Here's a super-depressing fact: our kids play outside only half as much as we did as children. This is according to a new survey from the U.K.'s National Trust.
The vast majority of the 1,001 parents surveyed, or 9 out of 10, say they think it's important for their children, who are between the ages of 4 and 14, to develop a connection with nature. So why are their kids only playing outside just over four hours a week, when their parents spent 8.2 hours enjoying Mother Nature when they were little?
It could have to do with over-scheduled families, the rise of technology, and a host of other reasons, but the takeaway here is that if your kids sound a lot like those from the survey, this is a call to action to get them outside more!
But what can you do with them? Start with a stick. At least that's what the Trust and its spokesperson and Game of Thrones star Raleigh Ritchie suggests. "For some people, a stick is just a stick. However, I want to encourage young people to see that actually the possibilities are endless. It can be a pen, a sword, a witch's broom, a dragon's bone ... anything," he said. "That's what childhood should be about: getting outdoors and going on adventures, using your imagination to customize the world you see and feeding that appetite for fresh air and fun."
I couldn't agree more! A child's imagination is an amazing thing to behold, and as parents, we should do everything we can to foster it. Our family is lucky enough to live on a lake, so my kids are outdoors all day, playing in the water and sand. I can't make the claim our summer has been 100 percent technology free, but they are outside pretending to be mermaids or making sand cities far more than they are in front of the television, and I hope that doesn't change any time soon.
I realize it's much harder to spend as much time outdoors without a built-in activity like a lake nearby. But even if you run the sprinkler in the yard, or just give the kiddos bubbles and chalk on the sidewalk, they will be as happy as can be, based on my experience.
Still need ideas for ways to entertain kids outdoors? Check out this list of things to do outside with kids this summer!
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.