“Let’s play outside!”
By Maude Goyer, aka Maman 24/7
My son hadn’t even celebrated his first birthday yet when we reorganized his bedroom, which meant ripping out the carpeting, removing the curtains and taking away almost all of his plush toys. Why? Because he was suffering from asthma attacks, and a health professional recommended all of the above to help prevent them.
« Open the windows! » he’d also suggested – another tip we followed, for hours every day, in every room of the house. Sure, it didn’t fix all of his problems, but it certainly didn’t hurt. And its effects went way beyond our son’s health.
According to a recent study, we spend almost 90% of our time indoors. However, the same study also suggests that the air in our homes could be up to five times more polluted than the air outside. There are obviously consequences on our health: cases of asthma and allergies, sleep and breathing issues, emotional disorders, and low moods are all linked to what we refer to as “indoor pollution”.
Did you know? An article published this spring lists all potential indoor pollution sources, and most of them are caused by our indoor activities taking place in enclosed (and poorly ventilated) spaces. For example, combustion (gas ovens, candles, cigarettes, fireplaces), cleaning products (which are often abrasive and highly chemical), perfumed cosmetics and drying clothes can affect the quality of the air we breathe. Combined with limited air flow (our houses are now well isolated, which means the air isn’t renewed enough), that can lead to a higher risk of mould. Oh, and don’t forget about mites!
How did we become such an indoor generation? It would be easy to point fingers at our lifestyle… and our screens. Technology might have opened our eyes on the world, but it also shielded them from our backyards, our neighbourhoods, that beautiful park down the block, the woods and the mountains. Yes, green spaces still exist, but we simply don’t spend that much time outdoors in our everyday life. The average full-time worker spends less than 15 minutes outdoors per day – which amounts to less than half a day per week! That’s… not a lot.
Hard to believe that 90% of our ancestors, in the 1800s, worked outside: today, that figure is closer to 20%.
Even though we can now get EVERYTHING from the comfort of our own home, nothing beats a good old walk around the block to clear the mind. That’s precisely what I’m trying to teach my kids: no matter how bad the weather is, a healthy dose of fresh air will always up your energy and boost creativity.
Granted, it’s not always easy to actually get outside with our hectic eat-sleep-work-repeat schedules, but there are a few things we can do, like opening the windows, getting a bit of natural light, and going out for even 5 minutes.
The summer holidays are (finally) among us, and I know the one thing I’ll keep telling my kids is “Scram, go play outside!” Yes, I literally throw them out of the house. They’re not always thrilled, but meh, I can live with that. I teach by example, open the door and head outside myself.
Out of ideas to get your kids outside the house?
Here are 10 simple outdoor activities for children… and grownups, too!
- Race to the end of the street, or set up an obstacle course in an alley
- Play ball (throwing, kicking, hiding, etc.)
- Give certain items a second purpose: turn your laundry basket into a soccer goal, your plastic glasses into bowling pins, or drape an old sheet over four chairs to create a magical cave!
- Draw with chalk on the sidewalk or on the driveway
- Play hopscotch (a childhood classic!)
- Have an improptu summer picnic
- Blow bubbles (trust us, your kids will love it!)
Making the most of your neighborhood park’s play structures
- Skipping rope (psst: mom should do it too. It’s a great cardio workout!)
- Going on a family bike ride
* The study was conducted by English firm YouGov for the company Velux in 14 countries across Europe and North America. A shocking campaign was made from it: it’s been viewed over 8 million times on YouTube.
Journalist Maude Goyer has always been interested by the various matters surrounding family and motherhood. Freelancer for many magazines (Coup de Pouce, Vero, Planet F, Chatelaine, Enfants Quebec, etc.), her Facebook page reaches a committed community. She is also - and above all! – the mom of two children aged 8 and 11 years old.