Self-esteem, self-discipline, ambition and emotional development are stunted without parental guidance and involvement, affecting an individual’s decision-making capabilities and self-identity far beyond childhood. Stacey Lynn BSc
It has long been know that the early years of a child’s development (0-5 years), have a major impact on their physical and cognitive development in later life. But what influence, as parents and grandparents, do we have on getting children outdoors and active from an early age.
When I was a kid there was a different social culture. It was safe to send the kids out first thing in the morning and expect not to see them until tea time. We went to the local woods/waste land and created our own ‘dens’ and climbed trees. It was what was expected of us.
My parents were both involved with the local Scout Group so it was natural that I would join the association once I was old enough. Scouting became such a major part of my life, that when I did my basic training in the RAF, I regarded it as professional scouting. It was something that I remained involved with until my retirement from the association at 55.
A colleague and fellow Ordnance Survey GetOutside Champion, Lisa Wells recently commented –
My dad used to build canal boats; when we were little people we’d finish school on a Friday and head to the marina where my brothers and I would spend our weekends swimming in the canal, building dens, fishing and getting into all kinds of scrapes while dad worked. We had our own boat so from a very early age I learnt how to open locks and drive the boat.
I think I had a very lucky childhood and that’s where my love of the outdoors first started. As a child I’d live for my weekends when there were no clocks and we’d disappear all day, the freedom I had as a child probably isn’t something that would happen these days … there were no mobile phones, my parents never really knew where we were and the only rules we had were to be back before dark.
So what went wrong? Why are we producing the most over weight youth generation on records? A recent report in the New Scientist examined the body weight of children in England in 2015,
It reveals that 91 per cent of mothers and 80 per cent of fathers of overweight children thought their kids were a healthy weight. For obese children, 48 per cent of mothers and 43 per cent of fathers said their children were around the right weight. (Brian Scanner)
One of the reasons given for this result is that parents tend to compare their siblings to others and see no difference. Unfortunately if all the other children are over weight, then the downward spiral starts.
So where have we as parents gone wrong? As I have already said, when I was a kid I was sent out in the morning and recovered for tea in the evening. When my kids came along, they were taken out on long walks from before the time when they could walk. It became an ingrained way of life for them. They both joined the Scout Association and enjoyed a wider range of activities.
But what of their children? Now I see a totally different situation. Both parents are working to make ends meet, there is the availability of smart tech (phones and tablets) designed specifically for children to keep them occupied. We live in a more dangerous society where you cannot let the kids out on their own anymore. The parents have less time to take the kids out, and they can’t go out on their own, so they rely on IT to keep them quiet.
So this is a shout out to all you Grand Parents out there – when you are looking after the kids, especially when they are very young. Take them out at every opportunity and I don’t just mean walking. If you are an angler, take then fishing, if you are an ornithologist – take them bird watching. If you have any outdoors interest or job – take them with you.
Let them play in the grass and the woods, let them run wild. Yes they will fall down and hurt themselves, but kids bounce. Their clothes will get muddy – so wash them. Let them have the freedom of expression missing from a lot of children. Hopefully, if you start when they are young enough they will grow up to accept the outdoors as a normal part of life.
I will leave this blog with the words of my colleague Lisa
It got me thinking that getting outside is so accessible to everyone; we all have different activities and hobbies that we love but the joy we all share comes from the great outdoors.