As a child being outside, inventing games, getting into scraps and running about is incredibly liberating. It makes us feel alive. It’s the stuff of fond memories and nostalgia. Of course it isn’t all about boisterous play, being outside is also about climbing a tree and being alone with your thoughts.
Children need to be outside to explore. Explore their own bodies as they run, climb, jump, cycle and tumble. Use their imaginations to turn sticks to swords and Bally-What’s-It into Tír na nÓg. They receive lessons in resilience as they fall, get up and carry on.
And yet, despite all the evidence of the many benefits of outdoor play to children’s health and wellbeing, these days childhood is increasingly played out indoors in front of screens, rather than in fields, parks and beaches.
74% of children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates, (Persil, 2016).
This is a tragedy in itself, but it has wider more far-reaching implications. If a child has little or no interaction with the natural world, then how can s/he form a bond with it?
In a time of global warming and mass species extinction can we really afford a disconnect to develop between children and nature? After all they are the next custodians of Planet Earth.
It’s time for action: Curtail their screen-time and set yourself the challenge to be outdoors as much as possible. Discover the woodlands in your area for rambling; kids go free on OPW heritage sites; join your local Irish Wildlife Trust; or your local branch of Birdwatch Ireland. They run regular events aimed at children. You could join your local walking group to discover your area by foot. The possibilities for Outdoor Eduction are endless. Make that connection and have heaps of fun in the process!