Sunrays bursting through the leaves, the sound of a basketball bouncing on asphalt, the laughter of friends. These are common childhood memories for many. Whether you looked forward to longer days in the summer or snowball fights in winter, playing outside was part of your younger years. But surveys suggest this is no longer the normal childhood for many kids across the globe. According to one UK survey, on average children were playing outside for only a little over 4 hours a week compared to adults who spent 8.2 hours a week outside when they were children.
“There are surveys that suggest our children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates; who are mandated to spend 2 hours a day outside. Makes you wonder who’s locked up?”
Nick Despotidis, Optometrist
Playing Outside + Cognitive Development
The benefits of being outside is too important to continue to neglect. A child’s health and development are influenced in a variety of ways by being outdoors. Let’s start with a crucial part of the body, the brain. Outdoor play is imperative for cognitive development. When children move under, over, and near objects they are actually grasping concepts of geometry and their relationship to these objects. The natural elements found outside are open-ended materials, that can respond to children's imagination and needs. Children can reinvent and assign new meaning to objects, for example a stick can be imagined as a sword. This imagination helps to mobilize skills related to divergent thinking, creativity, and problem solving. Don’t forget the social skills kids can develop by playing outside and in-person with other children! While children have the opportunity to socialize online, this interaction can lack important life skills such as cooperation and empathy. When a child can play and talk with others face-to-face they gain valuable experience no screen can replace.
Natural Light is Important for Eyesight
Get clarity on how outside light effects a child’s eyesight and visual development. Studies show outdoor activities can prolong the onset of myopia (nearsightedness). When a child is playing outside the intensity of natural daylight and vitamin D from sunshine is converted to dopamine in the eye. This may prolong the onset of myopia. Being outside also allows a child to view far distances, resulting in less demand to focus the eyes to see clearly.  Myopia is becoming a global crisis. Myopia has increased by 66% in the US since 1971. By 2050 it is expected nearly half of the world’s population will be myopic.
Time spent outdoors is a rewarding, affordable, and needed activity. While your child should get a good dose of outdoor time every day, there are additional measures a parent can take to treat myopia. Paragon CRT® contact lenses are an option for children who have myopia. These lenses are worn overnight and gently correct the curvature of the cornea while sleeping so your child can see clearly during the day. Broken glasses or lost daytime contacts will no longer be a worry for you and your child. CRT® lenses offer your child total freedom when jumping, running, and playing around outside.
Get your Kids Moving
Playing outside helps improve motor skills and teaches kids the importance of risk taking.  Allowing children the freedom and room to move and play outside can also be valuable in the fight against childhood obesity. Your child can still get exercise indoors but why deny them access to the outside when there are so many benefits to being in nature and natural daylight? Get your kids outside and moving with scavenger hunts, capture the flag, tag, general playtime, and more.
Get your kids, of all ages outside and don’t forget to get yourself outdoors! Soak in the bright sunlight and literally go smell the roses. From neighborhood parks to trail walking you can find a piece of nature that you and your child can explore. The outdoors has always been part of the human experience and is a source of enjoyment and inspiration. Bring the outdoors back into your family’s life.
 National Trust. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2018, from https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/
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 Brien Holden Institute, Research Data on File, 2010