When we think back to our own childhood, we know we played more outside than our children do today. Fears about ‘Stranger Danger’, increased volume of cars on our roads, and let’s face it, a changed society with entertainment revolving around screens, mean our kids play less outside than we did. So here are some Useful Tips for Less Screen Time and More Green Time.
Kids Just Aren’t Going Outdoors Time
According to new research from Compass Club by Coillte, half of children in Ireland (51%) only spend 30 minutes or less playing outdoors after school and parents overwhelmingly admit (64%) that this is far less than when they were children.
Outdoor activities such as tree climbing and pitching a tent seem to be from a by-gone era and have been replaced by smart phones, tablets and Netflix.
While technology is great for developing knowledge based skills, there is a concern that it is leading to what has been termed ‘nature deficit disorder’ amongst a generation of children.
There is a growing body of research which shows that outdoor learning contributes to a child learning, building self-esteem and socialisation skills too.
How do we get children away from the screens and back to the outdoors?
Here are some tips:
#1. Let them lead
When going outdoors, try and shift the focus of play to free play instead of the usual prescriptive can and cannot do list of activities. This will allow them to use their imaginations and also be the masters of their own learning. Just make sure you are keeping an eye on them from a safety point of view.
#2. Make it family time
Your children love to spend time with you. Outdoor exploring can be a great opportunity for bonding time. Here are some fun activities you can do together outdoors
- Play hide and seek
- Hold a scavenger hunt
- Pitch a tent – an activity that requires team work which will contribute greatly to your child’s development
- Set up an obstacle course
#3. Dress appropriately
As the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. Don’t let the weather stop you!
Children should feel free to get as messy as they need to be. Sensory stimulation is an important part of outdoor exploration – nature can be touched, smelled and heard! Messy clothes can be replaced while memories can’t.
#4. Exploring is for all ages
While we’re not suggesting you try and get your teen to play hide and seek with you, there are outdoor activities that can be enjoyed for children of all ages. Family walks can be enjoyed by 6 and 16 year olds alike and can be a great way of bringing family members together.
Why not try some Geocaching or if you play it safely, then Pokemon Go can be a fun way to get kids walking!
#5. Look out for Nature Camps and Classes
As well as Compass Club by Coillte, which is a new afterschool initiative to get kids back into nature by providing a fun foundation in outdoor skills and activities, you can often find fun nature-based camps and classes for kids or outdoor adventure classes for teens in locations near you. Check outdoor adventures centres as a starting point. This can be a good way of introducing your child/teen to more outdoor activities through a structured class.
My Review of Compass Club
We were invited to try out the Compass Club so we brought our son Conor to the Coillte Compass Club event on a bright and sunny Saturday morning high up in Massey Woods in Rathfarnham. It was the perfect forest setting for the Compass Club to explore.
The Compass leaders were hugely enthusiastic about what was ahead for the group of intrepid explorers and it was very apparent that they were all passionate and thoughtful about what they do. The excitement was palpable as the group headed off into the wood chattering and giggling. We let them to it not wanting to be interlopers!
When we went back to collect him, Conor’s gang were deep in the wood sitting outside a really impressive den that they had constructed from gathered branches and were busily toasting marshmallows. The little group were proud and animated in telling us what they had done on their forest adventure.
The woodland looked amazing and it was a special experience for the children to be doing fun activities with this new group of friends in this natural setting.
Disclaimer: My son was invited by Compass Club to try the class for free, these are my own opinions
Further information on course locations and class dates can be found at www.CompassClub.ie.
Over to you now. Do you have any tips for getting your kids outdoors? Share them with us in the comments below.