Sometimes our children’s daily schedules are so busy with music lessons, tutoring sessions, and dental appointments that it’s hard to work in one of the most important activities that young minds and bodies need—letting our kids play outside.
Getting out of the house helps kids not only physically but also emotionally, intellectually, and socially. Children today spend so much less time outside—about half as much as their parents did when they were young1—that the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages pediatricians to prescribe outside play time for children.2
Let’s break down these needs so everyone in the family can understand, appreciate, and even participate in this critical aspect of childhood development. Take this quick quiz:
1. How much physical activity should children get every day?
Answer: D. Researchers at Harvard Medical School recommend at least one hour a day.3
2. In what way does sunshine benefit the body?
Answer: B Sunshine is crucial to the body’s ability to generate Vitamin D, a key nutrient. If you guessed A, remember: There’s no such thing as a safe tan. Children older than 6 months should always wear a broad-spectrum waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Be sure to apply it 15 minutes before sun exposure and reapply it no less often than every two hours.
3. Do organized sports give children sufficient time outside?
Answer: A and C. While just about any exercise is good, letting kids have unstructured time to run around touching, seeing, smelling, hearing, and even tasting new things (with your guidance, of course) helps develop their sensory and judgment skills.
4. What other benefits do children get from playing outside?
Answer: D. In addition to exercise and weight management, just spending time outside exploring gives children a greater sense of the world around them. Their imagination blossoms, exposing them to new ways of thinking, seeing, doing, and feeling about things. They also learn the physical and social benefits and consequences of taking risks.
5. Should children wear helmets when riding a scooter?
Answer: A. Not only is the answer “yes,” it’s “always.” Consider this: Head injuries are the reason for 40% of scooter-related ER visits.4 All riders—regardless of age—should wear protective gear when using wheeled personal transportation (e.g., bicycles, e-bikes, skateboards, Segways, etc.).
In addition to developing strong bones and muscles, spending time outside helps children learn these skills:
- the ability to negotiate
- good sportsmanship and citizenship
- information processing
- setting priorities
- time management
- being more flexible about their desires—what they want and when they want it
If your children are glued to their smartphones and tablets, you can always institute a one-hour “no phone zone” each day to encourage them to go outside and enjoy themselves. Or send them on a scavenger hunt around the neighborhood, and have them take pictures of items with their phones instead of collecting them. That way, you can keep track of their whereabouts too. (Even better, go with them so that you too can enjoy the emotional boost from fresh air and sunshine!)
Inevitably outside play time will lead to bumps, bruises, scrapes, rashes, and insect bites. But since you have Teladoc, you and your loved ones have 24/7 access to top physicians anywhere you are. They can treat everything from lice to sunburn, and a whole lot of non-emergency conditions in between. Be sure to download the app and add your eligible dependents now.
This portion of the Teladoc website occasionally offers health, fitness, and nutritional information and is provided for educational purposes only. You cannot rely on any information provided here as a substitute for or replacement of professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Teladoc cannot assure that the information contained on this site always includes the most recent findings or developments with respect to the particular subject matter covered.
If you ever have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional. Do not disregard, avoid, or delay obtaining medical or health-related advice from your healthcare professional because of something you may have read on this site. The use of any information provided on this site is solely at your own risk.
If you are in the United States and think you are having a medical or health emergency, call your healthcare professional, or 911, immediately.