It’s great outdoors

Group of five happy children jumping on meadow.
Group of five happy children jumping on meadow.
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A haze of blue, Treeton woods will be any day now... snow permitting.

I know because every April, our family packed up a picnic and went bluebell-picking.

Crammed into vases and jam jars, the wild flowers didn’t last very long. But the memories... they still bloom.

As as do many times we spent outdoors as kids. Knocking on your friend’s door straight after breakfast to ask: “You playing out?”

Running through the cornfields and losing a shoe; falling in Whiston brook as we lunged for tadpoles. Going home at dusk ready for tea, bath and bed.

Those my age can look back on scores of golden outdoor days from their childhood.

But what will the adults of tomorrow reminisce about? Their best internet surfing sessions? Top computer game scores? It’s a fact that children are getting fewer and fewer opportunities to play out. New research says nearly half of under-fives are not being taken outside to play on a daily basis by either of their parents.

Meanwhile members of a teaching union are worried by four and five year-olds in their classes acting out graphic scenes of violence in the playground - hurling themselves out of the windows of a play car in slow-motion for one - that they are this week lobbying for research into the effect of violent and addictive computer games on young minds.

They know for a fact many of their pupils are playing inappropriate computers games on TVs and laptops in their bedrooms. And their concerns come just days after a boy of 15 was detained for life for killing his mother with a hammer - having seen John Stape in Coronation Street kill in a similar manner.

It’s all going wrong. As parents, we get scared by stories of children being attacked, abducted and knocked down crossing the road. We believe we’re doing the right thing by keeping them indoors. We work all hours to give them the latest electronic toys - and those computer games. But we’ve been lured into getting our priorities wrong.

The simplest and cheapest way to help kids be happier is by taking them into the great outdoors. Kids need fresh air and exercise and it’s not just about stopping them from becoming overweight. Studies show sunshine, fresh air and physical activity encourage good moods and reduce the risk of depression.

Children not shown how good it feels to be in a wood or a field or a park are going to grow up into adults who don’t know, either.