Reconsidering Getting Kids to Go Outside

carriages trodheim

American kids, when they have unstructured free time, seem to favor playing inside. Conventional wisdom cites computers, video games, and TV programs as some of the primary culprits that seduce kids into staying indoors. These beliefs are so entrenched that some manufacturers of playground equipment are finding ways (I think foolishly) to bring electronic gaming into outdoor spaces.

While it is easy to blame electronics, we haven’t looked diligently for deeper, more systemic causes. The problem may be both simple and easily rectifiable: we don’t expose children to the outdoors when they are very young. We don’t introduce American children to cold weather as infants and then we don’t consistently make sure that they continue to spend time outside -in all weathers and all climates- when they are toddlers and preschoolers. When they get to elementary school we bemoan the fact that they do not play outdoors; it may be that by that time the kids have grown so “addicted” to the indoors that their habits are hard to break.   Why should 7 or 8 year olds want suddenly to play outside when it has not been part of their routine since birth?

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