How many hours a day should a child play outside? Shouldn’t the average British child be doing some active time by now? My kids get plenty of time out in the schoolyard, but it is not the same amount of time that an average German or Italian seven to nine year old will get. Probably not as much time as a local might get, but still.
The good news is that there are great outdoor activities going on all over the place. The bad news is that most of them involve climbing trees, ladders, platforms, benches and other surfaces. For children with learning difficulties such as children with learning disabilities, these less active forms of play can be very useful. However, for children who are naturally creative and persevering, entering a new world of possibilities leads to higher levels of creativity and self-esteem.
The outdoor environment does have some limitations, such as lack of natural elements (i.e. trees, water) that can be incorporated into games (e.g. “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Go Fish). Also, the type of environment created (plastic sand, gravel, mud, etc.) affects its natural elements (e.g. “taste and smell”).
To overcome some of the challenges related to outdoor play, a project related to outdoor education was developed with a group of young children in an early childhood education setting in Portugal. The project aimed to transform educational practices, moving from frequent indoor activities to a regular use of the outdoor environment.
How many hours a day should a child play outside? The simple answer is that the more hours they spend doing things that require their own initiation and follow a fixed routine. For instance, a child should not be forced to leave their room and spend hours sitting in front of the computer all day doing nothing but surfing the net and playing video games. On the other hand, children who are constantly being watched and controlled are not the kind of kids who get outside much. They are more likely to be kept under wraps and in class by their parents. This is a huge mistake. Children who watch TV and play video games all day are more likely to be bullies, lazy, stupid or both. They will not learn, and they will not grow up to become successful adults. The way to overcome these problems is to provide different types of stimulation to children outside. Creativity is a crucial component for learning and development. When children are not prevented from going outside and playing, they will not know how to deal with unpredictable environments and will lack the necessary confidence to overcome challenges in their own right.
The quality experienced outside can have a huge impact in influencing children’s behaviour in the home and in school. Acknowledging the time children spend in education, concerns about the time and space in which to play outside should be integrated in education planning and intervention, starting in day-care and kindergarten. In Portugal, research shows that early childhood education is too centred in what happens inside the activity room, wrongly considering that the outdoor environment serves merely as recess time, during which children can stretch their legs and expend their energy.
Waking up after a hard day’s work, kids need breaks from the stresses of the day and the need to be physically active from the get go.
How many hours a day should a child play outside? The short answer is: not enough. Choosing a different approach, we have developed a unique outdoor educational project in which children from a young age can take advantage of the opportunities that nature has to fulfil its natural role. From early childhood to adolescence, children should have the opportunity to:
· Find and use natural elements in new and different ways,
· Develop joint goals between thinking and movement,
· Enjoy direct experience of the earth’s power and beauty.
As children approach adolescence and early adulthood, it is possible that they will no longer find it possible to ignore the effects of time and the need to be physically active. From an early age, it is possible to take advantage of the benefits related to outdoor play, finding it easier to learn, more practical and even inspiring goals to achieve.
It is important to never forget that the outdoor environment is a natural environment. From the moment a child opens his or her eyes, they see the world. From an early age, the chance to influence the outdoor environment and influence the development of his or her own skills is fundamental to their success. As children mature and gain experience and knowledge, they are able to perceive and respond to different stimuli in a more realistic and effective way.
During outdoor play, children should have the opportunity to experiment moments of failure and success, learning by trial and error. If we try to prevent all risky situations, children will not know how to deal with unpredictable environments and will lack the necessary confidence to overcome challenges in an autonomous way. During the project, we had different situations in which risk emerge, for example when wild mushrooms appeared in the garden, after a period of rain, and children were interested by that phenomena.
How many hours a day should a child play outside?
From the National Trust:
” Green belts, wood and fields for playing in are diminishing. Children tend to spend too much time indoors in small, clunky and unstructured ways. Taking advantage of the opportunity to play in different ways, children can develop their creativity, problem solving skills and socialization abilities. While it is possible to prevent many outdoor accidents, such as trapping and falling into traps, children often have no other option but to face the danger and try to avoid becoming involved in the troublemaker’s path.
With the desire of offering a different outdoor education model, one that takes into account the physical activity possibilities, a research team from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Germany decided to engage children in outdoor play. The project focused on the provision of different features and functions in outdoor spaces, usually including benches, tables and chairs, for children to play on. Initially, the children played in a natural environment, learning by trial and error. After some experimenting, the team found that active play is possible only when children are encouraged to speak up and act on their own initiative. In this way, they learn their own limits and develop the ability to manage their own resources.
The project involved a group of 14 children between 15 and 36 months old (mean age = 24.5) who were assigned to a natural environment. The environmental factors that influenced the outdoor play of these children included weather conditions, seasons and seasons changes. Factors that influenced children’s outdoor play include sound and light, soil and water quality, seasons and seasons changes, interaction with adults and non-actors, including television and computers.
How many hours a day should a child play outside? The short answer is: not enough. Choosing a different answer would imply that there is some kind of universal childhood obesity epidemic, where children everywhere are crammed into tiny, dimly-lit rooms and forced to perpetual stay indoors.
There is no such thing as a ‘wilderness path’ in urban environments, and going hiking, cycling, fishing, hunting, trapping, building structures, etc., are all but impossible in harsh outdoor environments. A trekking pole is all that is necessary for a quick fix, whereas a stick is all that is necessary to menace your children with. Likewise, a tree branch is all that is necessary for a target to pounce on, whereas a gun is all that is necessary to defend yourself and the household.
The problem with outdoor play is that it’s not a natural state for children to be in, and raising children in an urban environment often entails a lot of manual labour, leading to a lot of wasted time. Not all children have to work in the home, and not all children need to be working adults. Some children, especially younger children, can do some simple work, such as tidying up after ourselves and others, and then doing some more simple work, such as working in the garden or the attic. If we try to prevent all activities related to unstructured play (playing outside) we will never reach a state where children can truly be free and at ease.
Due to the time difference between Mumbai and Bangalore, we spent a lot of time in Bangalore outside, as the summer months were very hot and humid. We didn’t have to worry about keeping the house tidy, as the grounds were quite clear.