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DADult Life | December 2, 2022

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A third of toddlers are outdoors for under three hours a week

Get Outdoors

I’m not going to sit here and pretend Roma never watches the TV because she does and I’m more than happy to accommodate – especially if Harry Potter is involved. But even programmes like PAW Patrol can serve a purpose. In terms of recall, it’s definitely helped her memory as she can distinguish who each character is and so on. Then there are songs like Baby Shark which have got her singing and dancing.

As much as I adore watching films together though, I also take joy in getting outside with her and exploring the wild, whether that’s jumping in puddles, walking in mud, climbing trees or simply just going to the park – the latter of which is always a solid failsafe.

But a study of UK parents from Kiddi Caru has revealed 31% of toddlers are spending under three hours outside each week. That’s despite the fact all respondents – as in 100% – believe outdoor time is “crucial to a child’s development”. By comparison, another 31% of toddlers get up to three hours of screen time each day while 11% get over four hours a day.

The study offered data from the NHS which said toddlers should actually be physically active for a minimum of three hours a day. This doesn’t have to be exclusively outdoors and can incorporate indoor play but the report suggests much of the time indoors is consumed with screens.

Almost half of toddlers at 44% haven’t held a bug before – admittedly, I can’t blame them – 36% haven’t collected sticks, 35% haven’t experienced the joy of mud – which presumably means the same percentage of parents have evaded getting their clothes covered in filth – and 30% haven’t been out to feed ducks before.

As parents we’re all entitled to have lazy days when the opportunity presents itself but I can’t help feeling bad when keeping Roma cooped indoors and feel the need to get her outside, even if it’s to the local park around the corner. Like I mentioned, I love watching films together and today we went to see Detective Pikachu at the cinema. Prior to that, we spent the best part of two and a half hours at the park, a combination of playing football, hitting the playground and visiting the petting zoo. The reason for getting out beforehand was three-fold. 1. It’s always wise to give her some time to stretch her legs to prevent in-screen meltdowns. 2. Quite simply it’s all about balance. 3. We’d have gone to the park even if we didn’t go cinema just because we’re an active family.

Fiona Blackwell, quality care and education director at Kiddi Caru, said: “Being outdoors supports children’s wellbeing. Often children are calmer and happier and more likely to engage in the learning process. Being outdoors gives the opportunity to ‘burn off’ excess energy, which in turn aids appetite and helps children to sleep better.”

I’d agree with the burning off energy part. When we go to the cinema it’s always to see animated films but I wanted to experiment with seeing a live action film and Aladdin was fully booked hence Detective Pikachu. Although there were patches of energy still lingering, she eventually calmed down to the extent she fell asleep.

The findings also found that the next generation is at risk of losing connectivity with wildlife and nature, while 93% of parents with under fives feel they spend too much time on screens and 60% have their own tablets.

“Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and children do not benefit just during the summer months but in the winter during day light hours, meaning there is every reason to get outdoors in whatever weather,” continued Blackwell. “After all there is no such thing as bad weather just inappropriate clothing.”

And to that end, you can’t go wrong with a pair of wellies. That’s what I told myself when I got J a pair for Christmas that matched Roma’s.

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