My Son Hardly Ever Plays Outside & I Don’t Feel Guilty

kid reading indoorsOh great, another report on how little time our kids spend playing outside. Did you know?!? American kids are spending only four to seven minutes a day outdoors. Our children are living under house arrest, says author Scott Sampson. You don't say, says this weary parent.


Oh but wait, there's more. Kids today spend 90 percent less time outdoors than their parents did. What are they doing instead? You guessed it -- staring at a screen for 7 to 10 hours a day.

I'm not at all surprised to hear this. That's because this sounds a lot like my kid.

He loves to read and he loves gaming. We live in the city, so there's no back yard to explore. So he gets screentime a-plenty at home.

I guess this is the part where I'm supposed to wring my hands with shame and cry mea culpa! I am a horrible parent! I promise to do better! But you know what? If it were as simple as "trying harder" our kids would be spending a lot more time outdoors and we wouldn't even be having this conversation.

It's a beautiful sunny afternoon in April, and my son had a half day. Why isn't he outdoors, enjoying this fine weather? Well, it probably has something to do with my being here, in an office in the city, working so we can do nice things like eat food and live indoors.

On top of that, all that shiny technology traps our kids, stranger danger keeps us from letting them roam the neighborhood like we used to (HELLO, I live in New York City, A.K.A. where Etan Patz, the original milk carton kid, was killed), and our children are busy with activities and homework.

No wonder our kids spend so much time indoors!

Thank goodness my son's school has mandatory 30-minute outdoor time every day -- I hear recess has gotten squeezed out of most schools. And when summer comes along, well, I still have to work so it's not like we go off to some cabin on Walden Pond and play in the woods all summer. However, I do enroll him in a camp that takes place entirely outdoors.

The thing is, in this environment we're living in, it takes a lot of planning and forethought to get our kids outdoors. You really can't expect it to happen the same way it did when we were kids.

What we should expect -- but don't get -- is more support. We need to get schools to carve out time for recess again. We need more after-school programs and daycare centers to get kids playing outdoors, too. Oh I have a whole laundry list of changes that would break down the barriers keeping our children at home when they could be outdoors.

Meanwhile, thank goodness spring has finally arrived. The truth is, as much as my son resists emerging from his cave-like room and experiencing things like the sun, he really wants to. He protests, but he's always glad when I drag him out on the weekends. He doesn't know what he wants to do outdoors, but he's relieved when I get him out there doing something, anything, even if it's just taking a walk.

So fine. We don't have the miserable weather to blame anymore. I'll do my part and get my kid outdoors more often because DUH, I know it's good for him. But let's think a bit about what all the barriers are and why we're not doing it more often -- and what we really need to release our kids from house arrest.

Do you feel like your kids get enough outdoor play time?


Image via antoniodiaz/Shutterstock



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