Standing 55 feet above the earth on a zip line platform with ten-year-old Mikey and his father, there is a moment of natural hesitation for both of them. The next second Mikey is zipping above the Dominican jungle canopy, while David his father is hooting in encouragement. I am not sure who was more excited Mikey or his father.
During the next days Mikey and his father will be surfing, snorkeling, trapeze flying, hiking, exploring caves, waterfall cascading, horseback riding, kayaking, and a whole variety of outdoor activities during their staying with us in the Dominican Republic.
Asking David one night sitting around the campfire, while the kids were all tuckered out from a day of adventuring, why he chose to spend a week of vacation doing family adventures.His answer was simple. “My kids need this, I need this.”
Why kids want to be outdoors…
It wasn’t that long ago in our human history that the home was reserved for sleeping, eating, and rest. Outdoors, meaning outside the home is were we recreated. From the streets of major cities to the countryside kids and their parents were outside. Kids climbed trees, played catch or were jumping rope. Parents sat on their porches, talked to neighbors, or went for walks.
This lifestyle is now just part of our human history.
In the modern future that we now live, kids and parents stare at screens, socialize with people that are not in their presence, and feel alien in the outdoors. Trees go unclimbed, porches collect dust, neighbors are unknown, and the outdoors is often off limits.
But kids need and want to be in the outdoors (even if they don’t realize it). The outdoors gives us gifts, teaches us lessons, makes our sense aware, inspires creativity, and opens our mind to wonder. For all this, the outdoors asks for nothing in return.
The theory of biophilia proposes, that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. Even though many of us could argue this theory watching our kids spend time on the sofa rather than going outside to play. This shift from outdoor play to indoor is due to advances in technology and the dominance of social media in our lives.
The average North American kid spends on average 7 minutes during their day in unstructured outdoor play and nearly 8 hours in front some form of digital screen.
A disconnect to make a reconnect.
In Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, defines the term “nature-deficit disorder.” Which describes the human costs of a disconnect from nature. Among these costs are a decline in the use of our senses, attention difficulties, and raising rates of physical and emotional illnesses.
Of course, technology has its place and time in both education and recreation. The world we live in there is no escaping technology. We have embraced it and it has enhanced our lives in a way that was once something of a science fiction novel.
The downfall of technology is our heavy reliance on it. We use it has a babysitter, a teacher, and the only way we socialize. The pendulum has swung too far in one direction.
A disconnect is necessary for both kids and adults. We need to feel the sand between our toes, hear the silence in a cave, and stare intimately into a campfire. This disconnect will reawaken those senses long unused.
A few benefits of outdoor recreation in kids is it builds confidence, encourages creativity and imagination, instills responsibility, provides a different type of stimulation, gets kids active, makes them think, and reduces stress and fatigue.
While turning on the TV, logging on to the tablet or computer is the easier choice, it is important to designate time to be in the outdoors.