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The United Indian

Nature As Classroom: Green Time Over Screen Time for Kids

screen time for kids

Switch Screens for Scenes

May 22, 2024
Social Cause

“ My kids is always on phone”, “my kids only eat while watching cartoons” are common concerns of moder age parents. Remember how in 90’ our parents used to get tired calling us indoors, but we wouldn’t come in until all our friends left. The situation has however reversed now.  Today, children are more connected to screens than ever before. From educational apps to entertaining videos, screens have become an integral part of their daily lives. The integration of digitization in human lives has increased the screen time for kids.

This has also raised concerns about its impact on children's physical health, mental well-being, and social skills. As parents and educators seek alternatives, the concept of "green time"—spending time outdoors and engaging with nature—has gained significant attention.


However, striking a balance between screen time and outdoor play, or "green time", has become a constant challenge for parents.  Green time refers to unstructured play and exploration in nature. While technology offers undeniable educational and entertainment benefits, research overwhelmingly points to the critical importance of green time for a child's overall well-being. This blog explores the benefits of green time over screen time for kids and offers practical tips for incorporating more outdoor activities into children's routines.


screen time for kids


The Benefits of Green Time

Green time refers to activities that involve spending time outdoors, engaging with nature, and participating in physical activities. The benefits of green time are vast and well-documented:


1. Physical Health Improvement: Outdoor activities encourage children to move, run, jump, and play, promoting physical fitness and reducing the risk of obesity. Natural sunlight also provides essential Vitamin D, which is crucial for bone health and the immune system.


2. Mental Well-Being: Nature has a calming effect on the mind. Studies have shown that spending time outdoors can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, improve mood, and enhance cognitive function. The sensory experiences in nature, such as the sound of birds or the feel of grass, provide a therapeutic effect that screens cannot replicate.


3. Enhanced Creativity and Imagination: Nature stimulates curiosity and creativity. Children who play outside are more likely to engage in imaginative play, problem-solving, and exploration. These activities foster creativity and critical thinking skills.


4. Social Development: Outdoor play often involves interaction with peers, which helps children develop important social skills. They learn to communicate, collaborate, negotiate, and resolve conflicts. These experiences are vital for building strong interpersonal relationships.


5. Environmental Awareness: Spending time in nature instills a sense of appreciation and respect for the environment. Children who engage with nature are more likely to develop an understanding of ecological issues and a desire to protect the planet.


Screen time for kids


Practical Tips for Increasing Green Time

Incorporating more green time and avoiding excessive screen time for kids may seem challenging, especially in urban environments, but it is entirely feasible with some creativity and planning. Here are practical tips to help parents and caregivers encourage outdoor activities:


1. Create a Routine: Establish a daily or weekly routine that includes outdoor activities. This could be a morning walk, an afternoon in the park, or a weekend hike. Consistency helps children develop a habit of spending time outdoors.

2. Make It Fun: Plan activities that are enjoyable and engaging for children. This could include nature scavenger hunts, picnics, gardening, playing sports or family outings. When children associate outdoor time with fun, they are more likely to look forward to it.

3. Limit Screen Time: Set clear boundaries for screen time and stick to them. Use screen time as a reward for completing outdoor activities or chores. This creates a balanced approach and helps children understand the importance of both.

screen time for kids

4. Join in: Lead by example and participate in outdoor activities with your children. Family hikes, bike rides, or visits to the beach not only promote physical activity but also strengthen family bonds.

5. Explore Local Parks and Nature Reserves: Take advantage of local parks, nature reserves, and green spaces. These areas often have trails, playgrounds, and educational programs that make outdoor time both enjoyable and educational.

6. Encourage Outdoor Hobbies: Introduce children to hobbies that require outdoor time, such as birdwatching, photography, or fishing. These activities can spark a lifelong interest in nature. This would be a far better learning experience in contrast to what experience screen time for kids offers.

7. Organize Playdates: Arrange playdates with other children in outdoor settings. This encourages social interaction and makes outdoor play more appealing.

8. Utilize School Programs: Many schools offer outdoor education programs or extracurricular activities that involve nature. Encourage your child to participate in these programs.

screen time for kids

The Digital Dilemma

The omnipresence of digital devices has led to a dramatic increase in screen time for kids. According to various studies, the average child spends several hours a day in front of screens, whether it's for educational purposes, gaming, or social media. While technology offers numerous benefits, such as access to information and educational tools, however excessive screen time can lead to several adverse effects:


1. Physical Health Issues: Prolonged screen time is associated with sedentary behavior, which can contribute to obesity, poor posture, and eye strain. The lack of physical activity can also weaken the immune system and increase the risk of chronic diseases.


2. Mental Health Concerns: Excessive screen use can lead to issues such as anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances. The constant bombardment of information and stimuli can overwhelm young minds, leading to stress and reduced attention spans.


3. Social Skill Deficiencies: Screen time for kids often replaces face-to-face interactions, hindering the development of essential social skills. Children may struggle with communication, empathy, and building relationships.

Given these concerns, it is crucial to find a balance between screen time and other enriching activities. This is where the concept of green time comes into play.


screen time for kids


Striking the Right Balance: Green Time Goals for Different Age Groups

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends age-appropriate screen time limits while emphasizing the importance of unstructured outdoor play:


  • Under 18 months: No screen time is recommended.
  • 18-24 months: Up to 1 hour of high-quality programming with a co-viewing adult.
  • 2-5 years: Limit to 1-2 hours of screen time daily for kids in this age group. Also, prioritize high-quality content and co-viewing whenever possible.
  • Children over 5: Focus on creating a healthy media diet that balances screen time with other activities, including green time.


screen time for kids


Overcoming Challenges

While the benefits of green time are clear, there can be obstacles to incorporating it into daily routines. Here are some common challenges and how to overcome them:

1. Urban Living: In urban areas, access to green spaces may be limited. Seek out community gardens, rooftop parks, or make use of any available green areas. Indoor plants and small balcony gardens can also provide some connection to nature.

2. Weather: Inclement weather can discourage outdoor activities. Dress appropriately for the weather and embrace activities suited to different conditions, such as snowball fights in winter or puddle jumping in the rain.

3. Safety Concerns: Safety is a priority, but it shouldn't prevent outdoor play. Supervise younger children, choose safe play areas, and teach children about outdoor safety rules.

4. Busy Schedules: Balancing work, school, and extracurricular activities can be challenging. Prioritize outdoor time as an essential part of your child's routine, even if it means adjusting other activities.


screen time for kids


In a world dominated by screens, it is crucial to recognize the importance of green time for children's overall development. Balancing screen time for kids along with outdoor activities can significantly enhance their physical health, mental well-being, creativity, social skills, and environmental awareness. By making a conscious effort to incorporate more green time into children's lives, we can nurture healthier, happier, and more well-rounded individuals. Embrace the outdoors, explore nature, and watch as your children thrive in ways that screens simply cannot replicate.


By making green time a regular part of your child's life, you're giving them the gift of a healthy body, a curious mind, and a lifelong appreciation for the wonders of nature.

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