health

The argument for locking your kids outside for half an hour each day.

Wonder White
Thanks to our brand partner, Wonder White

Just hear me out…

So, seriously, you lock your kids outside? Really? As in, you turn the key and actually lock them outside, like it’s reverse jail?

Who doesn’t do that?

Say it the wrong way and it sounds like a punishment, but it’s not. Everyone knows that being outside is beneficial for kids. Actually, it’s good for everyone. Things happen beyond the back door, healthy things like kicking footies and hopscotch and chalk on the footpath. How about skateboards or ripsticks, and tossing parachute men into the air at exactly the same time and seeing who can get theirs to stay afloat the longest? It’s hard to ride a bike inside, at least, it’s hard to ride a bike fast inside and do jumps.

Everyone knows that being outside is beneficial for kids. Actually, it’s good for everyone.

Trampolines live outside. What’s life to a kid without the healthy, giddy up and down feelings of a trampoline? Don’t even start me on slides or swings.

It’s not just the fresh air and the natural nourishment that comes from the ‘great outdoors’; it’s about exploring a different environment.

To be fair, it can take a bit of practice to get your head (and your children’s) around the concept of spending time ‘out there’ where there’s clearly, ‘nothing to do.’ I mean, look at it. There’s a bit of grass, there’s a bit of a deck, a manky outside table weathered to varying shades of grey. Plants and stuff, garden things like little spades, forks and of course, there’s that hose hanging off the fence that can be kind of fun to wet things with. But really, it’s pretty boring out there when you look at it.

So what if the idea was not to look at it, but to feel it? To give the imagination a chance to get into it, to crawl around and find some stuff to do? Kids are great at it, sometimes they just need a reason to get that fuzzy logic working, and that’s where the ‘lock ‘em outside’ idea works a treat.

It goes a bit like this.

“Whyyyyyyyyyyy?”

You suggest they go outside for something, they turn around and find the back door locked. ‘Whyyyyyyyyyyyy Daddy, whyyyyyyyyyyy?’ they moan, but for most kids, that gets old pretty quickly.  From there it’s probably on to a bit of foot dragging, a few ‘Come on, lemme iiiiiiiiiiiiin’s,’ until that gets boring, too.

Then, like the bumper sticker says, “magic happens”.

The outside kid finds something to do. Which means the inside parent probably finds something to do, too. It could be to read a book, catch up on your socials, clean the house, fix a chair, make a cushion. Make ten cushions. We could be outside, too, helping our gorgeous, gifted offspring make games to play, but that kind of defeats the purpose of sending them into the fresh air and sunshine to play. And they will play.

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Andrew Daddo recording This Glorious Mess with Mamamia’s Holly Wainwright.

Sticks turn into witches’ brooms, trees become beanstalks, there are pirate ships out there, and if you set the hose setting to “mist,” and point it near the sun, you can make a rainbow with the added bonus of getting wet. How much fun is getting wet, making a puddle, jumping over it then in it and around it?

We spent a decade outside. Mum had to punt us from the house because there were too many of us and we ate everything. Like, we ate constantly – the only way to stop us was get us out and busy. We used the barbecue grill as a launching pad for our bikes, where every step we jumped was a London double decker bus, just like Evil Knevil.  We won world series cricket matches, kicked winning goals, took screamers, scored tries, painted fences, wrote in dirt, ate dirt and severed the heads of Mums agapanthus’ with tennis racquets – once.  We learnt that lesson the hard way.

The big lesson was that we learnt to entertain ourselves, and that by being sent outside, we actually had more fun making stuff up than we did getting under mum’s feet.  We were energised, we were happy and healthy and our cheeks glowed with the zing of clean, fresh air.  While we did that, mum and dad got to do their thing as well, whatever that was.

“The big lesson was that we learnt to entertain ourselves, and that by being sent outside, we actually had more fun making stuff up than we did getting under mum’s feet.”

Beyond that back door is a world bursting with opportunity.

Sometimes it just takes a bit of time and practice to recognise it.

I’m certain the time spent finding fun was critical to how the ‘writing for kids’ part of my life would play out.  It’s very hard to dream up ideas, some mad, without practice.  It’s not hard to look back and see where most of that practice took place.

And just like outdoor play, books are also crucial to kids’ lives, as brain and imagination food as well as for the literacy-related benefits.  Regardless of the delivery method, whether it be book, comic or ebook, books are just as good for our kids’ minds as fresh air time is for their bodies.

How do you ensure your kids get enough outdoors time?

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‘6 very good reasons my kids are never allowed to watch TV.’

Sorry George, but denying your kids party food is just plain crazy.