As a parent, you probably look fondly back on time spent outdoors playing with your siblings and neighborhood friends or summer months at your favorite overnight summer camp. These experiences, which used to be ordinary, are becoming increasingly rare because of our fondness for technology. Yet the importance of nature versus screens for kids is well-known. Research shows spending time in nature positively impacts children’s physical and mental development and emotional well-being. How can you prevent screen time from robbing your kids of green time? Get your son to put down the technology and stop for a breath of fresh air with these tips.
Why Kids Are Spending Less Time Outdoors
Thinking that your kids spend less time outside than you once did is not a symptom of nostalgia. Screen time corresponds almost directly with a decline in time spent outside – and kids today have many options. The COVID pandemic accelerated the trend, with kids aged 6-13 spending over 6 hours a day in front of screens on average – far beyond the 2-hour recommended time limit. Recent US studies showed the typical 12-year-old spent less than 6 hours a week outdoors. From 1997 to 2003, the number of children spending time outside dropped from 20 to 10%. This lack of green time, now known as nature deficit disorder, is driven by many factors. Sometimes overworked parents don’t have time to watch their kids play outdoors and fear letting them go without supervision. Our technologically advanced society also shoulders blame, distracting children with video games, streaming, social media, and more.
Benefits of Spending Time Outside
Spending time outdoors positively impacts physical and mental health. Physically active children have a healthier body weight and manage stress better than less active kids. Time in nature decreases cortisol levels, a stress hormone, relieving daily anxiety and mental fatigue. It also lessens ADHD symptoms, improves attention and concentration, and restores the mind. Unstructured outdoor play boosts problem-solving in response to challenges, improving self-esteem.
Tips for Getting Kids to Play Outside
Encouraging children to trade screen time for green time may be challenging at first, but with a bit of persistence and creativity, you can foster a love of nature and outdoor play.
Be the change
Eat outdoors or take a walk at a nearby trail once or twice a week. Be a role model, spending time outdoors and sharing what you enjoy about nature with your kids.
Reflect your child’s interests
If there’s a particular book, movie, or game your child enjoys, go outdoors and discuss how your surroundings mimic or differ, drawing parallels between nature and your child’s interests.
Make it a game
If you have young children, set up a scavenger hunt with a list of nature items to find or start a collection of rocks, leaves, or insect photos. Over time, kids will develop their own ideas and look forward to outdoor play.
Bring a friend
Invite a friend on your next hike or playground trip – everything is more fun with a friend.
Foster a Love for the Outdoors at Mowglis Summer Camp for Boys
Make outdoor time a priority and make it fun! Our overnight summer camp for boys is perfect for showing the importance of nature versus screens for kids. Contact Camp Mowglis at 603-744-8095 to learn more about our traditional, unplugged boys’ summer camp experience, or reserve your spot for the upcoming camping season today.