Whitefield Academy Blog
Playing Outside: The New Old Frontier
Between allergies, piano lessons, and screen time, playing outside has not just gone out of style, it’s gone by the wayside. Gone are the days of bare feet and dirt, tree houses and ropes, and campfires and s’mores. Some aspects have disappeared for good reason (I mean, do you really want tetanus with those bare feet?). But have we thrown the baby out with the bathwater?
According to a recent survey commissioned by Edelman Intelligence,
…56% of respondents in a survey of 12,710 parents in 10 countries said their kids spent less than an hour every day playing outside—less time than prisoners in a maximum security prison spend outdoors. One in 10 kids never play outside, and two-thirds of parents say their kids play less than they did.
I’m treating my children worse than prisoners?! And all I need to do to change it is push them outside and lock the door?!
There’s little that’s scarier for a parent than sitting down at the pediatrician’s office and answering the list of questions they run through: How many cups of milk do your kids get per day? Fruits and veggies? Hours of sleep? How often do you bathe them? Do they wear helmets? Know their colors? Gasp, do they drink juice?! Can you feel your blood pressure rising? I can. As parents, it’s easy to get caught up in everything that we HAVE to do and everything that we must NEVER do. But playing outside is a no-brainer. It helps ward off early mental health problems like depression, builds those important gross motor skills, and encourages creativity. It’s also really easy and inexpensive. Our family has even found that playing outside has given our young daughters opportunities to practice Biblically mandated hospitality toward their neighbors.
In his recent article for The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax argues that in a limitless world, we have forgotten that we need God.
We need to be reminded of the limits of our autonomy, especially in an age in which we control the temperature of the seats in our cars or at what age the gray in our hair shows. Technology enables us to see the face of a loved one on the other side of the world. With a click of a few buttons, food shows up at our front door.
He goes on and argues that nature fights back. The outdoors are full of things that are un-conquerable. We are reminded of our humanity when we sweat in the heat and when we trip and scrape our knees. In a world of air-conditioning and Netflix, our kids need to be outside to remember that the world doesn’t revolve around them.