What are you doing this summer: playing outside or staying indoors?

Liz Peniston

By: Liz Peniston | Date: 21/08/2014

Now that the summer holidays are well and truly upon us, the challenge for both parents and children is to see how they can last the summer in one piece, both mentally and financially. At Eureka! we know from the huge number of people that visit us over the summer that we are just one of many destinations placed on their summer agenda as a great day out.

However, the reality for most of us is that there are only so many days out you can afford when the family budget needs to stretch over six weeks. So, what happens between all those great days out, and once the week or fortnight away is finally over?

It would be nice to think that all our children are spending most of their time outdoors getting fresh air and being active. However, expecting to see swathes of children playing in the street seems to be a nostalgic wish too far for parents who, as children of the 60s, 70s and 80s, will remember spending more time outside than in.

Today, a combination of factors has led to children being the least adventurous generation in terms of getting up from the sofa and turning away from the distractions of technology.

In April of this year, following the publication of a survey by Mothercare, broadcaster and adventurer Ben Fogle said he was concerned that British children were losing their sense of adventure after it was revealed that they spent less than 30 minutes outside a week. The survey also found that half of parents questioned didn’t let their children play outside because of fear over their safety, while 60% said there was now much more for them to do indoors because of new technology.

It’s all a bit worrying, particularly as a report by child psychologist Dr Arig Sigman, warned back in 2012 that a child born today will have spent a year in front of the TV by the time they are seven.

Last year Professor Tanya Byron, a former government advisor, warned that children were being raised in captivity by over-anxious parents. In a worrying observation, she noted that more children are being admitted to hospital A & E departments because they “didn’t know how to fall over” – sprains were being caused because children were tensing up when they fell, with cuts and bruises, once regarded as badges of honour, regarded as major traumatic events.

Children are losing touch with the great outdoors in favour of a virtual world of apps, games and screens – just at a time when the development of their brains, not to mention their physical and social skills, are still in their formative stages. Compared to the children who visited Eureka! when we opened in the early 1990s, today’s children are sadly physically weaker and less connected with the outdoors.
So this summer, before they head back to school, send your children out into the biggest classroom and playground that we have: the great outdoors. Here are some ideas to get them started.

  • Send them to the local park for a run or to kick a ball around
  • Get them climbing a tree
  • Join them on a nature walk in the woods
  • Come down to Eureka! for our Made by Me summer
  • Get them making a den or put up a tent in the garden

Here are some more ideas courtesy of NetMums. Also, take a look at the Project Wild Thing campaign aimed at getting children to re-engage with nature.

This blog originally appeared as a column in the Halifax Courier.

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Eureka! The National Children’s Museum
Discovery Road, Halifax HX1 2NE. Map