Children are spending less time outdoors these days. The scientific evidence is compelling; we need to balance screen time with green time.
This article introduces some excellent, and surprising, reasons to get into the wind and fly a kite this fall.
- Reduce Stress Levels
Spending time outdoors is great outlet for stress as science is confirming. The University of Colorado studied the effects of green schoolyards on stress in 2011 and found that this environment did indeed reduce the stress levels of children.
An increasingly popular alternate treatment for children with ADHD is a technique called “green time” or “green space therapy.” This simply involves playing outdoors or doing something that takes place anywhere outside, whether it is a park or backyard. Scientists believe that this can increase a child’s attention span by reducing the distractions that normally occur in their daily life.
The American Journal of Public Health confirmed this in a study of 452 children with ADHD and their parents. The parents believed, without exception, that the symptoms of the children improved with “green time”.
An estimated 6.4 million children between the ages of 4 and 17 have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The stress hormone cortisol was measured in 25 Scottish adults in a study published in Landscape and Urban Planning. Here again it was determined that people living in greener places had less of this hormone.
- Strengthen The Family Bond
I think common sense would tell us that this is true but there’s ample scientific research to back it up. Here are a few examples:
- Outdoor recreation helps maintain and increase the cohesiveness in families, according to P. C. West. and L. C. Merriam, L.C. Jr. (2009). “Outdoor Recreation and Family Cohesiveness: A Research Approach.” Journal of Leisure Research, 41 (3), 351-359.)
- These professors at Brigham Young came to the same conclusion. “Therapeutic recreation is an excellent modality for promoting healthy communication within families, particularly when therapy involves placing families in naturally challenging outdoor recreation.”
The Influence of Challenging Outdoor Recreation on Parent-Adolescent Communication , January 15, 2003, Christy Huff Mark Widmer, Kelly McCoy (Brigham Young University) Therapeutic Recreation Journal 2003
- Playing outdoors can help foster a love of physical activity in children, and it also pushes adults to engage physical exercises as well, suggests psychologist Debbie Glasser in her PsychologyToday.com article "Preschoolers Need More Outdoor Play with Parents.” This is especially true when families perform activities that require everyone to get involved, such as hiking or playing hide and seek. Games that involve teams come with an added benefit, as they encourage family bonding.
So yes, flying a kite with the family can bring everyone closer together.
- Increase Vitamin D Levels
The primary way we get our Vitamin D is by exposure to direct sunlight. Increasing your Vitamin D level not only reduces your risk for chronic diseases like cancer but also your risk of the common cold or flu.
Get out in the sun and increase your Vitamin D level! There will be fewer sniffles in the house.
- Increase Cognitive Function
Cognitive functions are mental processes that allow us to carry out any task, such as memory, orientation, gnosis, attention, praxis or language, according to neuronup.com. Again, studies show that these abilities are enhanced by outdoor activities. For example:
Outdoor activities not only enhance your ability to learn but also develops self-discipline as revealed in "Going Green Benefits Physical, Mental Health" by Rich Naubert at phychcental.com.
Amanda Espinoza has written an excellent article on the subject as well. See Family Outdoors .
5. Physical Benefits
I was surprised to learn that one of the physical benefits of outdoor activity was improved vision.
A study published by the American Academy of Ophthalmology found that kids who spend time playing outside are at a reduced risk of developing "myopia," or nearsightedness. A child's chances of developing myopia dropped by two percent for each additional hour spent outdoors, per week, the study found. So, getting kids to spend more time outdoors could be a "simple strategy" to reduce the progression and development of nearsightedness in children.
Of course there are the obvious cardio vascular and musculoskeletal benefits that come with physical exercise and we have already mentioned the Vitamin D benefit.
- STEM Lesson
Kites and airplanes are heavier-than-air object that are fly by the lift created by air in motion over their wings. An airplane relies on thrust from its engines. A kite is tethered in place and needs moving air (wind) to fly.
Wind moving across the sail of a kite creates pressure. Lift results from this wind pressure being deflected along the face of the kite. In other words, the wind pushes up on the kite. Think of wind pressure like a hand, pushing the kite up into the sky and holding it there. If the hand is removed, the kite will fall.
At the same time, wind passing over the top of the kite creates an area of low pressure, like a vacuum, along the back of the kite. This creates a pull from behind.
Check this link from the American Kiteflyers Association to learn more:
- Kiting Is A Great Hobby!
Look at all you can do with a kite:
- First popularized in the late 80s and early 90s, team flying (3 or more pilots) with dual and quad line kites has reached global proportions with the World Sport Kite Championships, indoor kite team shows and even world record mega flies with over 60 pilots flying their kites in formation under a single leader.
Not unlike a Blue Angels type of group, sport kite teams use pre-planned maneuvers and a series of commands from the lead pilot, giving them the ability to perform extremely complex routines which are fully choreographed to music of their own choosing.
- Kite Aerial Photography is a unique art with a view from above. With a kite in the air, a camera is suspended from the flying line and takes photos with an unusual perspective. Anyone with the right equipment (a parafoil kite and a mini camera, for example, can hoist a camera and the results can be stunning, colorful and unusual.
- Kids Family Kite Games
At a kite festival near you, you can join in on all kinds of activities such as Kite Making, Highest Flying Kite, Bol Races, Teddy Bear Drops, Candy Drops and more.
- Kite Festivals
A search on kite festivals brings up almost 4 million websites. I’m sure you’ll find one near you and they look like a lot of fun.
So if you’re ready to get started the best kite flying places are an open beach, park or field without trees or power lines. Upwind obstacles such as trees or houses can create air turbulence that can make launching or flying your kite difficult. It is possible to fly in turbulent wind but the more open area you have upwind, the smoother the wind will be, which is why ocean beaches or large lakes are so popular for kite flying.
Being comfortable is also important; here are a few things that you might find useful:
- Snacks for the “kids” – big and small…
- First Aid Kit
- Sun umbrella or canopy
- Chairs for the old folk…
- Gloves to protect your hands when handling strong pulling kites.
- No wind toys like Frisbees.
- Camera – you never know what you might capture on film!
I hope we’ve convinced you to get outdoors and fly a kite this fall. Please check out our supply of easy-to-fly family friendly kites at Kites at Wind and Water Toys .