Why we should all head outdoors - by Dr Andrew Rochford
It’s safe to say that for most parents the health and happiness of their children is a top priority. The good news is there is something very simple that is becoming less and less common that you can encourage to help improve your child’s chance of future health and happiness: make sure they spend plenty of time playing outside.
If you grew up in a household similar to mine, you had grandparents that would constantly exclaim about how different their childhood was from yours. Then it would be your parents and ultimately through the inevitable passage of time, you are now the one trying to educate a bored child about what it was like being a kid ‘back in my day’.
It’s true, with every generation childhood has changed. In most cases the change has been for the better, for example, by all accounts Polio wasn’t much fun. One less beneficial difference for the current generation of kids is the significant contrast in the degree to which they are spending time indoors. There are lots of reasons, including the marked increase in screen time on electronic devices, the emphasis on scheduled activities and achievements, concerns about sun exposure — and, for many families, the lack of safe outdoor places to play. It’s not just children; adults are spending less time outdoors as well.
One way to get kids into the outdoors and enjoying the benefits is making it more fun and inviting. A trampoline, especially one with the added safety of being Spring-free, is a great way to make the outdoors a place the kids want to be.
Here are five important ways playing outside helps children:
1. Sunshine. Yes, sun exposure — especially sunburns — can increase the risk of skin cancer. But it turns out that our bodies need sun. We need sun exposure to make vitamin D, a vitamin that plays a crucial role in many body processes, from bone development to our immune system. Sun exposure also plays a role in our immune system in other ways, as well as in healthy sleep — and in our mood. Our bodies work best when they get some sunshine every day. Remember to Slip, Slop & Slap!
2. Exercise. Children should be active for an hour every day, and getting outside to play is one way to be sure that happens. They can certainly exercise indoors, but sending them outdoors — especially with something like a trampoline — encourages active play, which is really the best exercise for children. The jumping and physical exertion used on a trampoline also improves, co-ordination, strength and agility.
3. Executive function. These are the skills that help us plan, prioritise, troubleshoot, negotiate, and multitask; they are crucial for our success. Creativity falls in here too, and using our imagination to problem-solve and entertain ourselves. These are skills that must be learned and practiced — and to do this, children need unstructured play time. They need time alone and with other children, and to be allowed (perhaps forced) to make up their own games, figure things out, and amuse themselves. Being outside gives them opportunities to practice these important life skills, throw in a trampoline and you’ll witness even more creativity.
The current game my children have devised is called prison-break. Don’t ask me what the rules are, or the exact characters involved I have no idea. But I do know it keeps them occupied for hours and from the squeals of laughter they are definitely enjoying themselves.
4. Taking risks. Children need to take some risks. As parents, this makes us anxious; we want our children to be safe, and that’s why it’s important to make safety a priority. But if we keep them in bubbles and never let them take any risks, they won’t know what they can do — and they may not have the confidence and bravery to face life’s inevitable challenges. Yes, you can break an arm from climbing a tree — and yes, you can be humiliated when you try to make a friend and get rejected. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try; the lessons we learn from failure are just as important as those we learn from success.
5. Socialization. Children need to learn how to work together. They need to learn to make friends, how to share and cooperate, and how to treat other people. If they only interact in very structured settings, such as school or sports teams, they won’t — they can’t — learn everything they need to know. And they also need to learn how to create games, and deal with problems in groups. These skills are hugely valuable as they move through school and ultimately head out into the big wide world.
So, I think we should all work at being outdoors more, not just our kids. Being active and outside has health and social benefits for everyone. I even encourage you to get your hands on a tramp and dive through the Springfree door on your belly for a bounce. I speak from experience when I say the joy, fun and physical benefits of a trampoline are not exclusively reserved for kids.
At Springfree, we are privileged to partner with specialists in their fields, like emergency doctor, Dr. Andrew Rochford!
Explore our range of Springfree Trampoline’s here.