Outdoor Play Each Day Will Help Keep the Screens Away

little childIt’s difficult to distance ourselves from screens; they follow us everywhere — in the car, into stores, at restaurants and all around our houses. Children often become reliant on screens for entertainment, and parents sometimes use screens as a distraction. While there’s high-quality, educational digital content available, even too much of a good thing can be detrimental. It’s important for parents to make sure their children are experiencing a well-rounded mix of free play, both inside and outside, along with technology usage.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend children under the age of 18 months have no screen time except for video chatting, and children ages 2 to 5 spend no more than one hour per day watching a device.

The harmful effects of screen time have been well researched. Evidence suggests that even television shows claiming to be stimulating and educational are not as effective for infants and toddlers as face-to-face interactions with a caregiver.

Too much screen time has also been linked to poor sleep, delays in language and social skills, obesity, behavior problems and more. Allowing children to play in a setting that is unstructured, open-ended and encourages exploration is more beneficial than placing them in front of a device.

So, what can parents do to help their children escape the all-consuming screen? Get outside!

According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), outdoor play is essential for the healthy development of children. Not only does outdoor play promote physical health but it also helps children make connections to the real world and develops their STEM skills. Plus, fresh air and exposure to sunlight have numerous health benefits for children, including stress reduction and better sleep.

Children can sometimes be resistant to heading outside, especially if they’re interrupted during screen time. Head off potential complaints by setting a timer and letting them know that once they’re done, it will be time to play outside. Let them pick out their shoes and give them two choices of activity so they feel empowered and in control.

Experts at Kiddie Academy Educational Child Care recommend several outdoor activities developed from their proprietary Life Essentials curriculum to help parents get children excited about spending time outside:

  • Infants can enjoy several outdoor activities like tummy time on a blanket in the park, wiggling their toes in the grass and listening to bird sounds.
  • Toddlers benefit from going on nature walks and discovering items like pinecones and leaves and helping their caregivers plant flowers, fruits and vegetables.
  • For active preschoolers and older children, make an obstacle course challenge with chalk and other items like tactile discs, hula hoops, pool noodles and more. Older children also enjoy searching for bugs and creating art from things found in nature.

Unstructured outdoor play, like spending time in the sandbox or on a playground, includes fun activities that give children of all ages the opportunity to explore independently. Parents should feel free to sit back and just observe these times, making sure their children are safe while allowing them to discover the magic of outdoor play on their own.

“In addition to enhancing well-being, outdoor play helps children understand their role in the world so they can be good stewards of our planet,” said Samina Hooda, co-owner of Kiddie Academy of Mercer Crossing in Dallas.

Help your children develop a love of the outdoors at an early age and watch them flourish — emotionally, physically and intellectually.