due to my career field, landscape architecture. I design outdoor places like parks, playgrounds and communities, so the more attractive, useful and safe a place is, the more people will use it and get healthier, both physically and mentally. So I’m not reading this because I’m a bad parent or because my daughter spends too much time inside. Quit judging people and take your negative attitude elsewhere.

Amelia McDaniel

September 1st, 2011
11:24 pm

What about the issue of supervision? We were essentially unsupervised, playing outside with neighbor kids for hours every day. Times have changed, and parents are expected to watch their children more closely. I hear a lot of you saying “send them out every day.” How can I let them play outside if I don’t go with them? We live in an urban neighborhood. We have a six foot fence around our backyard, but I hate to send them out alone, anyway. That is our biggest hurdle. With four kids ages 5 to 1, I can’t always be out there with them.