Nature and Risk Taking: why we should allow children to take risks outdoors

Most of us grew up in one of the last generations in our country to have safe freedoms- freedoms that don’t put children in direct danger, but allow them to take risks within safe boundaries.

We know children need to take risks. Risk taking is essential to brain development, emotional well being, and expanding our physical abilities, which are all part of a foundation for success.

Yep.

It is that dramatically important that children are allowed to take risks, without adult guidance, or interference. In the last 60 years we have created one generation after another of children that are  more susceptible to mental breakdowns, chaos, and an inability to still their minds.

They simply haven’t had the experiences in childhood to build the stamina needed as adults to process and regulate emotions, environments, and problem solve. It is that simple.

Rigorous school instruction before developmentally appropriate is detrimental to the development and well being of our kids.

In our modern educational world, with access to too much of everything at too young of an age, we have:

  • limited physical movement and unstructured recess time for children
  • reduced or removed outside time, thus reducing sunshine and fresh air
  • removed mental, emotional, and physical risk taking for children
  • increased sitting (… no, adding a fidget toys or bouncy bands does not replace outside free play. Do they help some children, sure! We use tools here for sensory relief and movement for those cold, windy days, but they are not a substitute for movement or being outdoors)
  • reduced natural body positions-movement such as squatting, writing in large motions vertically while standing, sitting on the floor, laying on bellies while listening or writing
  • increased screen time at school and home- screens and technology are addicted and dangerous to the brain, especially developing brains; our brain chemistry literally changes when given too much screen time.
  • Increased dangerous light sources:  “A study published in late 2010 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology found that LEDs contain lead, arsenic and a dozen other potentially dangerous substances. LEDs are touted as the next generation of lighting,” says Oladele Ogunseitan, one of the researchers behind the study and chair of the University of California (UC)-Irvine’s Department of Population Health & Disease Prevention. “But as we try to find better products that do not deplete energy resources or contribute to global warming, we have to be vigilant [about] toxicity hazards….”
  • reduced nutrition via boxed and canned food, fast food, improper preparation of foods, limiting healthy fats and vegetables
  • increased toxins via foods, pesticides, plastics, our water sources, beauty products, medicines, fabrics, and cleaning products

We have turned ourselves and our children, into caged animals, over exposed to heavy metals and xenoestrogens, y’all. Miserable, anxious, pacing, animals with occasional recreation time outdoors … which many children don’t enjoy because they are constantly told what not to do by adults that are glancing up from their phones just long enough to give correction.

What happened to free play outdoors? Running barefoot in grass that isn’t covered in chemicals? Climbing trees, rolling down hills, and jumping over creeks are the days of the past for many children, and adults.

what is happening

When we keep our bodies in a constant state of stress, via all the above bullet points, we destroy our hormones**, drain our adrenals, and create unhealthy environments in our body’s immune system (gut bacteria), resulting in many ailments created in or increased in diagnosis over the last 50-60 years.

So what is a remedy for our children’s bodies, minds, emotions, and ourselves?

Fresh air! Slowing down daily: walking, playing, romping, risk taking, and getting sunshine on our skin are proven to decrease cortisol levels and anxiety while increasing seratonin and the synthesis of nutrients in our bodies. We often feel a closer connection to God, our friends and family, and ourselves when outdoors.

God created a perfect system in His world for our bodies to function-real, nutrient dense foods raised the way He intended, clean water, sunshine, and natural movement are the first steps to feeling better and helping our children overcome the cycle of stress, “failure,” and melt downs as children, which carries on to adulthood. He didn’t design His world for us to be stressed, caged, fat, tired, miserable, depressed, and addicted to screens- none of those things glorify Him.

Risk taking is where boys learn to conquer, be knights in shining armor, and carefully work outside the lines. It is where girls learn to let go, realize they can do all things, and live outside of fear. Risk taking creates freedom from constant boundaries; freeing our bodies and minds.

Is there a time and place for convenience foods, chilling inside, and sitting for instruction or work? Sure! But these should be in balance, basically at the very tippy top of a very large pyramid; when they replace the foundations on which our bodies were meant to build, we end up with a very messy, stressed out life.

Make a plan

Plan a time each day to get outside! Maybe it is in the morning, or after dinner as a family- if you’re a planner, write it out as something you will do! If you homeschool, after morning time, lunch, or before naps/rest may work well for your family.

To keep it safe our family has instructions- if you get lost or injured, confused or scared, sit down and scream! Don’t keep walking, don’t keep circling or panic- sit down and yell. We WILL find you. Last year for Christmas we each got safety whistles to use in case of emergency during our walks in the woods or on the property; even with the best supervision, we all know children can escape our sight, so this is a good precaution. Don’t let fear or worry keep you from exploring or getting outdoors.

Many of us are living by to-dos; let go of the to dos for 30 minutes- finish the dishes, tidy the house quickly so you can come back feeling refreshed, leave the rest for later-and GO!

Don’t fill your time outdoors with demands, tasks, and stuff- sure chores need to be done, outdoor toys are fun and healthy- but be intentional about quiet and natural movements, natural play, being creative and noticing Gods creation!

There you will find peace; there we can quiet the noise, be closer to Him, build stronger connections, and enjoy living.

Came out taller than the trees

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