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The average Australian child spends less time outside than a maximum security prisoner.

 

Think about it. Between school, homework, indoor play, extracurricular activities, screen time and downtime, our kids are spending more time indoors than out. And it’s having a negative effect on not just their physical fitness, but general health, motor skills, emotional and social connections, and stress levels.

 

National averages are steadily decreasing for kids’ outdoor play times, while time spent inside on technology is increasing. A recent study showed Australian kids are slipping behind their international peers in physical fitness and skill, with a marked decline in gross motor skills such as kicking, throwing, catching and jumping. We might be building a next gen nation of tech savvy kids (hello Generation Swipe), but it’s at the expense of social, emotional, physical and creative skills.

 

Unstructured play in nature has been shown to improve kids’ physical and emotional wellbeing, build self-awareness, esteem and social connections, improve learning abilities, decrease stress and boost resilience and creativity. The two key words here are “unstructured” and “nature”. With our over-scheduled lives it can be hard to “fit in” time for unstructured play. But exploring the beachfront, walking in the hinterland, digging in the dirt or even just making up games in the backyard can all have a vitally positive effect on our kids’ wellbeing – and our own.

 

Nature Play QLD is a government-supported initiative to encourage kids outside – increasing unstructured playtime in nature with a host of resources, ideas and research. And with our idyllic climate and wealth of natural resources at our doorstep, there’s no excuse for not enjoying some ‘green time’ with the kids all year round.

 

And we’re not talking great swathes of time, effort or money. Nature Play QLD’s list of “51 things to do before you’re 12” includes some brilliant, easy ideas to make the most of our environment and embrace the weather – even in the rain! Why not tick off our Top Ten or make your own hit list?

  1. Climb a tree
  2. Sleep under the stars (even in your backyard)
  3. Fall off a bike
  4. Learn to swim
  5. Build a cubby or a tree house
  6. Go beach combing after a storm
  7. Play chasey in the rain
  8. Build a sandcastle city
  9. Plant something and watch it grow
  10. Make a kite and fly it

 

City of Gold Coast’s Active & Healthy Program partners with Nature Play QLD to offer a host of outdoor adventures for kids of all ages. So if you’re stuck for ideas, not sure where to begin, or your own backyard is not big enough to swing a cat (let alone a five year old!), check out www.gcparks.com.au for ideas. Then get outdoors and get into it!

 

More: www.natureplayqld.org.au

 

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haven  

haven is all about family, life and style in Brisbane's inner city suburbs, the Gold Coast, south to Byron Bay. We have been keeping parents in the know for over eight years, with fun, fresh and helpful stories that they can take tips from or treasure in their own library.