When you think back to your childhood, what stands out?
Some of my best kid-life memories are of playing outdoors. Climbing the big tree in our front yard and keeping watch over the street. Riding my bike and teaching my younger brother to ride his. Finding lizards, snails and caterpillars in the garden, and making them a new habitat in an empty ice-cream box (although I’m sure they were pretty happy in their existing habitat!). And spending hour after blissful hour jumping and somersaulting on my big trampoline.
Yes, I sustained injuries during my outdoor adventures – plenty! And sure, like any kid, I loved watching TV – especially my favourite movie of all time, The Labyrinth. But TV is not what immediately comes to mind when I think back to my childhood.
I was a real bookworm as a kid and was never into team sports, but I was always active. Sadly, Australia’s current generation of kidlets is not spending nearly enough time outdoors. Research shows that not even one in five Aussie children aged between five and 17 get the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity.
This is a shame, considering the many benefits of physical activity: it improves confidence, strengthens muscles and bones, prevents type 2 diabetes and helps regulate emotions.
While organised sports are great for all these things, the fact is, they cost money and time. It’s not much fun being the after-school and weekend taxi, ferrying kids from sport to sport.
There is a much simpler and cheaper alternative to encourage physical activity and outdoor play: your backyard!
Physical activity doesn’t need to be structured. It doesn’t need to be done in 60-minute blocks. It can be enjoyed throughout the day, and your backyard presents so many opportunities for your kids to get active and make memories.
Here are some simple ideas for backyard play so your kids get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day:
Of course, safety comes first, but step back and allow your kids to use their imagination. If they are a little older, some unsupervised play will give a healthy boost to their confidence, creativity and problem-solving skills, too.
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