Our challenges to keep our children motivated and connected with nature.

The Challenges facing children today is the topic in our early podcast episodes (002, 003, 004), and we see them as falling into two key areas. 

1) Children’s inactivity and there resulting levels of fitness.

2) The impact that the disconnection with nature has on our children. 

These are the cornerstones challenges of our Inspired&Active initiative and finding ways to address them our personal passions. 

Challenge 1: Our children’s inactivity

The result we are seeing in today’s world are highlighted by population obesity percentage figures such as:

                    Boys(%) Girls(%)

France –            14       18

China –             33       19

NZ                      29       34

Australia         28       26

USA                   40       43                       

England          28       27

Scotland        30        27

Canada         27        30

Kuwait             52       43

South Africa  16        23

Source World Obesity – the full country table available

This table is taking data from the last collection period, which is between 2015 – 2017. We know in the previous three years the figures are beginning to stabilise. Still, we do know that parental weight is also a very significant indicator and driver of children’s weight, and the adult obesity rate is rising and therefore, a concern that the rate may again increase.  Imagine moving to the headline of “Over 50% of our children are Obese !!!” – we as parents cannot let this happen, and action must be taken.  

For information, the obesity rate is calculated from the

Body Mass Index (BMI),which is a simple calculation using height and weight:

BMI= Weight (KG) / Height (m2) 

The resulting BMI is compared to the table:

Normal Weight: 18.5 to 24.9

Overweight: 25 to 29.9

Obese: 30 or higher

For children, the age is also taken into account, and an excellent calculator can be found at https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/bmi-calculator/

But how can that be, surely children keep running about whenever they can? There lies the issue – they longer walk to school, they no longer get the freedom to play outside, they no longer want to take exercise.

As a simple example of changes in practice since 1975, the number of children walking to school has dropped by 70%. Not good!

How many steps or time active should our children be taking?

There are several statistics on that but let us opt for:

A 12-year-old should get 1-hour moderate-intensity exercise a day and on an average take 15000 steps. Boys and girls targets are varied, but for simplicity, we are looking at these targets. How far is that a day if walking – a useful guide is 2500 steps for a child = 1 mile / 1.6 kg, so the total step count is 6 miles a day target. 

In a professional football match, a midfielder will run a km every 9 minutes (a total of 10km a game). I am sure our children are not a Messi on the pitch, but they certainly seem to run around a lot after the ball, so all regular exercise is critical. Remember this is the recommended normal we need to aim much higher. 

How far and how long do your children take every day? We plan to provide useful measurement tools to help, please join our community and FaceBook group to keep informed. 

Challenge 2: Our Children are disconnected with Nature

The next challenge we discussed and want to continue as our focus ongoing is Nature Deficit Disorder, a term introduced by Richard Louv in his book in 2005, Last Child in the Wood. The result of changes in our society over the last 20 years has seen our children’s time spent in the outdoors reduce by 80% to a level that results in health issues, mental health disadvantages and cognitive growth opportunities reduced.

Children no longer walk to school, nor have the freedom to explore and discover nature and minimal opportunity to tree climb, forage or take part in independent play. 

Nature-Deficit Disorder = Less time outdoors = Behavioural problem, diminished use of senses, attention difficulties, emotional & physical illness.

Letting our children take part in independent play helps our children’s cognitive skills, and Richard Louv found that executive functions were impaired in children recently observed with self-control and direct emotions impacted. 

So what can we do about it?

Its is not about stopping use of phones and devices and pushing our children out for long walks. We need to motivate our children to enjoy the outdoors. They need to appreciate the natural fun the outdoors can bring. We, as parents, need to encourage our children to explore and play, get mucky, climb and forage and generally create their own playground in outside areas. In Inspired&Active will help and we will be creating worksheets and plans you can follow to create a natural playground, ideas to engage your children outdoors and to motivate them to be more active. 

In our recent podcast series, we suggested several actionable things to consider:

To be active:

  1. Make it fun –
    1. Small treasure hunts on the way, scavenger hunt, simple tasks find 5 brown items.
    2. When out for a walk, simply take a tennis ball in your pocket – through and catch games is a great way to keep children interested in a walk. 
  2. Take a train journey one or two stops and walk back – forces the activity and creates a sense of adventure. You might walk, but your children don’t always just walk. I suggest scooters, roller skates, bikes etc.
  3. Make it about doing it with your children – change the conversation from you need to do this to let’s do this together. Find a friend or family and go together. 
  4. Say yes to what our children want to do – it is not always your choice but to connect let your children help plan. 
  5. Gamification in the outdoors:
    1. Organised scavenger hunt – we will put more detail in an instruction pack but setup 12 points, create clues but also add fun items to purchase to help solve the hunt. Watch out for more information on this.
    2. Create a chart of things to find and get your children to go out and find them. 
  6. Use the mobile phone on a walk get your children to take pictures of natural items – for example, take a picture of 5 leaves, 3 animals etc. You can then use these pictures to have a discussion when back or to start a nature scrapbook. We will be offering more idea and advice around this in the community. 

Please join our Facebook Inspired&Active group by connecting to https://www.facebook.com/groups/inspiredandactive/

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