Natural Fun Takes a Backseat to Tech Time for Kids & Families

From weekday afternoons huddled in front of gaming consoles to weekends spent downloading the latest smartphone app, kids today spend a significant amount of time indoors tethered to technology. A survey commissioned by Busch Gardens® found that 85 percent of moms worry that their children don't experience enough natural, unstructured outdoor playtime – the kind of activity so common in previous generations.

According to the survey of nearly 900 moms conducted by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Busch Gardens®, kids spend only two hours during the week participating in natural, unstructured activities such as playing tag, riding bikes, and exploring nature, and these activity levels increase only slightly on the weekends to a little more than two hours.

"As parents, we remember our own moms opening up the screen door on a summer day and telling us 'go outside and play,' and we did, playing with friends from the neighborhood, roller skating and concocting elaborate games," said Stacy DeBroff , founder and CEO of Mom Central Consulting. "We fear we're raising a generation of kids with 'Natural Fun Deficiency' who rarely play outside unless as part of planned activities with a coach nearby carrying a whistle and a clipboard."

Based on the survey results, both moms and kids see technology as a deterrent to kids playing outside – 68 percent of moms think their kids spend too much time plugged in, and 44 percent of kids prefer texting to kickball.

However, the obstacles to outdoor-based family time include more than just technology. More than two-thirds of moms feel that family fun often takes a backseat to day-to-day obligations.

Here are some tips to combat 'Natural Fun Deficiency':

For Kids
• Keep it Low-Key: Don't worry about creating a master outdoor curriculum for kids. Instead, encourage them to build a fort, suggest they invite the new neighbor kids over for a backyard soccer game, or challenge them to make the ultimate mud pie.

• Team Up with Fellow Moms: When it comes to planning play dates, the survey showed that almost 60 percent of moms never or rarely think about organizing an outdoor-focused get-together, despite the fact that 75 percent of moms want their kids to be more open to outdoor adventure. Work with other moms to banish time in front of the TV or gaming console and instead suggest that kids go outside for a backyard scavenger hunt or game of kickball.

• Group Learning Activities: Surprise the kids with learning experiences disguised as pure fun.

For Families

• Plan a Family Getaway: According to the survey results, 70 percent of moms rely on vacations as a time for kids to unplug and get away from technology. Planning a family getaway can be a great way for everyone to set aside pressures and obligations and re-connect as a family.

• Explore the Great Outdoors: To jumpstart natural, outdoor fun, identify vacation spots with enough outdoor activities to entice everyone in the family. For example, a beach vacation offers opportunities for swimming, water sports, and beach exploration, while a visit to a theme park provides everything from thrill rides to water fun to animal encounters in natural settings.

• The Family Who Plays Together, Stays Together: Support kids' newfound outdoor experiences by creating fun, easy-to-arrange family activities. Take advantage of extended daylight hours to eat dinner on the patio or schedule an impromptu picnic dinner in the backyard. Or walk the dog as a family each weekend morning.

Source: Busch Gardens

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2013. All rights reserved.

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