I think we have been pretty lucky so far when it comes to outdoor play, the first thing our (nearly) 2 year old daughter says when she wakes up is usually “I want to go to the garden!” Hearing the statistic that children are, on average, spending 45 hours per week behind a screen and just 5 hours doing active outdoor play is disappointing but not, unfortunately, shocking.
We live in a world where the default setting is to grab your phone or iPad and keep in contact with the world using our devices. Add to that the increased fear of the outdoors and general lack of trust in society from most parents, and it’s not surprisingly at all that children are spending more and more time indoors behind a screen.
Not a war on technology
There are some pretty cool benefits to technology, I mean you can play a computer game with a friend on the other side of the world, all while talking over a headset and seeing them live on your screen! When I was a kid that would have
been something you would only see in some sort of sci-fi movie but now it’s the new normal.
Balance is the key
Ashley and Mia after a #FathersDay visit to @KidZaniaLondon @KidZania ? _____________________________________ ‘MFF recommends’ feature coming soon ?? _____________________________________ #FacePainting #Fatherhood #DadBoss #Parenting #PBlogger #DadBlogger #UKdadbloggers #ParentingAdvice #Dad #Dads #PBloggersUK #Baby #Family #IceCream #Sunday #KidZania
While technology is amazing and we need to embrace the benefits, the key to raising a happy, well-rounded and confident child is balance. Outdoor play is absolutely essential to a child’s well-being and there’s nothing better than connecting with nature, breathing in some fresh air and being active outdoors.
There are so many benefits to outdoor play. Apart from the obvious physical benefits of exercise, I’d like to touch on my own childhood experience to explain why outdoor play is so important to me and my family.
I was always quite an active child and from my toddler years all the way through to starting secondary, my parents really helped facilitate my need for being outdoors and playing sports. They helped me try any sport I wanted, and I tried lots! From ice-skating to football to hockey to long-jump, if the sport features in the Olympics, I’ve probably tried it at least once!
The fact that my parents encouraged me to try all these things and just generally let me play outside, whether that be with or without them, it gave me the confidence to join teams and take sport seriously.
I eventually stuck with football and athletics and joined a Sunday league football team and an athletics club (my parents were busy!). All through school I was known as the guy that was good at football and a fast runner and this really helped me feel confident at school and allowed me to have an identity.
Having ‘your thing’ in school is important, it reduces the chances of bullying and means the child always has something else going on other than just school. Football and athletics were a major reason why my school years were relatively happy. They were a big part of my identity.
For me, this all started when I was really young. As a toddler, my parents would encourage me to play outdoors, whether that be going to the park or doing something more organised, they were just getting me into good habits and making sure I was comfortable expressing myself outdoors.
Outdoor Play – how to get out and play, dad!
But I do recognise that there can be some very real barriers to taking our young kids outdoors. As parents we see the hazards in everything! Danger is just around the corner and for a first time parent this fear can be heightened as every experience is new. But I do think it’s important to try and spend time outdoors with your child as early as possible.
I’ve put together 4 practical tips to help fathers take the leap and spend more quality time outdoors with their little ones:
- Pack all the essentials – there are certain things you should always have on you just in case there is a little accident. Wipes, plasters and an antiseptic cream (Sudocrem is a great option) will help you deal with any small cuts and bruises. You should also make sure you have your mobile phone (like we would forget that anyway!), some calpol and your child’s red book. You don’t want to overpack and take absolutely everything but always making sure you have the essentials will give you that piece of mind and help you have a relaxing time outdoors.
- Identify safe spaces – it’s always good to have a few ‘go to’ places where you can pop out quickly if the sun is out. So check out all the local parks and familiarise yourself with the ones you really like and feel comfortable in. It’s always good to know of other different events and attractions you can visit too though. The Hoop app is a good for listing child friendly events.
- Be aware of your surroundings – this means not being on Facebook on your phone when you’re out with the kids! It’s so easy to be distracted by our phones but as you know with kids, accidents can happen in a blink of an eye. So always make sure you are attentive and present so you can spot any danger or deal with a situation as soon as it occurs.
- Do first aid training – having a basic level of first aid training can really help put your mind at ease. It’s most likely that you’ll probably never need to use it but it will give you that extra piece of mind and ensure the safety of your kids.
Over to you, dad.