Take It Outside

07:00 am | Thursday, 09 July 2015

A thousand hours. That’s how many hours Indian children in grades 6-7 spend in school in one year; and needless to say as they go up to higher grades, the number of hours multiply. With expanding syllabi and competition, these figures cannot be expected to go down anytime soon. What is worrying in the larger picture is that once home, our kids de-stress in front of television, computer and video game screens, which draw them into make-believe worlds inhabited by fictional people. To be there requires no social skills, interaction or effort in making friendships. It is a strange, artificial Xanadu that promises only one thing….escape from the real.

Childhood used to be about playing cricket outside, hide and seek with friends, climbing guava and mango trees, reading in the winter sun and many happy hours chatting with buddies outdoors. Perhaps it isn’t possible to find as many trees to climb in our urban sprawls today but outside is still the best place for kids to hang out today. And as parents we cannot blame it all on technology, we are every bit responsible because today we are overprotective of our kids, we take the easy way out and hand them gadgets to amuse themselves because we don’t have the time and also because it’s not ‘cool’ to buck the trend or spurn peer pressure. Consequentially our precious kids display behavioural problems, are self-centered, disconnected and lacking in basic life skills, not to mention unhealthy, even obese and lazy.

Growing up in an age where technology is a big part of life, of course, it must play its part, but up to a point. Maintaining a balance is the key and it’s not very difficult to include outdoor activities in their lives. You will be surprised how simple it can be.
  1. Organise for your child’s friends to play everyday for an hour or so in your local park or even behind your building. Once it becomes a ritual, the kids will plan their games and coordinate with each other and you don’t have to do anything more. Kids who play outdoors and have strong friend groups are known to be more confident, well adjusted, social and less likely to experiment with harmful influences like drugs etc.
  2. Talk a walk with your child on the beach or even to explore a particular locality in your city. Spending this time will lead to conversations that normally never happen when they are distracted by their games and gadgets. They will share their dreams, fears and confidences with you, without you even having to ask.  Conversations that happen naturally are better than situations where you sit them down and say “Let’s talk”.
  3. Picnics, hikes and outdoor sports played with family and friends builds a sense of security and wellbeing in children and helps them relax which in turn improves their productivity, creativity, problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Just because it makes them happy.
  4. Help your child do some volunteer work for a couple of hours a week or for a few hours every month. Animal shelters, homes for the elderly, schools for differently-abled children and many other organisation offer this opportunity. Our children can do well to learn empathy, gratitude for their privileged lives and more importantly develop a sense of social responsibility.

Life between the virtual and real is blurring today and while it is fun to enjoy the excitement of the virtual world, we owe it to our kids to re-introduce them to the beautiful world outside and all that it has to offer.

Supriya Kutty, is a freelance writer having written on everything from food, tourism and travel, architecture and interior design and IT for CW Interiors magazine,, and Harmony magazine. She also blogs at