Video games have come a long way from the first appearance of Space Invaders in the Dark Ages of computers. From the simple moving blips in the screen, today’s games are in virtual reality, from the more modern versions of Dungeons and Dragons genre to the Wii tennis games. No wonder more and more children and even adults are playing video games: they are entertaining as well as fun, in company or alone.
But they are not very good for physical health. Video gamers play mostly sitting down and watching the monitor, all the while using their hands and fingers to manipulate the keyboard. Thus in most cases only the hands and eyes are moving, and the rest of the body stays generally still, which qualifies the frequent player as ‘living a sedentary lifestyle’, much like yesteryear’s ‘couch potato’ watching television. Video playing admittedly enhances hand-eye coordination as well as small motor reflexes, but that is just about it. And we all know, unused muscles sooner or later atrophy.
A European Union report, however, encourages children to play video games on the grounds that ‘it can stimulate learning of facts and skills such as creative thinking, creativity, cooperation and innovative thinking.’ On the other hand, these are exactly what proponents for outdoor playing are saying to be the benefits of active play. Learning about nature, creatively inventing games, cooperation in playing with other children, and innovative thinking when confronted by play problems are likewise learned without staring at video monitors. Playing with other kids outdoors also teaches a child the ways of socializing and peer interaction, something not easily learned via the computer monitor.
On top of that, actively playing outdoors develops the muscles of the body, not just those of the eyes and hands. Running is good for the thigh, feet, calf and knee muscles, for instance. Climbing trees not only enhances the muscles of the legs, hands and arms, but can also infuse confidence to the child, who have mastered the fear of relative heights by sitting on the lowest branch. Yelling and laughing boisterously with other kids outdoors release energy that may otherwise be channeled to making mischief inside the house. And finally, getting physically tired at the end of the day enables them to sleep deeply in the night, so that their bodies might develop normally and healthy.
Children are active people with lots of energy to burn. To keep them static in a chair staring at the computer monitor is actually inhibiting them from developing as they should physically, mentally, psychologically and socially. Not all learning can be simply fed to a child; he should actively pursue it for learning to be effective. Learning is different from knowing and imbibing information in its essence, and while video playing can teach a child a lot of things, much, much more he should from actual experience.
In other words, you just do not climb a tree by looking at its trunk in a computer screen, even if you think you know how. Children need nature and the outdoors to play in, in order to truly experience being children.
This was a guest post by Carron from Hatton Farm Village, a fun day out for Kids in Warwickshire, a shopping village for parents and now including a soft play area.