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16th Jun 2019

Toddlers are spending less than 3 hours per week outside a new study has found

Trine Jensen-Burke


Being a Scandi parent in Ireland, I find myself being a little obsessive about making sure my kids spend as much time as possible outdoors.

Mostly because I find myself being surprised at how much less time is being spent outdoors by families here than back home in Norway. For instance, when my little girl attended creche in Oslo, they would spend the majority of their day outside, no matter what the seasaon or weather. This meant, of course, that she had to come into creche in appropriate clothing, as in; in the winter, children in creche have to come in with their layers on (wool first, then fleece, and then their snowsuits or other outdoor gear).

When my little boy was in creche here, however, I would so very often come to get him only to be told they had been outside for twenty minutes or less, before having to go in “because of the weather.”

I would remind them that not only are children water-proof, but surely it would be an easy enough thing to send an e-mail around to parents to make sure the kids came in wearing clothing suitable for playing outside, or, at the very least, that they could keep a change of clothes in the creche, ready to be changed into should they have gotten wet or muddy when outside.

Because guess what? Kids love being outside – and love nothing more than playing in mud and muck.

It is worrying then, but not entirely surprising, that a recent study, by Kiddi Caru, has revealed that parents said their children get three hours or less outside per week.

Three? Yikes.

However, this might not come as a giant surprise when the same percentage (31 percent) get two-three hours of screen time per day, with 11 percent getting over four hours daily.

According to the UK’s NHS physical activity guidelines for under 5s, toddlers should be physically active for at least three hours per day. And although this includes indoor play, it can be assumed that, for some, indoor time is being monopolised by screens.

Alarmingly, as part of the study, when given a list of outdoor activities it was revealed 44 percent of toddlers have never held a bug, 36 percent haven’t collected sticks, 35 percent have yet to dig in mud and 30 percent haven’t fed ducks.

How sad is that? Are we raising a generation of kids who are at risk of losing touch with nature and wildlife, at the very time where conservation and being environmentally conscious is crucial?

Fiona Blackwell, Quality Care and Education Director at Kiddi Caru, recently spoke about the study : “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.”

She continues:

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