Updated: Jan 30
Nature Play and Young Children in the Digital Age
by Rue Jyoti
In today's digital age, young children have access to a wealth of information at their fingertips. From educational apps to interactive games, technology has enhanced the way children learn. However, as parents and caregivers, it is crucial to recognize that too much screen time and lack of outdoor play can negatively affect children's overall well-being. According to studies, excessive
screen time can result in a sedentary lifestyle, social insecurity, and reduced imagination.
The solution to this problem lies in promoting nature play as a regular activity for young children. According to this article from Frontiers, nature play is beneficial for children's physical and mental development and promotes an appreciation of the natural world. In line with that, this article will explore the importance of nature play in the digital age and provide tips to supplement its benefits:
The benefits of nature play in young children
It promotes physical activity.
The use of technology has led to a decrease in active behavior among children. With the convenience of smartphones, tablets, and video games, children spend more time indoors, cooped up in front of screens. Long screen times can negatively affect children's physical health, as sitting for extended periods can lead to back problems, decreased circulation, and poor posture. On the other hand, nature play encourages children to engage in physical activities such as running, climbing, and exploring, promoting healthy development and fitness.
It improves mental health.
The constant stimulation of technology can be overwhelming for children and possibly harm their mental health. The continuous notifications that children are exposed to online can lead to feelings of restlessness. Additionally, the constant comparison to others through social media can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Being in nature, however, can provide a sense of calm and reduce stress and anxiety. Nature play allows children to unplug and experience nature's calming and restorative effects.
It fosters a connection to the natural world.
Studies like this prove that playing in nature allows children to acquire a deeper understanding of the natural world and strengthen their early learning. Children who spend time in nature are more likely to develop a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world around them, leading to a lifelong interest in science, conservation, and sustainability. This is in contrast to digital spaces, where children can be exposed to potentially harmful content and be vulnerable to cyberbullying and other negative behaviors.
How parents can supplement the benefits of nature play
Follow ergonomic practices when using gadgets.
Understandably, children cannot entirely avoid gadget use, especially for educational purposes. As such, parents should also encourage good ergonomic practices when children are using gadgets. This includes making them sit in a supportive ergonomic chair, such as those seen here. Having one ensures that they have adequate lumbar support for proper posture. It's also a good idea to pair that with a table that props their screen at eye level to prevent neck strain. This setup is much better than having your child sit on the floor crouching over their device.
Instill mindfulness practices in everyday routines.
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment and being aware of one's thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. Instilling mindfulness in children can supplement the benefits of nature play by making children present and in the moment. Practices such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help children combat boredom rather than turning to screens for entertainment and scrolling mindlessly on their devices.
Limit screen time across the board.
Finally, as noted in this expert feature, the simplest and most effective way to supplement the benefits of nature play is by limiting the amount of daily screen time children have. Parents should set clear guidelines for when and how long children can use technology. Moreover, parents should also lead the way by setting limits on their own screen time to demonstrate the value of disconnecting and engaging in more worthwhile activities.
Nature play is not only a crucial aspect of child development but also provides children with a holistic learning experience that can be hard to find in the digital world. By prioritizing nature play, parents can help children build a strong foundation for lifelong health and happiness.
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