What have we done to raise a generation of little people who fear the outdoors? This is heartbreaking.
Whatever happened to parents yelling at their kids to come inside for dinner? The tide has turned and now parents are having to holler at their children to get off the couch and into the backyard, even for just a few minutes.
Toy manufacturer Little Tikes conducted a survey of 2,000 British families with kids between age two and 16 and found that kids have numerous excuses for not going outside to play. They cite fear of getting muddy, being cold and wet, and feeling tired. One in 10 kids said they'd rather stay inside to avoid "touching germs," and 11 percent has felt "too scared to go outside" at one point.
The Independent reports:
"Thirty percent have been too engrossed in a video game to go out and 24 percent have asked if they can stay in so they can watch their favourite TV show."
Parents are not helping the situation either. Ten percent "frequently bribes" their kids to leave devices behind and go outside to play, and 30 percent of these bribes involve sweets. Nearly half of parents have had to "get persuasive" (whatever that means) in order to boot their kids outdoors. One-third says their children don't know how to entertain themselves alone. The lack of enthusiasm is frustrating to the parents, who often offer themselves as playmates in hopes of capturing their kid's interest:
"Forty eight percent of the adults surveyed thought their child would be more enthused about going outside knowing that mum or dad was coming out to play with them."
All in all, it is an unfortunate situation, for both parents and kids. The kids have been conditioned by parents to fear the outdoors for numerous reasons, whether it's from hearing repeated orders to "be careful!" or "stay out of the mud!", or from overhearing sensationalized news stories about child disappearances. Countless parents have taken on the role of chief entertainer for their child, which ceases to be fun when it means they never get a break.
The good news is, these habits can be retrained over time. Parents should start by implementing mandatory daily outdoor play, e.g. insisting that a kid play outside for an hour after school, or put in twice as many minutes outside as they get on a device later in the day. One of my friends insists on weekend 'recesses' for his kids -- a minimum of 40 minutes in the morning, 40 minutes in the afternoon.
Parents might benefit from spending more time outside, too. It pulls you away from housework and devices (as long as you leave your phone at home), and can be rejuvenating. Start walking to and from school or daycare, just to get outside; that can count toward your child's daily outdoor time allotment, as well.
Most importantly, realize that kids will come up with excuses for anything! The key is to remember that parents are the ones who (should) call the shots in the family. Fears of muddiness and wetness can be cured by changing the parent's attitude (and the way they speak about it) and dressing the child appropriately. And remember, no matter how fierce the fight is up front, once they get outside, they usually have a good time, and they'll come in happy, calmer, hungry, and worn out. Isn't that every parent's dream?