Go outside and play!
Many of you reading this grew up in a different time than our current children. A time where we layered hour on top of hour playing outside. Often our time outside felt like extreme boredom. Other times like pure elation. Either way, this time spent outside paved the path to brilliance, complexity, and depth.
Fast forward to today’s children. It’s startling that in just ONE GENERATION children have moved indoors. What changed? I attended school in the 80s and 90s for just as long as current children. I played after school sports and participated in other extracurriculars (like the band). I had an Atari turned Nintendo. I had The Little Mermaid movie marathons. Yet I still spent, based on my memory, the bulk of my extra time outside. So what then? What has changed so dramatically in one generation?
- Electronic device sophistication – my Nintendo just wasn’t enticing enough for me to develop an addiction to it. Today’s devices are deceptively (and purposely) addictive
- Over emphasis on achievement – somehow achievement morphed into this parental presentation titled “My Child Does More than Your Child.” This has created an on-the-go culture. Somehow it’s not applauded like the Man in the Arena to be gone from our homes sunrise to sundown and beyond.
- Over development in urban areas making outdoor play less safe – You just don’t hear about children roaming the woods all day unsupervised anymore like the days of old.
- Adults losing their own love for the outdoors – as our child’s leader, if we don’t love to play outside, she won’t love to play outside. With the dramatic rise in allergies and other outdoor aversions, adults aren’t really going outside anymore either. Somehow in one generation it seems adults have jointly accepted that they are “allergic to being outside.”
I’m curious what other reasons you see contribute to the indoor lifestyle epidemic.
Yes epidemic. I’m not just annotating this change for dramatic effect. Humans are an outdoor species. We don’t get to rewrite our history. We HAVE TO SPEND AMPLE TIME OUTDOORS TO THRIVE. I repeat: humans are required to spend ample time outdoors in order to survive and thrive.
I like lists. Lists help me digest large sums of information into a smaller, actionable summary. Therefore, I’ve compiled a list of the top five reasons your child MUST play outside this summer. I know, I know – there’s a uprising every time we quibble with our child about video games and tablets. And often it just doesn’t feel worth it to stick out the withdrawal period and force the outdoor play instead. I wrote this list in hopes it will motivate you to stick with your commitment to go outside and play MORE THAN you are inside. This time of year that’s a simple task. It’s beautiful outside!!!
5 Reasons Children Must Play Outside
- Cultivating Gratitude from Nature. The world of a child is changing at a much faster pace than that of an adult. Show a child the vastness and perfection of nature, and you will see the never-ending ignition of imagination and wonder. Children need to see the beauty of this world in order to see what they must protect. Nature also provides children faith in a higher power. What are your favorite outdoor activities with your child? For us, we LOVE finding hidden streams, native edibles, and mysterious rock formations deep within a forest. Put us in a forest, and we will never want to leave!
- Sun Exposure. Humans need the sun to survive just as much as plants need sun to survive. I understand the use of sunscreen, but if a child’s skin is constantly blocked from the sun, she will be starving for Vitamin D. This vitamin plays crucial roles in our bodies, ranging from proper bone development to proper immune system formation. Sun exposure also serves as one of the best antidepressants.
- Cooperative skill development. Put a group of children outside, and they will immediately begin working together on some sort of project. Put a child outside alone, and she will immediately find synergy with the creatures around her. Ancestrally, humans formed complex social networks with resources provided by nature, so the need to cooperate when outside flows innately from a child.
- Exercise. I don’t think I need to harp on and on about this one given the obesity and Type 2 diabetes pandemic.
- Learning how to take risks and persevere. Of course as parents we want our kids to be safe. But look back in time at your own outdoor childhood and the risks you faced. Those risks, and the successes from them, helped shape you as a person. Playing outside challenges a child’s risk zone, which plants a deep seed of perseverance. Learning how to take chances can range from a simple swing higher than before on a playset, to an arduous hike in the mountains, to a hard day on the farm.
So do what our parents did so kindly to us! Send your child outside to play, but I say take this call to action one step further than what most of our parents did: join your child outside!
To facilitate our human need to be outside, my farm has a summer camp coming up August 12-16th. Parents are free to attend alongside. We will join each day at 9am and conclude by 1pm. During this five day camp, children will learn all things farm life and be immersed in a cooperative, multi-age play environment. For parents of daughters, if you’d like a more catered environment, check out our farm girl camps. We have two sessions, July 15-19th and August 5th-9th. The ages for all of our camps are 6-12 (and older 5yos) and are limited to ten campers per session. We have a $50 discount for additional siblings.
This camp will certainly get your child outside for five days straight soaking up sunshine, cooperation, risk-taking (lower risks like holding a worm for the first time), exercise, and most importantly, appreciation.
For more info on Farm Girl Camp, go to: https://thefarmlife.com/shop/farm-girl-summer-camp/
For more info on The Farm Life Kids Camp, go to: https://thefarmlife.com/shop/farm-kids-summer-camp/
I hope this functional medicine farmer essay challenged some aspects of your lifestyle in need of improvement in the loving way I intended!
Sending love and peace,
~ Farmer Ashley
Founder and Functional Medicine Farmer
The Farm Life
@thefarmlifemovement (IG & FB)