balancing outdoor play and screen time running in the woods
Life,  Parenting

Mum Guilt: Balancing Outdoor Play and Screen Time

This post is written in collaboration with ESP whilst eating a Ferrero Rocher.

I always find the summer holidays a bit tricky, being self employed and working from home means that inevitably there are days when I have to work. Although I try and make these days as few and far between as possible, I still feel that nagging twinge of Mum Guilt when I do.

I am clearly failing my children because they’re sitting in front of the TV or playing on their tablets rather than being out and about, living their best lives and channelling their inner Bear Grylls.

We do have an hour a day limit on the tablets, that our two understand and (generally) adhere to, but if I’m working it is sometimes a little easy for them to move from the little screens to adding a multitude of things to their List on Netflix.

As a mum, I am fully aware and concerned by the rise of childhood obesity and the increase in sedentary lifestyle amongst kids.  As a slightly larger woman, I don’t want my children to end up like me – I want them to consider being active a fun thing to do rather than a chore.

The past week has been one of two halves. The hot weather of midweek led to days spent in and out of the house and into the paddling pool and running round the garden getting oodles of good old vitamin D.

The news then came out this weekend of the 15 year old from Britain who has won the best part of £1m in the Fortnite World Cup (yes, that is a thing now apparently) in New York which is likely to have the unfortunate consequence of making idols of Pro-Gamers rather than, say, the heroes of the recent women’s football and netball (i.e. actual) World Cups.

According to our Fortnite boy’s mother she has thrown out at least one xbox and snapped one headset due to them clashing over him spending “8 hours a day in his room” gaming.

8 hours a day!

I’m not being a Debbie Downer but surely it isn’t just me who thinks getting kids out there and running round and interacting, be it within a team sport or clambering over the playground equipment in the local park (the default choice of Aoife and Seth when they are asked for weekend ideas) is better for mind, body and soul than sitting in a darkened room til the early hours snacking on whatever is within reach with a controller in the other hand…? A balance is needed.
When we were growing up we’d just be waved out the front door in the morning, we would head off to the school fields or woods to play football or make secret dens. We didn’t know what time it was but we’d always be home in time for tea as exhausted, ravenous and as mucky as every child should be at the end of a summer’s day!

I appreciate it’s just not quite as easy as that anymore for various reasons – not everyone has a garden; playing fields have either been fenced or sold off; and we are acutely more aware of the dangers ‘out there’. We don’t let our kids just wander off to play with their friends – though we are increasingly OK with allowing them to play with their online ‘friends’ with a lot less fear…

balancing outdoor play and screen time

Some parents will rely (not necessarily correctly) on school to provide the ‘active’ element of life for their kids. I was really surprised when I read recent research commissioned by ESP and undertaken by Liverpool John Moores University that stated 68% of a child’s PE lesson is spent stationary, especially as our school is constantly striving to keep our children active.

At our school the children do cross country once a week, indoor PE and outdoor PE as well as after school activities and external agencies that come in to do sports with them. Even the playground markings encourage them to be active within their play. We do though appreciate that the tone from the top in ‘our’ school is healthy body, healthy mind and not every school has the luxury of wide open spaces on their doorstep to enable this.

As a family, and as is healthy, we have different interests and ‘hobbies’. Theirs are running, leaping and kicking, mine are wining and box-setting, but between us I feel we manage to accommodate a healthy balance of outdoor activity and indoor screen (and snack) based fun.

Although there are a number of free outdoor activities available such as Parkrun and playgrounds, it can feel a task at times to make the time around work and other life commitments. It is though vital that we all make the effort (without making it feel as such for the children) to address a potential epidemic that shouldn’t even be a theoretical proposition.

Here’s hoping the summer isn’t yet quite over and the biggest concerns for the next few weeks are keeping the fridge full enough and on top of the piles of washing from all the outdoor fun!






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