I was recently at a conference where the speaker gave this statistic:
In the year 1900 the acceptable radius of play for an 8 year old child was 5 miles. No one thought anything about an 8 year old going 5 miles from home to play with friends, fish in the river, explore the forest, visit town, etc.
In the year 1950 that radius had been reduced to 1 mile.
Today the accepted radius of play for an 8 year old child is 500 yards. Basically, children are expected to stay within earshot of their home.
Research shows that playing outdoors reduces the symptoms of ADHD. Is it any wonder? Think about it. Go outside and climb trees, ride bikes, build forts, chase someone around the block. When you come in you are ready to be calm! Others say that kids who spend a lot of time outside are better students, have healthier bones and eyes, are more creative and suffer less from depression.
So why, then, do we keep our kids inside all the time?
Well… in part it’s because our kids like being plugged in. One study in the UK showed that only 40% of kids would choose outdoor play over watching TV.
Maybe that’s because they are over scheduled and exhausted. Maybe it’s because they have spent so little time outdoors they just don’t know HOW to play.
Are you nervous about letting your kids play outside because the world has become such a dangerous place? Consider this article which compares statistics over the years. If you grew up in the 1970’s or 80’s crime against children is NO HIGHER NOW than it was when you were a child. The REPORTING of crimes, which came with the advent of hundreds of TV channels running 24 hours a day (not to mention internet, text alerts, etc) has increased dramatically so we may be more aware. But the world is just as safe now as it was 30 years ago.
If you grew up in the 1990’s the world is SAFER now for your children than it was for you! Crime rates peaked toward the end of the century and have since gone down once again.
And children don’t need to go 5 miles away. They just need to get out of the house. Let them into the yard! FORCE them into the yard! Encourage your neighbors to do the same, because playing alone is not nearly as much fun as playing with friends. And then LEAVE THE CHILDREN ALONE!
I’m not suggesting that you never peek out the window to check on them or call out to make sure they’re alright. Certainly I’m all for parents going outside to play as well. But how is a child supposed to learn to solve problems, settle disputes, overcome obstacles, and generally entertain themselves if they are NEVER left alone?
They may get hurt. They may scrape their knees or get covered in mosquito bites. They will learn that these little adversities are not the end of the world. That’s a good thing! No one wants to see their children hurting but it is part of learning and growing.
They will get dirty. Do not despair! Children are very washable.
It will be OK.
So I said all of that, to share this with you:
The Wilderness Society is trying to save a generation that is growing up without ever knowing the joy of squishing their toes in the cool mud or conquering a rocky hill or splashing in a little creek. They have set a goal to get 25,000 people to take the pledge to “Go outside and play and take your loved ones outside with you!”
That is a GREAT pledge to make!
Click the link and join the fun right now. Then turn off your computer and go build a daisy chain, or roll down a hill, or play hopscotch, or take your dog for a walk around the block, or just sit under a tree and enjoy the warm breeze on your skin. Enjoy nature! She is as lovely as ever!
Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?
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If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!