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The field of medicine has seen a drastic progress in the recent years with more and more vaccinations and treatments available for various diseases. Yet, our children are more vulnerable to diseases today. What is the reason?
As parents, many of us tend to compare – how things used to be when we were children vs. how they are in the modern world. It is true that a lot of things have changed for the better, and kids now have more opportunities as well as self-assurance. But there’s one thing that has deteriorated big-time. Even though our children can now get better medical care, their need to avail it also seems to have increased. The health and immunity level of our kids is far worse than it used to be earlier.
So, what has changed? What is the cause behind an increase in the frequency of diseases and ailments in children? According to child development experts, there is one major reason that can be tied back to why the new generation is more vulnerable to diseases – lack of outdoor play! This may come across as surprising, but reduced outdoor play has been identified as a trigger for making children more susceptible to falling ill. Yes, the simple fact that our kids are not playing outdoors enough is affecting their health and it can be tackled in 3 simple steps.
Tips to Ensure Effective & Safe Outdoor Play for Children
To encourage your child to engage in safe outdoor play, some simple tips can be followed every day:
1. Limit screen time
Add a time limit to any sort of screen time your little one has. Don’t allow screen time of more than one hour for kids in the age group of 2-5 years and disallow screen time for children under 2 years. Actively plan playground time and outdoor activities on a daily basis. This can include going to the park, taking the dog for a walk, collecting stones outside, etc. Enforce outdoor play every day for a minimum of 30-45 mins.
2. Reduce your child’s mental stress and pressure
Limit your child’s productive activities (hobby classes) excluding school to one at a time, whenever possible. Make sure that your child has time for some free, unstructured play outdoors. Giving your child the freedom to choose how he spends his time and encouraging him to pay outdoors will work to give him a healthy mind and soul. When they have lesser mental stress, their productivity and focus will also increase. In fact, there’s an increasing evidence that exposure to nature regularly reduces risk of mental health issues and is therapeutic for existing mental health issues.
3. Ensure your child’s safety outdoors
While sending our child outdoors, we strive to ensure that he is physically protected. We do this by making sure to take all safety measures and use safety equipment for outdoor activities like riding bikes or playing in the park. But don’t forget to also protect children from hidden dangers that can be even more dangerous. Two important risks you should guard against are:
Spread of Mosquitoes: Cases of mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, dengue and chikungunya are seeing a rapid increase in India. Do not overlook this fact. Kids are at high risk of being bitten during outdoor play since mosquitoes are usually active in the evening time. Dab 4 dots of GoodKnight Fabric Roll-On onto their clothes to repel mosquitoes and provide protection for upto 8 hours. This roll-on is completely natural and child-safe so you can use it without the fear of any side effects. It is recommended to use mosquito repellent whenever your children venture outdoors, such as for a picnic or on a day out with friends.
Did You Know: Some people are more prone to mosquito bites due to a range of reasons. For example, mosquitoes are attracted to warmer bodies and the compounds present in sweat! They also locate people through the amount of carbon dioxide they exhale. This is why your child, who has been running around in a playground, is the perfect target.
Air Pollution: Increasing air pollution is the leading cause of a rise in respiratory and breathing problems in kids. Tackle pollution on a long-term basis in your neighbourhood by planting trees and pushing for awareness and action to keep the environment clean. This will also help in preventing the spread of diseases. Involving your children in these activities will further promote their development and sensitise them to their surroundings.
Safety from ‘Stranger Danger’: There are certain ways you can protect your child from ‘Stranger Danger’ and keep him safe. Living life in fear is not going to benefit your child. A certain amount of freedom to explore is necessary for him to develop as an individual.
Why Has Outdoor Play Time Reduced?
Outdoor play was an essential part of our childhood and we want our children to experience the same joy too! But due to a number of reasons, today’s children are spending lesser time playing outside than ever before. In fact, as per a recent study, today’s children spend only half the time their parents did playing outdoors. There are four main reasons behind this:
1. Increased screen time
With increasing access to technology, many kids prefer spending time on TV, tablets and mobiles instead of going to the park. The experiences and choices of our kids are increasingly getting shaped by technology.
2. Increase in competition and pressure
Another major reason for lack of outdoor play is the pressure on kids to spend their free time in ‘productive activities’ and acquire more and more skills. This pressure stems from the stiff competition our children face in school, among peers, etc. Not only can this pressure and competition lead to anxiety but can also cause various issues in kids like drug & alcohol addiction, chronic depression, etc. which can have adverse effects on children.
3. Parents’ fears about germs, pollution and mosquitoes
We as parents also contribute to this negative trend of reduced outdoor play. With increasing levels of pollution and contamination, we are afraid that children will get infected by germs or bitten by mosquitoes while playing outside. No wonder, since the mosquito is responsible for most human deaths worldwide. This leads to a tendency to keep children indoors in an over-sanitised environment. But, according to science, keeping your child’s environment ‘dirt-free’ might actually be hurting his immune system! It can even result in an increased risk of asthma and other respiratory problems.
4. Increased fear regarding crimes against children:
With an increase in crime rates against children, this fear is completely valid. There was a 5.#% increase in crimes against children from 2014 to 2015 as per the NCRB – a worrying trend for all parents.
Watch: As kids are starting school at an earlier age and school days are becoming longer, play time is becoming more and more important. Why is recess necessary?
Key Takeaway: Learn the different aspects of your child’s development that outdoor play helps with and how it benefits them in the long run.
Health Risks Associated with Lack of Outdoor Play
Your child’s health needs to be your first priority and the concerns arising from letting your child play outdoors are valid too. But the reduced time spent playing outdoors has taken a toll on the physical and mental health of our children.
1. Weak immune system
Lack of outdoor play has taken away our children’s exposure to good bacteria. Such over-sanitization affects the development of their immunity systems. A weak immune system reduces the body’s ability to fight off germs and thus makes kids more prone to infections. These infections can even turn fatal as can be seen in the leading cause of deaths across the world where as per WHO, approximately 3.2 million deaths each year are due to insufficient physical activity.
2. Reduced cognitive development
Our kids are losing out on precious time for free and unstructured play in the outdoors. This is necessary not only for strengthening immunity, but also for boosting cognitive development
3. Less effective social skills
Reduced outdoor play also means less time spent socializing with other children. This, coupled with dependence on screens, has been linked to many social and emotional problems in young children.
It’s time to step up and let your child have the freedom and exposure you had when you were younger. This will help him build his health and immunity – no compromise! After all, health is wealth!