How Too Much Time Indoors Can Affect Your Childs Development.

It’s a well-known fact that today’s children are spending too much time inside, and not enough time making the most of the great outdoors and enjoying the fresh air.
It appears that there are three primary reasons behind this: modern technologies have led to an indoor environment that is rife with ‘entertainment’. Where in twenty or thirty years ago children had to put their minds to creating their own entertainment, homes are now filled to the rafters with ready-made sources. Additionally, parents are busier than ever and simply don’t have the time to head outdoors with their children or interact with them in ways that will benefit their health and development. Parents today also fear for their children’s safety. They worry they may get hit by a car or kidnapped by a stranger of rogue intentions. Due to these fears they are reluctant to let them leave the house without their supervision.
Yet are these small dangers worth the much higher risk that a childhood indoors may impact negatively on their health?
Our children of today are becoming ever more overweight and unfit. While many people like to blame this on the modern fast food culture, McDonalds and the like are far from the only scapegoat - the lack of physical activity most children undertake is equally, if not more-so a culprit.
Children who spend too much time indoors are also more prone to developing allergies and other infections, particularly if they are living in overly sanitised homes.
Activities outdoors additionally help children to develop confidence, creativity, independent thinking and resourcefulness. This is in opposition to children that spend their youth fixated on a television screen wherein none of these attributes will be formed or honed.
The best way to instil a love of the outdoors in children is for the parents to get outside with them. Even those who reside in climates that are less suited to an outdoor lifestyle can still embrace the world beyond the sofa if they utilise the right clothing and equipment. For instance, kids waterproof trousers and jackets can keep them warm, dry and comfortable whatever the weather. Ideally kids waterproof trousers and jackets should be worn in combination with a pair of wellington boots, and if the weather is particularly bad the outfit should be sealed together as securely as possible.
If suitable clothing is not worn, children may become unhappy - not a state of mind that is akin to transforming them into new fans of the outdoors.
If your child is really starting to show a love of exploring and playing in the open air you could take it to the next step and encourage them to get involved in some outdoor sports, or even water sports. Parents can invest in childrens wetsuits for a relatively small amount of money. The child is then able to participate easily in all manner of water sports from kayaking to scuba diving and even surfing.
There are a couple of precautions that should be taken by any parent choosing to venture outdoors with their children. Make sure the children know what they are to do should they become lost. A fantastic idea is to fit them with a wristband with your mobile number on it – however ensure to keep your mobile charged, or you’ll have to head home before you can do anything to locate the lost little ones. Alternatively, you could arrange a clear meeting spot (though this isn’t advisable if your children are very young). This entails locating a land mark that is visible from all locations and agreeing that all the family will head to that point should someone get lost.

This article was written by Amy Fowler on behalf of Little Terra. Amy writes on a variety of topics including how a childhood indoors can affect the development of a child.


Structured or unstructured play time?

There has been plenty of debate recently about structured versus unstructured play.  For those that are not sure of the difference, structured play involved preplanned activities.  Preplanned activities may include themed events and even board games where there are a set of rules that need to be followed.  Unstructured play is basically free time for the children to so as they wish in their playtime.

Child development experts say that unstructured play is vital to the development of the child.  Unstructured play allows children to learn to play together effectively.  It allows them to learn teamwork and compromise.  It also allows the child to explore lands of make believe and allows for their play to be imaginative and unbounded.  This type of play also allows the child to learn problem solving skills as they will make forts, use everyday items around the house as props for their play and they will create characters and stories that they will play to.

Having a constant schedule to adhere to can be a good thing however, if there is absolutely no free time it does tend to become stressful.  As grownups we often crave time where we have nothing to do except for relax, maybe watch some television or read; whatever it is that we enjoy doing.  This is the very same concept for children.  They need the time to daydream and image things that they want to do and make up their own games.

There are others that say that unstructured play leaves too much of an opportunity for a child to act inappropriately and get into trouble.  They also say that there should be play dates set so that their children can be supervised at all times and that there also should be games and activities that are planned before the play date.

Advocates against unstructured play also believe that there is no room for idle time in a child’s day.  All time should be scheduled and that leaves no room for misbehaving.

Advocates for unstructured play feel that so much structure will backfire later on in the child’s life and may lead to rebellion.  Parents that plan every facet of a child’s day tend to do so on into a child’s later years.  This constant planning will make the child feel as if they have no choice to do the things that they want to do and to participate in last minute activities with their friends.


Does your child have a place for imaginative play?

Imaginative play is an important part of childhood. Not only is it fun for children but it is also an essential part of learning and developing. Children learn about themselves, about their world, and lay the groundwork for their future through imaginative play. Yet too many children are not encouraged to use their imagination through play. There are three essential ways you can encourage imaginative play in your child — by providing the place, the time, and the supplies. 

Does your child have a place for imaginative play? Is there somewhere, even the corner of a room, where they can build a block city or shape play dough monsters? Can they assemble all their stuffed animals into a school or all their cars into a parade? While children should be encouraged to pick up after themselves sometimes it takes a while to build the city of their dreams and they want time to play with it again. Try to strike a balance between your need for order and their need for imaginative play. Give them a day or so to create a complex setting for their imaginative play before forcing them to put away their toys. 

Does your child have the time for imaginative play? It is amazing how many young children have a very full schedule. While many of these activities are likely required, such as school or day care, and many are also desirable, such as sports or clubs, it is also important that children be given the opportunity for free, unstructured play that allows the opportunity for imaginative play. It is not desirable that every moment of every day be structured and planned. Children who are not given the opportunity to exercise their imagination run the risk of losing the ability to use it at all. 

Does your child have the supplies for imaginative play? As we know from our own childhood that imaginative play does not require extensive and elaborate supplies, but children do need access to objects they can use. A complex wardrobe is not necessary but a few items can be helpful. A bath towel might be a king’s robe or a super hero’s cape or swaddling for a baby. A cardboard tube from wrapping paper might be a sword, the container for a secret map, or a spyglass. A cardboard box might be everything from a treasure chest to a race car. Provide a few basic supplies and try not to be too suggestive in their use. Children will do better if allowed to give their imagination free rein without your interference and control. 

Imaginative play can be a wonderful opportunity for your child to not only enjoy their childhood but also to learn and grow as people by trying on different roles such as parents, cooks, police officers, and firefighters but also to experience safe adventures as pirates, explorers and paleontologists. Imaginative play should be encouraged in children by allowing them the place, the time, and the supplies for imaginative play.

By Deanna Mascle - Researcher, Teacher and Writer