The Spring school holidays are just around the corner across Australia and, with a bit of luck, the weather will be kind so the kids can enjoy plenty of time outdoors in nature (and even if it rains, which kid doesn't enjoy splashing around in puddles?) Outdoor play is important for kids as it develops their imagination and social connections, as well as being a great stress reliever and helping them to develop their gross motor skills. In fact, being outside in nature benefits everyone. A recent study showed that just two hours per week spent in nature significantly boosts health and well-being.
A Decline in Outdoor Play
However, a few years ago Planet Ark commissioned a study to investigate childhood interaction with nature and how this interaction is changing. 72% of (adult) respondents said they used to play outside every day as kids compared to only 35% of their children. The study also found that 1 in 10 kids today play outside once a week or less.
The 2018 Active Healthy Kids Report Card study conducted by the University of South Australia reveals that screen-time is taking over outdoor play in Australia with the nation's kids ranking among the least active in the world and highlights the problem that Aussie kids are struggling to catch, sprint or kick. Experts are blaming increased time in front of screens at the expense of free play time and childhood activities that build muscular strength.
Outdoor Play and Earthing
Outdoor play also gives kids the opportunity to benefit from barefoot earthing which can help to regulate stress levels and promote better sleep, helping children to fully recover from a busy term at school. It's simple, all they need to do is kick off their shoes while playing outdoors. Earthing on grass or sand is best and obviously you'll ensure that the environment is safe for them to do so. There are so many resources online packed with great ideas to get the kids outside and connecting with nature. Here are our top 10 faves including ways to incorporate earthing:
1. A swim in the ocean: if you're lucky enough to live close to a beach, nothing beats the rejuvenating feeling of paddling in the shallows or swimming in the waves and there is no better way to earth!
2. Playing on the beach: if the water is not your thing, then a simple barefoot walk on the beach or building sandcastles with the little ones will provide you with the perfect amount of earthing time to feel all the wonderful benefits of soaking up those free electrons from the Earth
3. Build a den or cubby in the backyard: kick off your shoes, gather what you can find and build a secret hideaway full of adventure
4. Camping: you don't get much closer to nature than when you're camping. What's better than sleeping under the stars? Plenty of opportunities for barefoot earthing here ... even if it's just camping in your own backyard
5. Plant a veggie patch - Spring is the perfect time to get that veggie patch in shape for Summer harvest and what a lovely, mindful way to spend the day with kids getting your hands dirty
6. Go for a nature walk: head into the nearby bush or national park and discover some amazing bush walks. You're bound to find a perfect rest spot where you can kick off your shoes and ground yourself in the glorious natural environment. A lovely idea for little ones is to include a nature scavenger hunt where they have look for nature's wonderful treasures. Check out this lovely template from brisbanekids.com.au
7. Become a twitcher: grab a pair of binoculars and go bird-watching
8. Enjoy an outdoor picnic: whether in a local park, your own backyard or further afield, is there anything better than unfolding your picnic blanket, kicking off your shoes and enjoying a relaxing afternoon dining alfresco?
9. Go fishing: grab your gear, head to a good spot near you, kick off your shoes by the water's edge and enjoy a peaceful couple of hours hoping for a bite
10. Invite some friends over for outdoor fun in the garden: whether it's a game of tip, hide-and-seek, putting on a show or enjoying some art and craft, encourage the kids to play outdoors as much as possible. The combination of fresh air, active playing, barefoot earthing and time spent with friends will make them feel better ... and sleep better, which is great for everyone!
The Screen-Time Battle
Undoubtedly, there will be times during the holidays — particularly for older children — when screen-time might win the battle. Hopefully it's after a busy fun-filled day of outdoor activities. When that time arises, make sure your kids know the safe tech rules to reduce their exposure to EMR (electromagnetic radiation) from their devices:
1. Always use airplane mode whenever possible: instead of streaming straight to the device, download the game or movie first and then switch the device to airplane mode before handing it to your child. This blocks the WiFi/data signal and reduces EMR emissions to almost zero.
2. Distance is their friend: keep mobile phones and tablets away from their head or body. Text rather than talk, use the speaker function or an AirTube headset when talking on the phone. Consider purchasing an anti-radiation case for mobile phones, tablets and laptops.
3. Beware the blue light - the artificial blue light from screens is harmful to their eyes and as well as causing digital eye-strain and headaches, it messes up children's sleep patterns by tricking the brain into thinking it is still daytime. Prolonged exposure to blue light can also lead to macular degeneration later in life. Limit their screen-time and invest in a pair of blue light filtering glasses which help to protect young eyes when looking at screens. Head here for more information on blue light and eye health.
Discover more tips on how to establish healthy habits for kids and their technology.
Enjoy the holidays!