One of the many great things about TV-free kids is that they really like to be outdoors. In the nice weather, my two oldest children are outdoors almost all the time. Without TV and video games, there is nothing much for them to sit around doing indoors. Besides – the lure of trees, rocks, bugs, bikes, scooters, swing sets, and “clubhouses” is too great.
In fact, last week I was very pleased that my children chose to go “sploring” outside (as my 5 year-old son calls it) despite being offered the opportunity to watch “Sprout” on TV at my sister’s house when we were there to have dinner. They climbed trees, found bugs, and moved sticks and rocks from “point A” to “point B.”
Several weeks ago, whymommy linked to a Washington Post article entitled Getting Lost in the Great Indoors. The basic point of the article is that today’s kids don’t like to go outdoors, unless the purpose is an organized activity such as soccer or Little League. They would rather be indoors with TV’s, computers, and video games.
A 2005 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that children ages 8 to 18 spend 6.5 hours a day on television, electronic games, computers, music and other media, with many multitasking electronically.
Here is a telling quote from the Washington Post article:
“In Great Falls, the Hefner family has a back yard of more than an acre, a green swath of kid heaven at the edge of Great Falls National Park. Three years ago, George Hefner, a general contractor who knows how to work a saw, built a two-story “treehouse” that stands on the ground between two leafy maples.
He imagined his children fixing it up, sleeping there.
But 10-year-old Paul cannot remember the last time he played in the little house. ‘Animals live out there, you know,’ he told his mother one day. His older sister Sarah, 16, admits that she has never set foot in it. ‘What would I do in a treehouse?’ she asked.”
According to the article, getting kids outdoors is a new venue for activists. There have been Capitol Hill hearings, state legislative action, grass-roots projects, and even a U.S. Forest Service initiative.
This recent public concern appears to be partly inspired by a book entitled Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. This post may be a tad premature since I have not yet read Mr. Louv’s book. It remains on my “To Read” list. However Mother Rising wrote an interesting post about it, that makes me want to read it all the more! (Has anyone else out there read it yet?)
The book seems to be creating public awareness of a trend that many parents have been noticing for quite a while. In addition to the obvious culprits, TV and other electronics, the article also suggests that parental fears of leaving children unattended, more working mothers, and more organized sports may also be to blame.
It does seem that today’s kids are so overscheduled that there may be little time left for unstructured outdoor play. Overscheduling is something I would like to avoid if possible, but the lure of fun, educational activities is always there to tempt parents (a struggle I wrote about here: The 6 Year-Old and her Executive Secretary).
It is so sad to me that we need grass roots initiatives and Congressional hearings (not to mention the $20 million that 40 “civic leaders” are trying to raise to fund 20 country-wide initiatives) all simply to encourage kids to go outdoors.
I am fortunate to live in a small town. If I lived in a big city apartment it would obviously be much harder to get my kids outside. I wouldn’t be able to simply release them into the backyard. We would have to depend on family trips to the park, the country, etc. I do realize how lucky I am.
However, there are plenty of families who do have the ideal safe, kid-friendly yard (such as the family quoted above) and who nonetheless have problems getting the kids outside. My advice is to try turning off the TV and putting away the video games. You don’t need a $20 million initiative to get your kids outdoors! Just allow them to “be bored” and see what happens.
Thanks to morguefile.com and photographer ximenez.