If you are a parent of young children, It is imperative that you get them outside. A developed love of playing outside makes a happier and healthier child. According to an article published by Sanford Health, kids today only average 7 minutes of unstructured outdoor play as opposed to 7 or more hours in front of a screen. I am definitely a fan of technology. However, today’s emphasis on it (even in academic settings) can lead to an unbalanced and unhealthy life if not counteracted by outdoors playing/time.
The benefits of playing and spending time outside range from better physical health, immunity, social/emotional development, better attention spans, and even happiness. This discovery is well documented and accepted by professional health and child development communities. However, these practices are becoming less common. What does that mean for our kids? Well, duh… perhaps the opposite effect on their lives. So why are parents NOT emphasizing what is best for their kids? That is easy. It takes time.
The technology screen is our go-to babysitter. Outdoors takes supervision. It makes us stop what we consider productive and feels like a chore. We don’t have to “deal” with the kids as much when they are glued to a screen. It has become a new pacifier. Without it, kids may fuss, complain, be a distraction, or make what we are doing more difficult. Am I right? Parenting is work. At times it is not convenient. It may mean being able to multi-task. We actually may have to schedule better. Am I hitting a nerve or getting an amen?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, despite efforts to raise awareness of the need for healthy diets and exercise, the average annual number of kids that would be marked as obese is around 13 million. This puts undue stress on their bodies and sets them up for adult health problems. I want to acknowledge that there are genetic and even economic issues that may attribute to these numbers. However, when these numbers reflect a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet, the fault falls to us as parents. We must invest the time and effort towards a healthier life for our kids.
Outside play not only helps your child develop a healthy body and mind, but also may lessen the likelihood of them being bullied. Now wait a minute, everyone has heard of the playground bully. You may think, “this is where the bullying happens.” However, I want to submit to you that overweight children are far more likely to be bullied, left out, or made to feel unwanted. Fat-shaming does not need action or words. When it comes to academic and social groups studies show that overweight kids are chosen last more often than other children.
When my oldest child was 10 years old, he had spent 5 years living with his mother upon our divorce. At this particular time, he was overweight and was constantly dealing with school bullies. He came to live with me and told me that he was tired of being picked on. I immediately took steps to improve the situation. This did not include going to the school and yelling at the teachers and school officials that my kid was experiencing fat-shaming and that they needed to do something about it. I changed my boy’s diet, giving him healthy foods and GOT HIM OUTSIDE. This drastically changed his appearance in a matter of months. The bullying came to an end. He was healthier. He had more energy. The change was amazing, yet simple. Kids were meant to explore and learn. They are meant to have adventure and wonder. The digital screen does not give them the same exploration or experiences.
As dads, we have a profound effect on our kids. We can determine the lifestyle that is implemented in our homes. This takes discipline, time, and selflessness to establish. We need to be a part of it. Unfortunately, many dads just say “go”. Get off your butts and be a part of the process. It will make you healthier as well. The result can be a stronger relationship, better obedience, and respect.
Unlike so many of the babies in the animal kingdom that are born and up on their feet and going within hours, our kids take much more time to develop. They need to be shown what to do. They need you. The healthy dad/child relationship relies on many factors. Yes, you may provide for them and protect them. However, they need to experience fun and adventure with their dads. It develops a healthier, happier, and better adapted young person. Give your kids the time they need. Get them outside and be a part of a healthy lifestyle. Be the best dad possible.