3 Ways to Grow Green Kids

Nick Hall

Nick Hall

“Watch out!” five-year-old Finn yells as he mounts the scooter bike and heads downhill and over an embankment and into shrubs that claw mercilessly at him. His head appears over the edge with leaves and small twigs stuck in his hair.
“That was FUN!” he crows, then he trudges up the hill with the bike to do it again. And again, until he masters the velocity and turn necessary to avoid another crash and undue bodily harm.

There are many gifts in that freewheeling ride, radically different from a safe cruise on the sidewalk with training wheels and an adult trotting alongside to mitigate the dangers. Finn is pivoting and rotating tendons and ligaments, he is using the inner-gyro of the brain for balance and coordination, he is managing the distance, speed, and dexterity necessary for a safe ride. In other words Finn is building his human house with the strong bricks and mortar unavailable in front of a screen, scratchless and safe.

Kids are wired to move! They can’t help but bounce and skip, stoop and throw, climb and run their way into a body that needs physical activity to fully develop, and the best place for this is the outdoors. Outdoors is the big arena for the wildest moves and fastest races, it is the place where our senses are heightened and the brain is used for balance and mobility. IMG_1624 When we limit a child’s time outside, we are limiting the bricks and mortar for a strong foundation. Obesity increases, they are more susceptible to Type II diabetes at a younger age, and injuries surge more common in middle-aged adults than in kids.

How can parents grow green kids who love the outdoors?

Right now you have the advantage of summer, routines shifting, and more hours to play in. Grab it and use these 3 ways to healthier bodies and happier kids:

1. Limit Screen Time. Screen time is a time stealer. Yes it can buy you a few hours of distraction, but at a cost. Have you noticed when you turn off the technology there is a yammer of disagreeable restlessness? This is because biology is demanding movement and an expenditure of physical energy. Start with a conversation that screen time will be limited to one hour a day—or whatever works for you. Some parents find a cold turkey turn off for the summer easier than the slippery slide of a restriction they cannot enforce.
IMG_16612. Reduce structured activities. Soccer teams, camps, swim classes, and music lessons are not necessarily bad, but the majority of kids do not have enough doodle and hum time to experiment with interests. Instead adults manage their passions. Too many structured activities can lead to burn out and a terrible condition where over the years kids will not express interest in anything because they could be signed up for a team or lessons if they do, when all they wanted was to splash paint on paper experimentally, or bang away on the piano for the sound of it and not to become a concert pianist. Let them play outside with few rules instead! It is the place where passions are born
3. Practice Benign Neglect!
a. You do not have to put together the toys and tools for play outdoors or anywhere for that matter

b. Watch your child sideways while they fool around outside instead of anxiously hovering and watching for danger
c. Do not make things fair when kids are playing games, they will sort it out themselves
d. Wait for them to come and ask to Come look! See this! Watch me jump! Being invited to be an audience is far more powerful than steady positive feedback
e. Have tolerance for the skinned knees and dirty hands that are the result of adventure
f. We tend to worry about the wrong things—it is not the stranger stalking our child, it is bike riding without a helmet, or the chemicals under the kitchen sink that are far more dangerous and warrant our concern
g. Dirty skin is wash-and-dry. Clothes can be laundered, shoes hosed off, and rips in clothing can be repaired. What is irreplaceable are mud pies and climbing trees and building forts that build a stronger body, a better future, and lasting memories

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